The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

June 19, 2009

Confession of a Fast Food Addict who ate at Amanda’s and forgot to BYO.

The theme of the Green Mom’s Carnival this month is Eco-Confessions. And I have a big one. I love fast food. Every time I pass a McDonald’s I have to close my eyes and count to ten to keep from going in and ordering a double cheeseburger. This fact probably grosses some of you out. And when I think about what a McDonald’s double cheeseburger is made of, it grosses me out too. But it’s hard to think about the cows and environmental degradation wrought by the meat industry (and the mono-culture GMO corn industry) when I catch a whiff of those burgers sizzling on the grill.

But that’s not really my confession. Because mostly, I manage to resist that McDonald’s urge that was instilled in me as a child through no fault of my own. I resist and resist. And the few times a year I succumb, I get out with no bag, no napkin, no cup or straw or ketchup pack. I do try to mitigate the damage as much as possible because I’m always prepared with my reusable to-go accoutrements.

Except a few weeks ago, I had this for lunch and didn’t include any of it in my plastic tally:

It’s not McDonald’s. It’s Amanda’s in downtown Berkeley. The fries aren’t actually fries. They’re baked. The burger isn’t meat (although Amanda’s does serve beef). It’s only the best veggieburger I’ve ever had in my life (made from walnuts and mushrooms.) The soda is homemade ginger ale very lightly sweetened. Because Amanda’s is part of Berkeley’s Eat Well program, which mandates that participating restaurants meet a set of criteria including using no trans fats, offering a fruit or vegetable side dish, and offering a drink option other than soda.

Amanda’s desserts include roasted nuts or very small cookies. Nothing is super-sized or soaked in grease. In fact, Amanda was inspired by the film Super Size Me and book Fast Food Nation to create this restaurant and make a difference.

And all that plastic? It’s compostable. Made from corn or potatoes or other natural fiber.

And that’s my real confession. I was out in the world. I was hungry. I didn’t have my to-go accessories with me that day because I didn’t plan to be out so long. And I had just successfully resisted the urge to slip into McDonald’s down the street. I knew that I could put all the waste from Amanda’s into the handy compost bin provided and that it would all actually be composted by the City of Berkeley.

But I still felt guilty as sin.

Because why waste all this material… even for compost… when we don’t have to? Why doesn’t a restaurant like Amanda’s that is trying to do such a good job (and IS doing a great job compared to fast food resturants) provide reusable plates and utensils for customers staying to eat their food in the restaurant? And why didn’t I remember to bring my own mug and utensils and napkin to avoid this waste myself?

As Captain Moore said a few weeks ago, “Refuse” is the first “R.” Well, we can’t refuse to eat. But we can follow the second R, “Reduce” before opting for Recycling or Rotting in this case.

And then of course, realizing that I was doing the very thing that I urge you guys not to do… i.e. feel guilty for not being perfect… I started to feel even guiltier! It’s madness. Madness, I tell you. All this eco-perfectionism. It doesn’t help, does it?

So, those are my confessions. I sometimes eat at McDonald’s when I can’t resist temptation. I sometimes forget to bring my own and end up generating unnecessary waste. And I sometimes feel guilty for not being perfect. In other words, I am human!

We had a great time sharing eco-confessions on this blog back in March. Do you have any more or new confessions to share? For inspiration, check out the Green Moms carnival which will be hosted on Wednesday, June 24, at The Green Parent blog.

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Noel Kehrlein
13 years ago

I actually had to go (almost) plastic-free because the fumes make me sick. so I am happy to find this website. Keep up the good work.

13 years ago

Oh wow, I want one of these in my area. Although I agree, it would be nice if there wasn't anything even going to compost but I do have to say this is a really impressive fast food restaurant. If all fast food restaurants had all of their waste go to compost, I am sure the landfills would be smaller.

mother earth aka karen hanrahan
13 years ago

what if there was a hot-line called Mickey-Ds anonymous?? …when the urge strikes you just call in….and they'd keep you from committing McDonalds suicide!!

13 years ago

Rosa: I live in NYC. I think it's disgusting to drink out of a public bathroom sink, let alone one in NYC. Also, most places here don't have water fountains. It's not like in surburbia where I can walk the corridor of my mall and get a drink.

13 years ago

Wow, Lara, that's gutsy.

I usually find a drinking fountain if we're out & about without a bottle of water – or, barring that, anyplace with public bathrooms will have a sink where you can cup your hands & get water from the faucet to drink.

