Friday, February 19, 2010

BYOContainer without getting funky looks

Fridays... they happen to be special in that I buy my lunch at a local grocery store. I usually only schedule a few clients on Fridays so I can catch up with paperwork... and risk walking to Pete's Frootique for some SALAD.

Not just ANY salad, but a 500 zillion ingredient option, build your own salad!

My issue, which I have emailed them about (and received non-commital answers), was that they packaged these salads (two sizes, large and small) in non-recyclable or compostable containers. Sure the containers are made with post-consumer recycled content, but the waxy coating isn't recyclable- so into the landfill it goes.

Trying to trouble shoot around this, I figured bringing my own bowl wouldn't be well accepted... ('who IS that weirdo treehugger anyway??'). I realized that the best solution would be to bring my stainless steel lunch container, about the size of the salad and see what they said.

It took about a month to muster the nerve. You see, I'm a pretty awkward person, especially when it comes to dealing with customer service people. I had these visions of having to explain myself, strange looks, flat out 'no's, being embarrassed etc etc.

Finally, one morning I just took a deep breath, bundled up against the snow, and marched over to Pete's, trusty container in hand-mitten.

I fretted the entire time I was in line, while the guy was filling up his mixing bowl with my ingredients and then: 
'Can I ask you a weird favour?' (geez I'm so awkward)
'yesss.....?' (cautious look)
'Could you put the salad in here' (shoves the container to the dude)

Sure?? Wow, that was anti-climatic. Thank goodness! The salad fit completely and he even complimented my BYOBag: Plastic Bags Blow, sticker. YES. I am COOL! Now I only need to worry about the cashier... Who didn't even blink when I opened the lid and said: 'See, it's a small salad'.

Today was my fourth or fifth time doing this without anyone even giving me a weird look! Seriously a fantastic experience. Today one of the cashiers said they were thinking of providing a discount for people who brought their own containers. YES. I am emailing Pete's tonight.

My next step is to bring my own take out container when we go to certain restaurants that I usually take the food home. I'm not as sure how that will go... but we'll see.

It's all about taking a step away from the disposable lifestyle. A fantastic site is: TakeOut Without Campaign: fill your stomachs, not the landfills. (love that!). A wonderful organization supporting those who wish to rethink how they live their lives. Every small change in habit will eventually lead to beautiful things. 

Just as we move in our yoga practice towards healing our bodies and minds, so we can practice in stages to change how we treat our Planet. 

Happy Weekend!

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. It's pretty common in my city for people to bring their own containers in lieu of 'doggie bags' at restaurants. I've never seen a single eyebrow raised at the practice. I even reuse the plastic containers that my favourite Thai restaurant offers for take-out food. They've never balked at using the containers I bring.

    I look forward to the day when these scenarios will be as common as bringing cloth bags to the grocery store. I remember when I was seen as 'odd' for doing that and now everyone does it!

  2. The other day I got a free bread roll when I brought my own container to buy humus! And when I do my shopping in all my reusable shopping bags, everyone thinks it's great despite the fact that here in Asia people don't have any eco-conscience at all!

    Good for you for overcoming your fears and keeping on the eco-path!

  3. OMG, I wanted to get my boyfriend waste-free ice cream for v-day (did you see Beth's post about bringing one of those pyrex containers??) and was all set to go and get it before he woke up...then I panicked and didn't go and told him that he had to come with me. so much for being romantic, lol. they took my container and did give me a curious look, but by that time I'd had a couple glasses of wine. so...

    I've found that bringing my own containers for leftovers at restaurants to be much easier than the ice cream experience. I still get embarrassed and make sure no one's looking before I whip out my container and shove my food inside. but, it doesn't require you to interact with the waiter. YAY.

    cheers to being an eco-freak!

  4. Awe, that's awesome! I would be scared the first time too.

    I remember the first time I brought my own traveller coffee mug into the local gourmet coffee place in the building I work in. I was thinking they'd charge me for a large instead of a medium coffee, but they charged me for a small coffee because I brought my own mug!! Love that!!

    For your leftovers, you could just throw your food into your container and put it in your purse, and the waitress wouldn't even have a clue, ha ha.

