As I mentioned last week, Thursday was my birthday, and my office mates threw me the traditional birthday lunch, complete with take-out food, some living plant-type thing, ice cream, and presents. I love this celebration but I’m also wary of the amount of plastic I might accumulate. So let’s see how we did this year.
Generally take-out meals from the area where I work (just south of San Francisco) involve a lot of plastic or Styrofoam packaging. This town doesn’t yet have the type of food packaging regulations that other Bay Area cities do. Fortunately, our director happened to be in San Francisco that day, so at my request, she picked up lunch from Mixt Greens, the certified green lunch restaurant downtown. The salads, comprised of local and mainly organic ingredients, were delicious. I ordered the Maui, which includes coriander crusted seared ahi tuna. Yeah, it’s like that. And here’s the box it came in:
Looks like a bunch of plastic, but the box, lid, utensils, and dressing container are all compostable.
Is it the best option of all? Well no, it’s PLA, which is made from corn. NaturesPLAstic is created from NatureWorks PLA, which was developed by Cargill Dow. It’s undoubtedly made from GMO corn, which we know is fraught with environmental impacts, and while it can be composted in San Francisco where Mixt Greens is located, it cannot be composted near my office. So normally, it would end up in the trash.
Except I was there to save it from that fate. At the end of the meal, I bagged up all the containers and utensils to take home and put into my City of Oakland green bin for composting.
One of my coworkers couldn’t believe I would take home “garbage” on BART. I can’t believe I had to either. Why does the city where I work STILL not have commercial composting for businesses? Or a sustainable food packaging ordinance? Come on people, do I have to do everything?
I brought the containers home, but I have not emptied them into the green bin. Single-use disposable packaging just rubs me the wrong way, no matter what it’s made of. Maybe I can wash it out and find someone who can use it. Perhaps the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, where I take toilet paper rolls, cardboard egg cartons, and other odds and ends that someone else might consider to be art supplies. And I can use one of the forks to replace the To-Go Ware bamboo fork that I lost. (Remember how I said I lose things all the time?)
I don’t have a solution to the take-out packaging dilemma. When I am by myself, of course, I bring my own containers, utensils, mug, etc. But most people expect restaurants to provide containers for them. Specifically, disposable containers they won’t have to return. And what about group lunches like the one in my office? What would be the practical solution there? We’ve had potlucks in the past for which each of us contributes a dish or salad ingredient. But for several reasons, that was not a practical alternative last week. Are compostable containers the next best thing? (And why doesn’t my spell checker ever think that “compostable” is a real word?)
THE LIVING PLANT-TYPE THING
It’s a live bamboo plant to which someone added a fake plastic fish. Those pranksters. I’m keeping it on my desk. Just not too close to my face. Don’t want to be breathing in those yummy phthalates.
Aside from a little bit of Scotch tape, there was really no plastic to speak of. Unless you count the two gigantic chunks of Styrofoam encasing this porcelain tea pot. Ooch!
Here’s the thing: I’m a compulsive re-gifter. If I don’t love a gift, I pass it along. If it’s full of plastic or Styrofoam (which is plastic), it’s outta here. If it sits on the shelf too long without ever being used, I obviously don’t need it. It’s gone.
This combo teapot/tea cup? It stays.
I’m keeping it, Styrofoam and all. I’m adding those two bad boys to my plastic tally because Mama’s ready for tea. Did you notice the sweet little tray it sits on? The whole thing is so pretty I just want to hug it. Did I mention the teapot comes with a strainer basket for the type of loose tea I get from the bulk jars at Whole Foods? And have you ever noticed how I carry several mugs of hot water at a time down to my desk because one is never enough?
The fact is that this teapot is something I would never have bought myself in a million years. Because of the packaging. And because honestly, I don’t really need it. But it’s sweet, and the person who bought it for me knew I would enjoy it. So that is what I intend to do.