Take-Out Goes Green

Is the Styrofoam clamshell an endangered species?

Eco-friendly take-out boxes, cups, flatware and bags are edging out their plastic and Styrofoam counterparts in restaurants all over town.

At Dupont's new TangySweet, yogurt is delivered in Ecotainer cups (pictured above) that are compostable and petroleum-free. The new and tasty Tackle Box is also stocking eco-friendly take-out ware, and On The Fly's SmartKarts hand over the goods in biodegradable bags.

Chix delivers its delicious, free-range rotisserie chicken in boxes made from sugar cane fibers, and their seemingly plastic drink cups are made from corn. The utensils are made from potato starch; napkins, bags and menus from recycled paper.

It's promising to see restaurant owners being more eco-conscious, but it's also important to stop using so damn much in the first place.

Chef Barton Seaver of Tackle Box told me recently that although he's buying green options for his seafood shack, he tries to encourage people to take only what they need — which is not fistfuls of napkins.

And beyond reducing consumption, it'd be nice to see all these containers actually end up recycled.

Where else have you seen green to-go packaging?


Ramona said...

At the Hotel Monaco's Jackson 20, they use only biodegradable containers and utensils for Doggy Happy Hour.

WhereInDC said...

Java Green has all eco-friendly utensils and bags. I like them because unlike some eco-friendly items, these are actually substantial forks where they don't break two seconds into your meal. :) Not to mention I love their vegan food (and I'm not even vegan!).

Anonymous said...

I think Taqueria Nacionale's containers are something eco-friendly.

Colleen said...

Pete Apizza's in Columbia Heights also has corn-based biodegradable cups & take out containers, not to mention locally grown ingredients and local gelato. The pizza's not too bad, either!

julie said...

the On The Fly carts also use much of the same "eco-friendly" containers and utensils.

sadly, the problem is that all these items are "compostable under proper conditions" (from the ecotainer website) which isn't inside of your typical plastic garbage bag or recycle bin. you need a special composting facility to really get rid of the trash. the usda has one in the area (in maryland) but it's not recognized as an official composting facility (http://www.internationalpaper.com/PDF/PDFs_for_Packaging/Foodservice/CompostingFacilities.pdf) - so the chances of your ecotainer or biodegradable whatever ending up in a different place than the less cool styrofoam containers are slim at least for now.

CLFoster said...

From my days working with Jeff & Barbara Black, I know they've used sugar cane & corn based to-go and catering packaging for years. BlackSalt runs on wind power as their main electricity source and all of their restaurants recycle fryer oil for sustainable smart fuel. (i shouldn't say that out loud or robbers will be on their way! see nytimes article)

Anonymous said...

there's a huge movement overall on the greening of restaurants. and on the new "conserve" website by nra-- barton seaver is a featured example in their intro video. conserve.restaurant.org

Amanda said...

Thanks for all the input.

Julie - Every time I get one of those compostable containers from the Whole Foods salad bar, I think, can this be recycled? Composted, yes, but I unfortunately don't have a compost pile.

I think that's the next step in this equation - making sure these green supplies not only get made in an eco-friendly way, but disposed that way too.

iEatDC said...

Big Buns in Arlington uses containers made from corn! And their garbage cans are recycled oil drums.

Anonymous said...

BRG, the burger joint, in Bethesda at Woodmont Triangle, has the corn cups as well.

Emily said...

The bigger problem, echoing what Julie wrote, is that even if you had your own compost bin at home, these "compostable" containers require industrial compost facilities that use much higher temperatures than you could ever achieve in a home composting pile. (not to mention that most of those corn and potato-derived utensils are made from petroleum fertilizer and pesticide-intensive monocrops)
As for the recycling, unless the company distributing the "recyclable" containers takes them back and recycles them themselves, most municipal recycling centers will not accept them.
Biodegradable is great, but only if you compost it—it won't do a think in a garbage bag.
I guess this kills the excitement of these new options, but it's just another indication of how far we have to go in infrastructure before these kinds of innovation actually accomplish something.
On one good note, I'm happy to see that so many companies are at least thinking in the right direction.