    I wish everyone was more educated about all the waste that gets thrown away. On Monday my mom came over and brought a casserole that she made, in a tin foil dish. She's like "these are the greatest things ever". OMG, mother!! Garbage!! She thinks I'm a crazy weirdo. My parents are one of the ungreenest people I know! Actually, most people I know are the ungreenest people I know. :(

  5. good for you girl. while i buy all kinds of crazy items in bulk at new seasons, our local 'cool' grocery store, for some reason they refuse to fill my own containers with deli foods, meats, cheeses, etc., and say i have to use their plastic containers. they also do home delivery in plastic bags even though they don't offer plastic bags to regular shoppers. strange. more work to be done!

  6. Great post, 'cause I had NO idea Pete's cute little asian takeout boxes couldn't be fully recycled-so sad to read that :(
    I love the idea of bringing my own, but need to get a good container.May I ask where you bought yours?

  7. That's great... good for you for mustering the nerve. We've been doing that for a while, but it's always a bit awkward. We just got into the habit of always having a container with us and packing up half of our food from the start. It becomes second nature, and so I'm sure soon your jitters will be gone soon. When you find a good strategy for asking your restaurant server where the meat comes from or if the produce is organic without getting funny looks, let us all know! ;-)

  8. thanks for the support everyone!! Sounds like there's a lot of places that are much more ahead with byocontainers.... i have a funny feeling i would struggle with other places (like the deli example).
    but i think your right, if i can not involve the server at all at the restaurant all the better!! :)

    Anonymous: I KNOW- anything with wax is not accepted in the landfill. EVEN if the cup-container says the wax is bio-wax. HRM's organics lady told me herself that they don't bother trying to figure out the difference on site. if it looks like wax, it's thrown in the landfill.
    I got my container at P'lovers (in Parklane Mall).... BUT I should have researched a bit more. you could most certainly get them cheaper online, AND I should have bought the ones with the seal, so I could put soup in my container. You could go there to see which ones you would like, then order them online.. :)

    The other thing to remember, you have to bring a bowl for the stuff you want to heat up at work- since stainless steel can't go in the microwave. A few extra steps, but it becomes a habit. and now the thought of heating up food in plastic grosses me out. :)

  9. Pete's looks pretty fabulous!

  10. Bravo!! I'm so proud! I would have felt equally anxious about bringing my own container. I'm still getting weird responses from grocery store cashiers about my produce bags and my bulk bin bags. Not cool. So I'm thrilled to hear you got such a good response.

  11. Good for you - I love it when things I stress over actually turn out to be not stressy at all. I actually prefer my own containers vs. the plastic-y things because I know it's cleaner and sturdier...

  12. I have taken home my own take out in my containers. They usually like it because then it also saves them $$. The only thing is to remember your container! One thing I though about is leaving one in the car for those restaurants we drive (or spontaneously go) to and when we walk...well it'll be like the cloth shopping'll take some time but eventually, I will remember every time! :)

  13. Please post where you got the stainless steel lunch container.

  14. Haha! I had the same experience not too long ago. I usually pack my lunch but one day I forgot it and decided to buy lunch at this great health food store that serves hot lunches...Unfortunately, they're served in STYROFOAM! How UNcool. Luckily, there is a pile of unclaimed tupperware in my office kitchen that I decided I'd use.

    Anyway, I was also a bit nervous as I handed my tupperware to the counter lady to fill. She didn't even bat an eye! Even better, the lady standing behind me in line said, "What a great idea! I wish I'd thought of that!".

    Ps. Who makes your steel container stack? It's great!

  15. Just wanted to let you know I answered your question in today's post. Thanks so much for asking it!


  16. Once a month in the fall and then in the spring my dd and I go to the AGNS for an art program for homeschoolers. Afterwards we go and eat at scotia square:) All fall I took my own containers to the food court and nobody said anything. In fact, I think we got more food that way:)
    It does take a little nerve the first time but then it's all good.

  17. Good for you! I'm going to start bringing my own container when we dine out, which isn't often. Glad to hear it was so anticlimactic!

  18. Hi! I have looked at this post a few times, already. But I always get a little pissed (not towards you for sure!) when I see it. I get ticked because I have cool containers like yours and I love them, and the first day I used them one of my students said it looked like I was camping or something--it was the way she said it. I think I was suddenly ashamed or something. And I haven't used them again! So I'm mad at myself. Boo.


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