Friday, May 30, 2008

Great environmental tip!

I love Chinese food. I love that I live within walking distance of no less 20 carry-out Chinese places, though it puzzles me how most of their business is in selling American food (burgers, chicken wings, and the like).

As an aficionado of Chinese food and as an environmentalist, and...well, cheapskate, I have amassed a large collection of plastic containers – so large it is difficult to shut our cabinet. I started recycling them when we decided we had enough (if not too many).

As my girlfriend has pointed out, recycling is not the ultimate solution to the environmental problem of plastics that will never break down – reuse is (and preferably with something that will break down at a point). With reuse, there’s no need to continually produce these things we’ll ultimately discard or recycle. Brilliant! Makes perfect sense, and much more efficient all 'roud to boot.

But how do you start?

I got this idea to try bringing in my own container to one of these carry-out Chinese places to see if they’d be willing to refill it. Also, I’d request that they not give me a bag (bring my own), and not give me any utensils, napkins, or condiments (I also have enough soy sauce packets at home to give the entire Red Army a stroke)
I started this out at the friendliest of the local carry-outs: ULike at the corner of Lamont and Georgia. Graciously they agreed.
I tried it a second time. The girl behind the counter even remembered me and knew right what to do with the container I placed in the pass-through of the bullet proof glass. Yay!

So, a small victory with huge ramifications. If people start reusing containers for carry-out food the way the movement is towards reusable grocery bags and such, just imagine the impact!

One question remains for me, though. I know in the state of Virginia (excuse me, the Commonwealth), they do not allow you to use the same plate at a buffet for health reasons – you must get a new plate every time. So I see it potentially being a problem with reusable containers, too. We’ll see. At least it's cool in DC.

Alas, it turns out my idea is not original. That’s okay, though! If it were, I’d put a big banner out saying “Steal This Idea!!!”. My gal sent me a message today telling how The Argonaut (DC's own pirate themed restaurant) at 1433 H St, NE, has started offering to take back their “To Go” containers in exchange for a $1.00 off a future meal. Cool that going Enviro-Friendly has become so hip.