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The Future of Doggie Bags: Two New Ideas For Reducing Restaurant Food Waste

Dog with doggie bag to bring home eftover food from restaurant

Bringing home a doggie bag from restaurants can help reduce food waste and provide a second meal. (Image: neurosciencemarketing.com)

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?

NYC Zero Waste Resources for ResidentsLet’s Rebrand  the Term, Doggie Bag

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?

food waste survey icon

Take this quick poll to express your views about how best to encourage diners to bring home leftovers from restaurants.

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.

reusable doggie bags can help reduce food waste and packaging waste

FlatOut collapsible Tupperware containers can help you transport home restaurant leftovers and cut down on to-go packaging waste. (Image credit: tupperware.com)

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?

About the Author
Frugal by nature, and an environmentalist since the ’60s, Fredrica Rudell is retired as a professor at Iona College where she taught Consumer Behavior and Green Marketing. (The views expressed on this website are hers alone, and not those of her employer.) Read more stories from Fredrica HERE.
  1. Ilene Moyher Reply

    Fredrica – you have inspired me to bring my own container next time I eat out! I often ask for a container at the beginning of the meal because I want to avoid eating it all in one sitting. So if I have my own container I can set aside the food without having to ask the server. This can be done as or more discreetly than getting a regular doggie bag, for the small percentage of people who are embarrassed about the whole idea of bringing leftovers home. I like the idea of bringing my own collapsible container(s) and a bag. Also, then I don’t have to deal with the non-recyclable or too-large containers, which really bother me. For me, the best idea would be a collapsible container with 2 sections.

  2. Jocelyn Deprez Reply

    Fortunately I live in a state (Florida) where no one seems to have any compunction about walking out of even the most upscale restaurant with a doggie bag. But thank you, Frederica, for your useful suggestion about taking along a plastic container to avoid the restaurant’s bulky, non-recyclable ones. We often go out for sushi and invariably have a few pieces left over. So from now on I’ll pack them myself! What to call these containers? I dunno…..happy boxes? Titbit takehomes?

  3. Mark Eisen Reply

    The doggie bag has a long history that goes back to Roman times. Restaurants are on top of the issue. See this link: http://www.restaurant.org/tools/magazines/rusa/magarchive/year/article/?ArticleID=202. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for an entrepreneur to invent something useful. Restaurants also have health and safety requirements, so I wouldn’t be so certain “bring your own” is a solution. It might work if you shovel everything into a container at the table, but asking the restaurant to take your container to their kitchen might be problematic.

    • Fredrica Reply

      Great article about the variety of take-home options and designs. I can see that an upscale restaurant would prefer to dazzle diners with a swan wrap than watch patrons shovel leftovers into their own Tupperware-type container at the table. Perhaps someone else knows whether sanitation rules would allow the deed to be done in the kitchen. (I’m still getting over the fact that my deli guy can take my money wearing the same glove he used to make my sandwich.)

      I do like the marketing potential as well. I suggested to our local Mexican restaurant that they provide a pre-printed bag (“I just had a delicious meal at Blue Moon”) to encourage customers to take home the extra tortilla chips that are always left in the basket at the end of the meal. But the manager said that diners would most likely prefer to avoid the temptation. Of course, she’s right. 🙂

  4. Scott Fuller Reply

    I agree with the perspectives voiced here, and would add this thought:

    There seems to be a systemic problem in the restaurant business to begin with. With the “healthy portions” and “all you can eat” mentality being so pervasive, we’ve lost all sense of portion control when it comes to dining out….and we’re paying for it: with our pocket boks, our waistlines, and with food going to waste.

    While I concur with the spirit of making doggie bags more accessible AND publicly acceptable, two thoughts come to mind:

    1) With respect to perception/positioning of taking food home from a restaurant, this is really the rastaurant industry’s “Bud Lite” moment. Their challenge is to convey to customers that it’s really OK to get “less” (or the right amount) of what the customers “think” they need or want more of — just as Budweiser and Miller had to do with the introduction of their Lite beers.

    2) Until or unless portion control returns to reasonable levels that diners were once accustomed to, perhaps restaurants could get creative with their marketing playbook and offer certain meals as a “two for the price of one” (vis a vis portion control), and actually incentivize diners to bring in their own doggie bag, knowing ahead of time they will eat a good meal AND have enough left over to take a second meal home with them in a doggie bag — all for the price of one. The preparation and the amount of food served would presumably be no different than what they’re currently doing, but it could be marketed differently, allowing them to maintain their costs while increasing traffic and, in turn, margins — all while helping reduce food waste.

