Following up on my earlier post about reducing food waste entitled, Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli — and the Bread Basket, and your many helpful comments, I’ve given much thought to how we can, well, take the cannoli, bag the bread — and make it cool to bring home doggie bags from restaurants.
We Need to De-stigmatize Doggie Bags (aka To-Go Bags)
The term “doggie bag” itself implies that it would be embarrassing to say, “I would like to eat the rest of this food later, rather than see it end up in a dumpster or compost heap.” Others may fear looking a tad desperate in front of folks they’re trying to impress.
Instead, we’ve all succumbed to the agreed-upon fiction (or fact, in some cases) that it is okay to ask for a doggie bag in a restaurant in order to transport home the leftovers as long as they are destined for a pet. In fact, this fiction is too prevalent in our society; thefreedictionary.com even defines doggie bag as “a bag for food that a customer did not eat at a restaurant; the transparent pretense is that the food is taken home to feed the customer’s dog” (emphasis mine). Are we ready to drop the pretense?
Rebranding doggie bags is especially timely since that term now applies to pet waste pickup products — so not an appetizing moniker in cities like New York with ‘pick up’ laws and lots of good restaurants.
Some people call them ‘to go’ bags, ostensibly to differentiate them from take-out containers (as in Chinese) but perhaps that’s not enough. An ideal new name would position them as practical, smart, cool containers for food that shouldn’t go to waste. Any suggestions?
How Can we Make it Easier and Less Wasteful to Pack Restaurant Leftovers?
If you frequent the restaurants I go to with my husband, doggie (or to-go) bags often have more packaging than food, suggesting to any red-blooded waste-hater to think twice about asking for one in the first place.
But perhaps that problem could be avoided if we carried our own reusable containers, rather than rely on the restaurant? (For an interesting history and reflection on doggie (or to-go) bags, see this restaurant blog.) After all, many of us now carry refillable water bottles, and we’ve been packing our own or our children’s lunches for decades.
Bring Your Own Containters to Restaurants to Transport Home the Leftovers Less Wastefully
The ideal reusable doggie bag (or to-go bag) might not be a bag at all. But a washable, plastic, collapsible container that could be packed flat or carried in a briefcase. In fact, Tupperware makes such a model (see illustration), primarily positioned for taking along one’s lunch.
I’m sure there are more options out there, and some may consider it too cumbersome to carry even a collapsible tub or even wasteful once you think about what it takes to make and clean out the tub.
Tuck Two Plastic Sandwich Bags into Your Purse to Bring Home Leftovers
I personally tuck two plastic sandwich bags and twist ties in my purse so they are with me at all times (along with a brown paper bag and my string shopping bag). I’ve already used one to bring home the leftover slices of bread from my local Italian restaurant.
What have you seen and/or used to bring home restaurant leftovers? What shall we call these containers? Are you ready to change the social norms surrounding this practice?