Shopping bags & Leftover containers
Updated: Jan 13
We've been in the habit of bringing reusable canvas tote bags to the grocery store for decades. It is just the way shopping for food is done in many other countries, and we picked up the habit while visiting Europe. Once you get used to it, it is not difficult to grab the bags along with the grocery list as you leave the house (or store them in the car so you have them for a spontaneous stop).
On the other hand, we have often found ourselves with half a plateful of food after a restaurant meal regretting having to ask for a leftover container to take the extra food home for tomorrow's lunch. Our regret deepens when the waiter brings a plastic or polystyrene container instead of a waxed cardboard one.
Finally, we remembered to bring our leftover containers with us when we went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. We wondered how the server would react when we fished our own containers out from under the table at the end of them meal. She laughed, and said that, growing up in Mexico, her grandmother always took little dishes with them to a restaurant to take leftovers home in.
I appreciated the fact that we had remembered our little reusable glass dishes all the more the next day, when I was able to pop mine straight into the microwave, eat my lunch, rinse the dish, and add it to the dishwasher. No scraping the food from the non-microwaveable foam container into a microwave-safe dish, no washing the food from the greasy plastic container so it could potentially be recycled, no taking it out to the curb for pickup, and no guilt, knowing that those containers were likely to end up in the landfill. Actually, though it takes a tiny bit of planning ahead and changing habits, bringing our own containers is MORE satisfying and convenient overall!
This incident reminded me that there is much we North Americans can learn from our neighbors, and from previous generations. The wasteful habits we have gravitated towards in the last 50 years or so are relatively new and can be unlearned. In some cases, new technology can help us use fewer resources and pollute less, like changing from gasoline cars to electric ones, incandescent light bulbs to LEDs, and coal-fired power plants to renewable energy. In other areas, we simply need to go back to time-tested ways of living to reduce our fossil fuel use and climate impact.