    Woof Woof!

    • Jocelyn Deprez Reply

      Hi Woof Woof,
      Having spent many years in Europe, I am constantly appalled at the size of restaurant portions over here. One enlightened (French) restaurant here in Orlando offers lower-priced half portions on many of its entrees. What a great idea you have in 2) above for restaurants to push the “twofer” idea and make take-homes respectable: e.g “One meal, One take-out”. Marketing campaign needed!
      Best regards,
      Arf Arf

      • Abby Reply

        I find it interesting that the “Twofer” idea has surfaced here. Both Olive Garden and Chili’s (I believe) have started just such a program — only instead of getting two meals out of one entree, you are getting two entrees for one price. One meal is eaten while in the restaurant and the other is packaged up and sent home with you to be reheated for dinner the next night. I think this only proves that all of their entrees are frozen.

        I like the idea of inverting that concept and getting two meals out of one entree. I do it all the time, and I’m sure lots of other people do as well with the ridiculous portion sizes we’ve started serving. But I feel as though consumers will feel cheated, thinking that instead of getting more, they’re getting less for their money. Is that an attitude I have that’s been conditioned? How might we change that perception?

    • Fredrica Reply

      Yes, we consumers love the economic value represented by “hefty” portions, don’t we! Now that the issues of obesity, eating habits, and sustainability of our entire food system are being addressed more openly, perhaps some progress will be made.

      No doubt driven more by the new calorie information mandate than concern about waste, I see that Olive Garden (like other chain restaurants) has a “lighter fare menu” which may involve smaller portions. And according to their website, they also donate surplus food to local community food banks. Good for them. My local deli offers a small size sandwich for $1 less than the overstuffed regular one. Unfortunately, that’s a bad bargain, so I buy the original and eat it at two meals.

  5. Sally Wendkos Olds Reply

    A lot of good ideas here. I don’t have any suggestions, just a story. When my husband was in an upscale restaurant after eating prime rib and asked to take home the bone, the waiter grinned and said, “For your dog?” Mark said, “No, for my wife.” He knew how I like to gnaw on bones. I take extra food home all the time — restaurant meals are simply too mammoth to eat at one sitting, and then I love opening my refrigerator to find another meal — that I don’t have to cook. Congratulations on this project!

    • Ilene Moyher Reply

      That’s funny!!! I can only imagine the look on the server’s face.

  6. tracy himmel isham Reply

    I would only add to this article in saying that when you have kids there is no doubt lots of food waste when Americans take their kids out (portion sizes being one of the biggest perpetrators)–ketchup drenched french fries, grilled cheese bread crusts and enough pizza crusts to equal a whole personal pie! Our family has no shame in asking for a “to-go container” to dump the uneaten scraps on the plates: salads, pickles and crusts for our chickens. Since this is our practice at home, we extend the food-luxury to our hens when we go out. Why shouldn’t our chicks benefit in some good table food and then share with us their eggs!

  7. Guy Dauncey Reply

    I was thinking about this just yesterday – how to design a take-away bag that we could use instead of the wretched styrofoam containers.

    Vancouver is tackling the same problem – see Tiffins for all: Food cart owner wants to wean Vancouverites off disposable takeout containers


    Whatever we designed needs to be flattenable, foldable, washable, and non-plastic. This would be a great project for design college students.

    • Fredrica Reply

      Guy – re container design, I just replied to another post (above) and want to make sure you saw these silicone collapsible containers.

      What do you think?

      • Guy Dauncey Reply

        Yes – I saw them. Very neat! Now if the same principle could be used for a cloth-like, foldable design, it would fit in a purse easily to carry everywhere – since you never know in advance when you’re going to need one.

        Like those frisbees, that unfold into a full frisbee?

  8. Mark Eisen Reply

    There does not seem to be a “better” English alternative word or synonym that works to change the perception of “leftovers”; the best alternative would be to say “later meal”. In French, that would translate to repas tard, which also fails I think. However, how about “repas d’adieux”. It means “goodbye meal” in French and while not literal in its description its close enough and when you say “repas d’adieux”, it makes those leftovers immediately whet your appetite!!!

