Let’s make a list…
A common rant throughout the Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge is frustration over how to get restaurant servers or store clerks or delivery people to hear our requests for no plastic straw or cup or utensils or containers or bags or whatever and to actually honor our wishes. Several people are irritated to receive plastic packaging or utensils even after they clearly request not to have them.
Challenge participants have left ideas and suggestions for each other in the comments. Here are just a few. Let’s try to come up with more.
Marissa: Show a picture. I ask servers “Do you know how much plastic you use in a week?” Then I follow it up with, “I do and it doesn’t make me happy to know I’m contributing to this…” Then I pull out a cut out picture I found in a magazine of a sea bird with nothing but plastic in his belly! Yes, this may seem extreme but it’s worked many times. People never forget me either. And I once had a server tell me, weeks later after I should him my picture, that he is starting a “Plastic Free” Student Club at the local University….and he decided after 3 years of being undecided that he wants to study marine biology after researching the plastic in our oceans!!! It was the happiest day ever, next to getting married of course!!!
I love Marissa’s idea, and I’ve already uploaded photos of a dead albatross, several plastic-strewn beaches, and a sea turtle eating plastic to my phone to use as an illustration of exactly why I don’t want that plastic bag or container. It’ll be interesting to see what reactions I get.
Kay Pere: Speak to Managers. Over the past year, I’ve been trying to make it a habit to say “no straw” when ordering a beverage and “no disposable plastic” when ordering a meal with varying success….
I have, on occasion, asked to speak with a manager about plastic items that appeared with my meal after my request was forgotten or ignored…. I did this in a way that was understanding of their workload, with an understanding that they really are interested in knowing how best to serve the needs of their customers.
Many restaurant managers and servers are acutely aware of the amount of waste that goes on in they’re business, and they hate it…. By talking with a manager, he or she then has an opportunity to make suggestions up the corporate food chain that can reduce wastefulness while making things better environmentally.
Danielle: Repeat your request several times. Now what we do is when we order our drinks we start off with the statement, “All regular glasses. No kids cups. No disposable cups. No straws, please.” Then when the last person has ordered their drink we reiterate “No kids cups. No straws.” Whenever we get weird looks about our kids having regular glasses, we explain to our server that “we don’t use kids cups or straws at home… they’ll be fine… thank you” :) I love when we get servers that say, “AWESOME” because then I know they get it :) AND… in the event that we get a server who just doesn’t listen and brings our kids drinks in kids cups (this doesn’t happen anymore)… we send the drinks back. If they have to make drinks 2x… they’ll learn to get it right.
Take out containers: I think that it’s best to put your leftovers in the container yourself. Last week, I took my kids out to dinner and ordered my husband food to take home to him (he was sick). I let the server bring me the food (like I was going to eat it at the restaurant) and then put it in my own container. Did I get a strange look? Absolutely. But I don’t care :)
Also, as you do this more… you’ll find that it becomes easier. People will start to recognize you and know your requests. (When we went to dinner the other night, the manager of the restaurant told his staff “No plastic on their table.” haha… loved it!!)
Beth: Demonstrate alternatives. I find that the best way to ask for no straw is to pull out my glass straw and show it to the server as I’m making my request. Or show them my reusable utensils or bag or whatever. I think showing them physical items breaks them out of auto-pilot mode and helps them remember. Usually.
Lisa: Leave a card. Lisa from Take Out Without has spearheaded a campaign to urge restaurant goers to take home less waste. She’s created downloadable wallet cards to hand out at restaurants offering strategies for reducing their packaging waste. It can also serve as talking points for your discussions with store managers and staff.
What successful strategies have you used to get your point across in stores and restaurants and leave without any plastic waste?