Lynn from
13 years ago

Beth, I was afraid to read your post because I hold you in such high regard – my Saint Beth of the Non Plastic Sisterhood – that I was afraid my image of you would be ruined.

I have to say it is not ruined. You are so devoted, so incredible, such an inspiration – but I still say if you had kids it would be a different story unless you moved to a commune or sent them to a Waldorf School or something!

Anyway, now that the REST of us have red faces from bearing our eco-sins, can you forgive us, Sister Beth?

Lara S.
13 years ago

when I'm really thirsty and don't have my own bottle, I just enter a restaurant or similar place and ask for a glass of water. Who could deny you a glass of water? Depending on the type of place you're in, they might give you a glass cup or a disposable one. So it's better to ask this in a place where they don't use disposables. Even if you get a plastic cup, though, it's less wasteful than a water bottle because it's filled with tap water.
Of course, you'll have to stay in the restaurant until you've finished your water, so as to return the glass. But if you're not really shy, you won't have an issue with that, right?
I've never had any problems with this, give it a try!

13 years ago

One could go into serious place envy reading your confessions, Beth — except for McD's and BK, those are ones I can pretty much easily avoid.
Small primarily takeout businesses, especially family-run shoestring operations, are really in a bind. The ethnic ones I patronize are already minimally staffed. Most of their customers want their food packaged, and they are set up to deal with trash (compost for the more enlightened). In the right location, maybe someone could make a business of converting these businesses to less plastic if the price was right and the composting options were available.
Ivy, re people with reusable bags filled with shopping bags, me I'm one of them. Because not all plastic shopping bags are recyclable here and they have a long life, because sometimes they are unavoidable or impractical to avoid, and because it makes shopping easier to have plastic bags to hold drippy stuff, wet/dirty stuff, and having a plastic bag to reuse may prevent me from getting a new plastic bag. Or (it just occurred to me) maybe you are talking about people filling up their reuseable bag with new shopping bags filled with new products?

13 years ago

I was just wondering what you do in this situation. I was out shopping all afternoon and I left my Kleen Kanteen at home. I was dying of thirst (not to mention that dehydration triggers my migraines) and I bought a plastic bottle of water. I felt so wasteful. I felt even more wasteful when I threw it away in store w.o thinking about refilling it in one of their water fountains. What do other FPF readers do in this situation? I think I am going to purchase a 12 ounce Kleen Kanteen and keep it in my bag for emergencies.

Also, what is up w. shoppers who have ecofriendly bags but, the bag is filled w. plastic shopping bags from different stores? I just don't get it.

I saw so many bags that could be reused for other customers being thrown away. I worked in a bookstore about 10 years ago, and I always asked if the customer needed a bag or not. Sometimes, I would hand them their purchase and tell them to tuck into as shopping bag they already head.


Lara S.
13 years ago

That veggie burger sounds like something I could feed on exclusively! Please send me a ton of them to Argentina– and I don't care how much fuel is used to ship it here ok?!

You're great, and your tiny eco-sins are just what it takes for the rest of the world to see you as a human being and not an overobsessive crazy "eco-nun" (great concept by Emily!), who would be a lot less loveable!!
I think time will come when someone will create Beth Terry's fan club, and I'll join it for sure :-)

Diane MacEachern
13 years ago

Actually, now that you mention it, I often forget to bring my own take-out containers when I dine out. Thanks for the reminder!

13 years ago

Looked into those corn compostable things when I was planning my daughter's wedding reception (held end of last month). They sounded good at first until you research them and find out that perfectly good trees are being felled to provide land to plant corn for the disposables and … it gets worse. Reusable ended up my plan until the plates didn't arrive on time and we had to substitute something less desirable.

I'm impressed, though, that someone is blogging about healthy food versus (what I consider to be) unhealthy food made from scratch at home. <– This week's beef from me.

13 years ago

I'm sorry you felt so bad about this – to me, it looks like a triumph.

Often, we have things we want to do or not do and our goals are completely thwarted by our surroundings.

You live in a place that has a better option when you get that McDonald's craving – and you support them with your dollars and publicity.

That's the kind of world that supports change toward the better, and you're helping build it.

Ruth, I bet your story is party bad design – when a restaurant/cafeteria switches to non-disposables, it's important to change things around physically and visually to short-circuit people's trained habits of throwing everything away. I learned this from a friend who had to be taught what was compostable. I thought it was self evident, but she was a smart girl and just didn't have the gardening or chemistry background that makes it intuitive.

