Going Green with To-Go Packaging
If you don’t think this is a hot topic, then you haven’t paid attention to the news. Most notably, municipalities, counties and states have legislated plastic bags. Another on the to-go packaging target list is Styrofoam usage. With this surge in eco-friendly packaging comes options. Lots of options.
So, what should a restaurant do when choosing to-go packaging? Some of the interesting options for operators:
First word: versatile. These 100 percent recyclable boxes hold hot, cold and wet materials with ease. How versatile you say? The Paperboard Packaging Council offers these “shapes” as ideas: beer taps, candy wrappers, water bottles, coolers and bike helmets. They are also microwave-safe.
This heavy-duty material shouts sustainability. It’s 100 percent compostable material made from wheatgrass and excellent at managing hot and cold materials. With a high renewable rate, wheatgrass containers are readily available in many shapes and sizes.
Another renewable and sustainable material, cornstarch containers have a high ceiling (around 250 F) and low floor (around -5 F) for temperature toleration. Usually these containers are mixed with PP#5, a recyclable safe plastic, for durability and strength.
Eddie Tancredi’s Distill Table is in Lakewood, Ohio, just west outside of Cleveland on Lake Erie. When asked about which material he uses for to-go packaging, the executive chef shared the “why” and not just the “what.” It starts with the restaurant’s DNA.
“It’s more about creating an environment that changes people’s process of doing things,” Tancredi explains, mentioning his plastic-free, to-go packaging (no plastic forks, spoons or knives).
“You’re then creating an atmosphere and a culture. That’ll make the change,” he adds.
Distill Table, which includes a spirits distillery, runs an operation committed to this ethos. Cattle and hog farms 45 miles from the restaurant are where they get all their protein. Wood used in the restaurant is from trees in the area. No paper towels, only hand dryers are in the bathrooms.
Though these practices may cost a little more for his operation, Tancredi sees positives in soft dollars.
“[The principles] bring a better energy into the staff,” Tancredi says. “They can feel proud of what you’re doing. … If everyone can do their part, it’s going to make a huge contribution.”