    • Guy Dauncey Reply

      How about demain repas? Tomorrow’s meal. Or repas adieux, without the de ?

    • Abby Reply

      I love that idea! Repas d’adieux! 😀

      • Mark Eisen Reply

        Unfortunately, my French hairdresser said today no one in France would know what you meant by that in terms of doggie bags. He said in France restaurant portions are small vs. the USA, so they minimize their food waste, don’t send packaging home with the customers, and don’t cater to obese tastes. In other words, I said, we Americans, in terms of trying to reinvent doggie bags and rename leftovers, bringing our own containers to the restaurant, etc. should instead follow the old adage “avoid doing better those things we shouldn’t be doing at all”. Our culture of obesity and overeating and consuming mass quantities drives a lot of problems. So the real solution is to patronize only those restaurants that serve food that tastes so good and is presented in a reasonable quantity that does not result in anything but a clean plate at the end of the meal.

        • Tiffany Reply


          As someone who grew up in France, and who spent her childhood summers/Xmas in the United States, I have always been taken aback by the portion sizes here compared to those in France. You are right to say that there is no such thing as a doggie bag in France because everyone is pretty much able to finish their meal at restaurants. This is both beneficial for French people’s weight and health and also for the environment, as it reduces the amount of food waste. I have an American friend who visited France with me last December for the first time and she kept asking me why are people so thin there. Well, portion size is part of the answer. French people have more self control when it comes to eating because they are not encouraged to eat more and want/need more. You are right to point out that in the US, there is a culture of obesity and overeating and this is why there are so many cases of diabetes and heart disease in this country.

          Staying on the topic of France’s waste prevention efforts, parliament recently passed a law that prohibits supermarkets from throwing out unsold food, instead mandating them to donate it to charities or for animal feed use. That’s amazing and America should do the same!

          I believe the strategy in the USA should be to PREVENT food waste by minimizing portion sizes first and foremost, rather than focusing too much on the doggy bag branding strategy. There should be some kind of economic incentive for restaurants in the USA that do choose to reduce the portion size to a reasonable one, as they are more environmentally friendly and they contribute to improving Americans’ health.

  9. Michelle Reply

    While I love ALL of the benefits that come from the single act of taking the doggie bag home (reduce food waste, save money by eating leftovers, being healthier by not eating the whole meal, etc.), isn’t it also worth noting that it’s not only the consumer that can change their behaviors, it’s also the restaurant industry?

    Food waste is an inevitable component in the restaurant world, not just because people don’t want to be seen taking the doggie bag home, but because so much food is wasted in the kitchens and in the food-making process. I guess what I’m trying to say is this- in addition to asking how do we de-stigmatize the doggie bag to reduce food waste, we should also be asking, why don’t ALL restaurants compost their leftovers?? And how do we make that happen?

    • Guy Dauncey Reply

      Here in Victoria, most waste food IS composted.

      The way to do it is to ban waste food from the landfill, and levy heavy fines for infractions. That creates a market need for composting companies to provide the service. You give the industry two years to get organized….

    • Fredrica Reply

      Absolutely. Have to work at all levels –farm, processor, store, restaurant, home–to reduce food waste. That is the point of the NRDC report (see my previous “Take the Cannoli…” posting, and link to the NRDC website). And while I do believe that our individual behaviors make a difference, the greening and waste-reducing policies and practices of larger institutions (including government mandates) will have the greatest impact.

      • Fredrica Reply

        PS: I found two organizations that are working with restaurants. The Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com) and the Sustainable Restaurant Corps here in NYC (www.sustynyc.org).

        • Christine Reply

          Thanks Fredrica for the mention. My org, the Sustainable Restaurant Corps is looking at a variety of approaches to the doggy bag dilema. One is while restaurants continue to serve portions large enough for two, taking home the remainder is a must. There is big campaign in the UK to make taking home a portion of your meal more hip. I like the idea of bringing your own container to put the food in and doing it yourself at the table saves a lot of time and effort for the staff. I also think restaurants should choose containers that can be recycled in the given city. In New York that’s aluminum, for now. Every other material is trash. (microwaving food in plastic of any kind is dubious.)
          Our ultimate goal is to convince restaurants that reducing portion size and increasing the quality of that portion is more profitable and more satisfying to the customer. Leftovers are great but they can’t beat a freshly prepared dish bursting with flavor.

