Remember when water bottles and travel mugs were weird anomalies? When you had to clip your cup to your rucksack with a carabiner and then ask for special permission to fill it from the soda fountain?
Now even briefcases come with mesh pockets for portable hydration. Monday through Friday in every office in America, a rainbow of screw-top coffee mugs and metal-glass-plastic reusable water bottles clutters every working surface.
Far better than cluttering landfills, yes?
So what’s stopping us from doing the same with our food containers?
Sure, carrying a container from home into the buffet line is weird. People are puzzled. The too-mannered-to-meddle Hyacinth Buckets huff and glance away as if they’ve caught you wearing sweatpants at the White House. The curious ask questions outright.
“Do you not like your food to touch?”
“Are you loading up on leftovers?”
This is where you smile and say, “One less piece of trash to litter the planet.” If they want to know more, you happily share.
“My silverware fits right inside, see?”
“It’s like carrying cloth grocery bags. Remembering to bring it is half the battle.”
“It’s no wind farm, but it’s a start.”
“Small effort for a planet that’s up against a lot right now.”
Office lunches. Networking events. Even Thanksgiving dinner. You can be sporting pinstripes and your most polished demeanor, and there you are loading spinach salad into your personal lunch box.
Small acts of environmental citizenship come naturally to anyone who understands basic science. We do need to cut down on the unnecessary production of disposable plastic and paper goods. Nevertheless, when we restrict the service of our noble containers to cafeterias and office pantries, the impact barely registers.
Something bigger starts to rumble when we carry this private action out into the public realm.
It’s taken me nearly a year to build the courage to bring the container into the light. Ridiculous, right? Apparently, I needed to climb up and over some vague internal obstacles. Might people in the world — especially colleagues and potential professional associates — see me as a some kind of compulsive food-hoarder? Will they think I’m passing judgment on the quality of their dinnerware? Maybe they’ll decide I’m just sloppy and uncouth, because pretty ladies sport slim clutches and nourish themselves on saucer-sized servings of crudités. What kind of girl schleps Pyrex around in her handbag?
The shift came when I finally sensed the prickling dissonance between my behavior and my values. Questions about my motives itched at me. Is my need to manage impressions so great that I’ll trash our common home just to keep people from looking at me funny? Isn’t it the case that I’d rather model love and care towards our planet, and engage in conversations about that?
The cost of carrying the container… a negligible and quite possibly imaginary hit to my image.
The cost of not carrying the container… a growing pile of poisonous waste as well as a missed opportunity to blaze the Tupperware trail.
It was a simple calculation. I outed my lunch box. We stand tall in the buffet line now.
Join me if you dare. Haul it out at the next holiday party and get ready to walk the talk and talk the walk.
Small effort for a planet that’s up against a lot right now.
Also, you get to take home leftovers.