In the days of Covid-19, to-go containers prove to be an evermore essential part of our daily lives, carrying food from our favorite restaurants to our cars and residences. But they're more than just empty vessels for food, they have a lifespan of their own, but hopefully not too long.
TOP TEN REASONS TO SWITCH FROM STYROFOAM
Styrofoam is dangerous. Verifiably. Studies show that “styrene,” a probable carcinogen, as well as other harmful chemicals, leak from foam containers when they come into contact with hot food. And don't even think about microwaving it, you'll just be marinating your food in harmful chemicals, might as well dip it in Drano. Additionally, as one might suspect, children are especially, developmentally vulnerable to these chemicals. Frankly, #1 should be reason enough for us to ban Styrofoam nationwide, but this is America, and we have the God-given right to harm ourselves (and our friends and neighbors) so let's continue.
Using foam containers makes your restaurant look out of date, like you missed the memo on not only what's cool, but what's ok by contemporary standards. It gives your restaurant cringeworthy status to a portion of the consumer base who will refuse to order takeout from you, and may refuse to eat at your establishment all together. You may think those folks don't exist, like the legendary kraken, but they do, you just don't know them.
Hell, the vast majority of fast food restaurants have made the change to at least cardboard containers, so what's your excuse? Do you really think that the tens of millions of dollars of cost analysis and marketing that the fast food industry spends would have led them to change if it weren't financially sustainable? C'mon, don't let your fear of change get in the way of doing the right thing and of your success.
Using eco-friendly containers will send a message that the food inside the box is of higher quality. OK, it may sound a little far-fetched but follow me. Most good chefs and restauranteurs know that the way you present your food has a lot to do with how it's received. Plates, silverware, napkins, glassware, it all has a positive (or negative) effect on peoples overall dining experience. Why would takeout be an exception? It also sends a message that if you care about the quality relative “healthiness” of your togo boxes, you may care a little more about the ingredients you're using to execute your menu.
Our world, our environment, our home. Styrofoam is a version of polystyrene, which is made up of over 50 chemicals, many of which are released into the environment upon manufacture. They leach into our soil, into our water, they and their corresponding micro-plastics end up in our waterways, and ultimately into the ocean, where they impact every level of our marine ecosystems, ultimately impacting a large portion of our food supply. Did I mention that it has a million-year-plus lifespan?
Money. OK, let's break this down. The average Styrofoam togo container costs about 7-10 cents each. The average sustainable alternative is roughly twice that. Let's say you do a relatively decent takeout/delivery (during non-Covid times) let's say 50 covers during a day. Let's now say that you're open 6 days a week. Let's use the upper range of cost difference between Styrofoam and a sustainable alternative, 10 cents per unit difference. That equates to: .10 x 50 = $5/day x 312 open days = $1560. Based on industry per cover averages, that means that you'd only need one additional cover per week to completely pay for the switch to zero foam. One. Meal. Per. Week.
Your restaurant can be part of the change, and you should feel better knowing that your food containers aren't littering your city and negatively impacting infrastructure. In New Orleans and many other cities, for example, foam food and beverage containers routinely fill storm drains, clogging their potential for dealing properly with inevitable deluges. The ultimate effects of improper drainage ends up costing the city and its residents millions of dollars annually.
They're going away anyway, and you definitely don't want to be listed in that last article about dinosaur restaurants that were forced to change their selfish ways by decree. Citywide and countywide bans are popping up everywhere these days, and the change to sustainable alternatives is inevitable, so why not be ahead of the curve (or at least on it) and make the change now.
You'll actually gain customers. Going back to #2 for a second, and a note about those customers you will acquire because they notice that you're taking a positive step towards diminishing your environmental footprint. They'll be your most loyal customers ever, they believe in you beyond your food, they see that you're doing something in spite of your bottom line, to improve our shared community. They'll gladly rave about your food (providing it's good, of course) and spend a good bit of money annually. We even have a few customers who bring their own containers in for takeout who've been with us since the beginning, and have brought literally dozens of folks with them to our restaurant.
It can be the beginning of something great. Each step we take towards making our individual actions and circumstances friendlier to the environment, is a step towards the future. And as you start down that road you'll realize that not only is taking this first step easy (and reasoned and right and profitable) you'll wonder why you didn't do it long ago. You'll see that being “sustainable” readies you responsibly for your own future. You'll want to start to do other things to lessen your negative impact, environmentally, socially. Your employees and your customers will begin to get excited. And you may realize that there are other things you'd like to do to decrease your ecological load, to be cleaner and more nimble with your resources, to engage your community … then you'll be off on a path which recasts what your endless days an nights look and feel like, and give you a reason to be excited about the journey.