  10. eSuzy Reply

    I’ve been bringing collapsable containers to restaurants for the last couple years. I always leave a couple in the car as it’s tough to remember to bring with you when you go out.

    Got some strange looks the first couple times, but people seem to get it more as of late.

  11. Launa Zimmaro Reply

    I carry a medium sized Pyrex bowl with plastic lid in a small, chic insulated bag with a freezer bag when I go out to eat. I take what’s left on my plate. I wish the portion sizes were smaller, though it’s nice to have a ready made lunch the next day.

    I’m very up front about what I’m doing and sometimes end up in conversations with wait staff about the level of food. I’ve had more than one say they hoped I was starting a trend.

    You just have to do this as if it’s standard practice and those who aren’t doing this are the outliers! Go boldly with your personal, restaurant carry-out system.

  12. Jacquie Ottman Reply

    Great conversation here, everyone. I’d like to broaden the discussion to include portion size. If restaurant patrons were allowed to order half portions (and save some money), there likely would be no need for the doggie bags and a lot less food waste.

    • Kellen M Reply

      It seems as though everyone knows that leaving a restaurant feeling stuffed is not healthy, but walking out on a plate full of food is wasteful. I often have to remind myself before a meal out that my eyes tend to be bigger than my stomach, and that it would behoove me to order two appetizers than a three or four course meal. At the end of the meal I’m always thankful that I had self control. I think psychologically, though, many people feel like they’re missing out unless their meal portion equals their stomach volume. Maybe it is a cultural problem. But rather than try to change people’s demand, perhaps a new breed of restaurant could introduce an option to order your meal half now-half later. Half comes out on the plate and half comes out in a reusable container when you are done with your meal. Sort of like Ilene said she did earlier, except rather than people feeling ostracized for ordering a take out container at the beginning of a meal, or for bringing their own container-it would be a viable menu option. And people would feel like they were getting their money’s worth while still being able to eat smaller portions.

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  14. Michelle Reply

    A representative from the Center for Science in the Public Interest notes at the end of this article from CNN that when eating out, you can be healthier by splitting the entree or taking home half. This article may not be about food-waste (it’s about the amount of calories, sodium, fat, etc we consume when eating out), but it’s great to see others suggesting the same waste-hating behaviors we believe in!

    As mentioned before, that seems to be the angle that will resonate most with people and convince them that taking the leftovers home isn’t beneath them – it really is healthier for you to eat less.

  15. Nathaniel Reply

    Restaurants could sell these reusable containers as a low-cost sustainable option. Maybe offer these containers alongside conventional options. Sure, many will purchase the re-usable option only to seldom or never use it again. However there will be many others who are newly exposed to the idea that will adopt it into their conservation strategy.

  16. Catherine Reply

    This was a great read. I think it would be an awesome idea to carry containers with you to take home any leftovers. But I already know most people see that as too much work. And if a restaurant provides these kind of containers, it run up the costs unless they sold them to you (kind of how they charge you to use paper bags in grocery stores now). That is doable, but I’m just afraid of how much food would be dumped out due to people not purchasing the containers or having some of their own. But at the same time, maybe it will cut down on how much people eat.

  17. Jessica Bozzo Reply

    Hi Fredrica,

    Thanks for sharing this post with us. It is certainly a very interesting topic. I agree that taking a doggie bag usually requires more packaging than the food and I like your ideas about the ideal functionality and design of a reusable doggie bag.

    Obviously a lot of the responsibility when it comes to leftovers and doggie bags falls on the shoulders of the diners. However, I found this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which I found interesting because it takes into account the restaurant side of things and views leftovers as a missed opportunities for restaurants to leave diners with a positive impression.


    It is true that many US cities have banned styrofroam containers in restaurants for environmental reasons. I liked the quote from the article that says “It’s especially off-putting when a restaurant that emphasizes sustainable food presents leftover grass-fed beef in a styrofoam container.”

    I like the idea of placing leftovers in bags made from recycled paper that have the name of the restaurant on it. It is easy for diners to carry out, made of recyclable materials which the diner can then recycle, and can also provide free advertising for the restaurant. When considering this topic I think its important to consider the restaurant’s responsibility as well. I would love to know what others have experienced in this regard.

  18. Tara Reply

    I have to agree with Scott Fuller.

