Leftover Love


by Charlotte White/Random Charlotte

So there is this new trendy craze going around, some wacky environmental idea about saving the planet. And I must be honest — even though I am not trendy at all, I have jumped on this bandwagon. I want to help save our planet (and I want to talk like a super hero and wear a cape) but I also have some selfish reasons for joining this cause, mostly because I do not want to breathe in smog or drink toxic water. I know, call me crazy; most do, so I am used to it.

The thing is, though, I am still “on the grid,” just can’t seem to get off it, which means no solar panels for this girl (unless someone wants to give me some — haha, I kid,… no I don’t). So, how can I save the planet without solar panels? After my son was born, saving the planet (and wearing capes) became even more important to me, so I started thinking (not too scary) about ways that I can help as an individual, and ways that my family can join in too. It must be noted for the record that we are not starving, but we are far from wealthy (at least by Western standards). So, for me, that meant looking for ideas to help save the planet that did not put any additional strain on our bank account.

What I have found is that most forms of environmental stewardship actually help the wallet rather than hurting it. And this is the conclusion I have come to — that the small acts of environmentalism do count, and if we can get enough people to join in, these small acts create big change.

One of the small acts that this family does is love our leftovers. What the heck am I talking about? Well, it is quite simple really. There are many green benefits when we respect our leftovers. We use fewer resources and we gain some health benefits, because it leads to eating smaller portions. But going one step further is where we put out leftovers. And that is where Leftover Love comes into play.

Leftover Love is an initiative that is simple — when you go out to eat, take your own reusable container with you. That way you are not forced to take a disposable doggy bag container, especially styrofoam, that the restaurant provides. Now, we are going to ignore just for a second the fact that eating out actually increases our carbon footprint. Because I get that we are not going to change the habits of everyone — really, that is not how change occurs. And even I enjoy not having to make dinner and clean up afterwards (the cleanup is the worst since I have this tendency to burn everything I make) every once in a while.

But if we can alter our habits just slightly then we will produce something great. We can reduce waste by putting forth a little effort and using our own containers to take home out leftovers.

Think of this idea the same way you think about taking your own grocery bag when you go grocery shopping. It is essentially the same thing; just replace the bag with a reusable container and the grocery store with a restaurant.  Now for all of those of you that are in the clean plate club, you can stop reading. But for the rest of us, who generally have something leftover, then it should be a perfect green act.

Now, the very core of this concept is based around the individual. But what if we were to expand it so that restaurants offered incentives, such as a percentage off your bill or a free dessert, if you brought in your own container. Think how many disposable doggy bags we could keep put and out of the landfills. And think about how many free desserts I could eat!

Really this is a win-win for all parties. Restaurants save money on having to buy disposable containers (well, not if they’re offering incentives, I guess). And maybe, just maybe, those cost savings would show up on the menu one day. But let me not get ahead of myself here…. Still, you can keep those nasty petrochemicals off your food — yay, that is good, right? And the most obvious thing is that you keep a bunch of waste from going into the landfill.

Now, it needs to be clear that this initiative only works for those patrons who dine in the restaurant. There are some pesky health code laws that get in the way of applying this to take-out and even to fast-food chains. But if you eat in, and have some leftovers on your plate, and need a doggy bag, use your own.

It is too easy to not do this, and honestly, I am not quite sure why it has not caught on, as the grocery bag idea did. As I have said before, if we can get enough people to do this, think of the awesome green benefits that we could produce. The styrofoam doggy bag company may argue, but you can’t please everyone.

We have to remember that most people on this planet go to bed hungry. We need to appreciate what we have and respect the food enough to not put any leftovers into disposable doggy bags. I know that taking your leftovers home in your own doggy bag will not feed the planet. But every step and action we take towards protecting the planet helps get a little bit closer to becoming more sustainable and helping more people go to bed at night with a full belly. We have to remember that not everything has to be easy and convenient, which is what is promised to us through a disposable lifestyle. But small actions can add up to big change if we all help.

Image Credit: Hard Rock Cafe image via Laszlo Halasi / Shutterstock.com

3 thoughts on “Leftover Love”

  1. Words of wisdom, Charlotte! I always try to do this. I keep a couple containers in my car just for in case I forget. I commend you for a practice worth taking on that most people simply don’t do because they are either too lazy or don’t think ahead. First off, it’s a bit of a shame that restaurants overserve food to the point where you have to take it with you, but it’s just ridiculous not to bring your own container. Good on you for passing on true words of wisdom.

  2. Richard Sumpter

    The planet doesn’t need saving. It is 4.5 billion years old and is a self-healing organism. It will continue on after we are gone. And as E.O. Wilson said, “With the exception of house plants and pets, most of the earth would be better off without us.” What needs saving is homo sapiens. However I’m not totally convinced it’s worth the effort. The average life span of a mammalian species is about 4.5 million years. If this is accurate, and depending on how far back you place our origins, we are on the downhill side of the day. This isn’t about saving the planet. It’s about species preservation.

  3. Sherrie Pasarell

    Thank you, Charlotte. There is no reason whatsoever why your idea shouldn’t take hold.Like other things, people ‘feel funny” doing something nobody else is doing. Before it be came commonplace, carrying bottled H2O was seen as an oddity. I.myself have hesitated to get/wear those paper/surgical style(?) masks to wear in the city for the same lame reason..

    Anyway, I plan to bring my reusable containers on those occasions I go to restaurants. More important, I’ll bring it up w/ family,friends, etc- of course for those already conscious, it’ll be preaching to the choir..
    Great idea, Charlotte~

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