13 years ago

In response to your musings about restaurants providing permanent flatware and plates:

About ten years ago, the high school I now attend tried to implement this, providing permanent plastic plates and cups and metal flatware. It's a school of about 1,500 students, so implementing this was expensive. Heartbreakingly, all of it had been thrown away by students after three months. Now everything is styrofoam. Sometimes the public discourages all positive change.

13 years ago

I am so glad you had a veggie burger even if there was some (compostable) waste involved with it.

I've read your blog for a while and I don't know how to put this without sounding like a jerk but it surprises me that someone who is so principled and dedicated to protecting the environment and sea creatures from the evils of plastic could still eat any animals. I was really touched by the video you did for Oprah where you talked about the pelican full of plastic and how when you saw it you thought about how could you be part of causing another creatures suffering ? I wish more people would think that way and truly examine the consequences of their consumption choices.

Yet at the same time, I thought if this woman can feel this way about the suffering of a pelican how can she be part of a system, by purchasing and consuming, that causes immense suffering to chickens and cows? Especially when she lives in one of the most vegetarian/vegan friendly areas on the planet!

knutty knitter
13 years ago

I grew up lucky – there was no fast food place near enough to tempt. I had KFC when I was 18 and wasn't impressed. Too salty mostly. McD I tried a cheeseburger at a birthday party and it was so awful I've never gone there again.

I do get local burgers occasionally with local fish and chips and thats quite sufficient. They use local ingredients too and wrap everything in paper (traditional round here).

My big downfall is chocolate. Dark, beautiful chocolate – I can see it calling my name right now! I just got a job in the local shop too. Not my best move but I need the work. Sometimes I think life has it in for me :)

viv in nz

Jenn (
13 years ago

"Refuse" is the first "R."

Brilliant!! I love it. "The Four R's"…

13 years ago

I always feel strongly that we should put our money where the most good is happening. It seems like that Amandas is doing a lot to make a difference.
I was thinking the other day that you really don't cut yourself any slack at all but then people expect an environmental spokesperson to be an 'Eco Nun' almost unrealistically so.
I have that unreasonable love of McDonalds food – and it grew stronger while I was pregnant with both my girls… when I grew up McDonalds was a special occasion though – and exciting place to go as a kid. (o;

Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama
13 years ago

First, Amanda's looks absolutely amazing.

Second, OMG – girl – you are as close to eco perfect as you can get. Geessh . . . I'm going straight to hell in comparison. And I think I'm pretty good most of the time. Although you are my hero. So cut yourself some slack and we will all keep trying.

Condo Blues
13 years ago

Some small restaurants use disposables to keep their costs down because customers take the real dinnerware. Constantly replacing real plates, silverware, etc. is expensive even when shopping at a restuarant supply store.

I eat fast food sometimes too. I try not to eat it but sometimes circumstances (or cravings for grease) can't keep me away from Taco Bell crunchy tacos. I just try not to eat it often. I think the last time I had fast food was 4 months ago.

13 years ago

Wow! Amanda's looks fantastic. Great job on resisting the Mickey-D's. I have to fight that urge too!

13 years ago

First of all, Amanda's looks amazing. I wish we had something like that here.

Second, I am a perfectionist in all areas, and the eco guilt gets me, too. You've got to cut yourself some slack. I know it's easier said than done, but all we can do is our best, you know?

13 years ago

to answer your question

"Because why waste all this material… even for compost… when we don't have to? Why doesn't a restaurant like Amanda's that is trying to do such a good job (and IS doing a great job compared to fast food resturants) provide reusable plates and utensils for customers staying to eat their food in the restaurant?"

I think you have to remember how close to impossible it would be to be a fast food restaurant and still have everything reusable. I think Amanda's is really as close as you can get. It is tough. And honestly, you didn't go to mcd's and you didn't go to burger king. You chose the absolute best thing that would fulfill your craving (which you don't fulfill all the time) and you should not feel guilty. Keep rocking because you are an amazing example. Even your "confessions" are an amazing example.

Mindful Momma
13 years ago

Girl – your eco-sins are nothin compared to the rest of us! So give yourself a break and enjoy your meal at Amanda's. And next time you're there, do you mind asking them if they could open up a store in Minneapolis? I'm drooling over that veggie burger.