    While I do not eat out regularly, when I do, I always take home food because the portions are so large. I also always ask for some type of reusable container. The reusable container goes into my cabinet, saving me money I’d spend on tupperware and ensuring that I don’t overeat when I’m out. However, until the world stops serving oversized portions of food, and the public stops expecting them, far too much waste will generated. A paradigm shift of of epic “proportions” needs to happen so that the public is satisfied with smaller meals. Oftentimes, people purchase dinner and are upset if they don’t receive a large plate of food because they’re not getting a “bang for their buck.”

    Such a thought then develops into one of three issues- either you NEED to eat every bite of what you paid for, leading to obesity rates skyrocketing, you throw away the excess for fear of the doggy bag stigma mentioned in the article wasting food and the energy used to cook it, or you bring home your leftovers and don’t let anyone’s judgments on doggy bags bring you down.

    So, I vote that we take control of doggy bags, rename them if you must, and enjoy your “save-for-later leftovers” or “can’t-eat-anymore cartons” when the moment pleases you, after you get home from your visit to a restaurant.

    Also, to answer the question posed in the article, of all of the takeout ideas I’ve seen, the most unique was a pizza box from a gourmet sit-in pizzeria which had perforations that turned into four plates and a storage box for leftovers. I wish I’d seen more of an effort to switch to sustainable options, but that’s what this discussion is all about!

  19. Sarah Thomson Reply

    In relation to portion sizes:
    I moved to the US last year from the UK and definitely think that portion sizes are larger here. On numerous occasions both my husband and I have gone out for a meal an ordered just an entree, only to be told by our server that maybe we should order something else as it probably won’t be enough. Thankfully we have now gotten into the habit of saying “Well if we are still hungry we can always try something on your dessert menu”. 9 times out of 10 though we find that we cannot fit another bite in…

    If we know we are going to visit an establishment where the meals are huge we have also started to think about how we might be able to share the meal. If we both have an inkling for something different I know I sometimes think about what meal might taste great the following day for lunch (reheated seafood is not one of them for me).

    In relation to take-away/leftover containers:
    I have found that there are still lots of restaurants out there that do not limit the amount of packaging they use – surely less packaging means less expense for the restaurant? There are some great examples shared above like the pizza box turning into plates, and using recycled packaging with the restaurant’s name on it.

    I seem to recall growing up in Australia that you were able to get hot chips in an edible cup – now I wonder if these edible containers are still used anywhere these days…

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  21. andy nicholls Reply

    Today I had Christmas lunch in a pub in Pembrokeshire Uk. I asked fir some veg to be put in a doggy bag. This request was refused. I was told it was illegal and new environmental health laws. This I think is ridiculous. Is it true in he Uk!

    • Rachelle Strauss Reply

      Hi Andy

      I’m from the UK and can tell you that it is NOT illegal to my knowledge! A couple of years ago there was a campaign run by The Too Good to Waste initiative about encouraging the British to ask for doggy bags.

      I think the issue is it’s not ‘the norm’ and therefore we’re embarrassed to ask.

      I don’t know what happened with the campaign, but I know that 25,000 biodegradable boxes were dispatched to about 50 participating restaurants in London, with the idea they would offer their patrons the opportunity to take home their leftovers.

      I run a popular website which helps householders reduce their landfill waste so if you’re up for it I’d be interested to know who this restaurant is (that told you it was illegal) as I’d like to follow it up and then write about it on my site.

      I’m also the founder of zero waste week and would love to have you signed up for 2014! http://www.zerowasteweek.co.uk – as we’re probably going to tackle food waste as our topic of choice…

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  23. smayra laurette Reply

    Nice post! So many good and benevolent information is shared here that is informative for every individual.

  24. Beth Reply

    I am proud to say that I love doggie bags!! I love that here in America, taking your leftover meal home from a restaurant is a generally acceptable idea. Where I’m from in Australia, it’s not so normal to ask to take the rest of your meal home, which usually results in me trying to stuff the rest of my food down, to the point where I can barely stand up from being so full! I just really cannot stand seeing food go to waste.

    The main reasons why I think doggie bags aren’t the norm in Australia is because
    a.) A few years ago there was a big movement within restaurants banning guests from taking home leftovers over fears of litigation. Restaurant owners were concerned about customers not storing the food properly after leaving the restaurant and suing over food poisoning
    b.) the portion sizes just aren’t as huge in Australia compared to America – a lot of the time I can quite comfortably finish my meal or there isn’t enough left over to justify a take home container.

    But there certainly has been many a time where I have not even eaten half of my meal and I wished I had the courage to ask for a take home container. Now, when I return home after living in New York for a while, I won;t be ashamed of asking for a doggie bag, and I will endeavour to even bring my own! Thanks Fredrica!

  25. Fredrica Reply

    Great article in today’s NY Times about promoting doggie bags in France: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/14/world/europe/brushing-off-a-french-stigma-that-doggie-bags-are-for-beggars-.html It addresses many of the issues discussed here on WHTW, including the need to remove stigma and rebrand the doggie bag in a more positive light. (One French solution: promote “gourmet bag” with dedicated website.)

  26. Kathryn Reply

    Going to restaurants with kids, there is almost always uneaten portions. Sometimes when the kids have their sights on the same entree we can order one and have it split in two in the kitchen. But on occasions when the kids want to eat different meals and sometimes order more than they can eat or genuinely dislike what they’ve ordered, we come prepared! I bring my stainless steel airtight food containers (tiffins) from lifewithoutplastic (dot) com The restaurants love the stainless steel containers and they look and feel nice to carry.
    If we are going to bother to make the effort to not make garbage I can’t help but to go the next step and to avoid plastic waste as well (which is both bad for the environment and bad for our health).

  27. Bradley Ahto Reply

    I couldn’t agree more that the problem of portion is a major contributing factor when considering the reasons for wasting food. A saying that resinates with my family is “Don’t have a lot, have a little!” This is something that can be applied to almost anything and I find it to be very useful when considering ways to reduce waste.
    I really like the idea of carrying a FlatOut plastic container not only to be conscientious of reducing waste, but also to be inconspicuous when taking the rest of your food to go.
    Excellent read! Thank you for the ideas!

  28. Corinne Hargrave Reply

    Having worked in the restaurant industry for many years, I always love when customers pack their leftover food into their own containers. Packing up leftover food uses so much packaging, but throwing out the food instead is just as much of a waste. Doing one’s part in reducing waste through small steps like these adds up quickly and makes such a difference!

  29. Lauren Harris Reply

    As someone who often requests a to-go box after a meal, taking my own container is something that I’d never really considered, but I think it’s a great idea! One of the reasons I tend take food to go is because I don’t like the idea of it ending up in a landfill. However the packaging used to transport it home may be just as environmentally damaging. Bringing my own container would be a great way to combat this.

  30. Linda P. Reply

    I’m guilty of asking for a leftover container when I’m at the restaurant because I want to bring the food back home and not let it waste. Next time I eat out, and if I know I will be eating a big meal, I will bring a mini plastic container in my bag. Usually, if I get a plastic container from a restaurant, I usually don’t throw it out but I’ll rinse it and used it as a new tupperware.

  31. Nancy Reply

    An environmentalist since the 70’s? Then why would you suggest plastic containers? I love the bring your own idea and will do that, but there must be products that are not made of plastic. Let’s push ourselves further….bring our own re-useable container that is not made from plastics aka petro-chemicals aka petroleum and coal aka CO2 emitters.

    • Fredrica Reply

      Actually, since the 60’s. Thank you for joining the conversation and trying to keep us on course. I confess to having a healthy respect for plastic, a “miracle” material that replaced so many heavy, breakable, and expensive alternatives as I was growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I feel that it’s most important to tackle “single use” plastic (e.g., with bag bills), and to encourage reduction and re-use (and eventual responsible recycling) of everything else. And if we can put a man on the moon, perhaps we can mitigate the negative impacts sooner rather than later. (See https://magazine.columbia.edu/article/plastic-plastic-everywhere for more on “the most useful material ever invented.”)

      Please keep in mind that this 2013 Doggie Bag posting focused on making it more convenient to take home restaurant leftovers. I was seeking a personal “to go” container that could be carried at all times, preferably flat and lightweight, for purse or pocket. Readers offered many useful comments and suggestions since then, including silicone and tiffin alternatives. At lunch today, I simply wrapped the leftover bread in my paper napkin and stuffed it in my purse. And I’ll keep carrying my little reusable Tupperware container (which is probably older than many of my students!) and not feel guilty about it.

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