Waste reduction at the dining table

Reusable items: The first step to waste reduction

In my last post, I talked about replacing disposable cups and to-go coffee containers with reusable items. Now I’m here to make the case against disposable tableware, and it’s an easy one. Almost $30 Billion were spent worldwide on disposable tableware in 2020. In 2016, we threw away more than half a trillion pieces of disposable foodservice items and the waste produced by these single-use items could easily be avoided.

I fully recognize it can be difficult going zero waste in certain aspects of your life but the goal here is waste reduction, not going completely zero waste. Small steps in each part of your life is a great way to start. From the utensils you use to what you use to clean up, there are some very easy ways to reduce what you toss out at the end of a meal.

Use what we already own

It seems straightforward, simply using plates, bowls and glasses that can be washed and reused time and time again. The majority of us already own reusable dish ware and yet, more than 20 million trees are cut down every year to make paper plates, cups and towels. 

But what about the water used to wash things?

It takes 8 gallons to make a single paper plate. While washing by hand isn’t the best option at ~30 gallons per 12 place settings, it’s much more water-efficient than using disposable dish ware. Dishwashers these days are the most energy and water-efficient option at 3-15 gallons per cycle. Between water saved and the waste reduction realized, choosing to use what we already have and continuing to reuse those things is a no-brainer.

Ditch the paper towels and napkins

Making the easy switch to using cloth napkins instead of paper towels and using reusable dish ware will help you make a significant reduction in what you throw out after every meal. I used to love paper towel and napkins but going to cloth napkins was felt very natural. They’re easy to keep clean, too! I just throw mine in the washer whenever they’re too dirty to continue using and then they’re just washed with the next load of laundry. I never have to worry about running out of napkins and, in the long run, it’s far cheaper.

While you’re thinking about reducing waste at the dining table, another thing to consider is what you end up putting on the plate and where that food is sourced from. Think locally and check out your local farmer’s market to pick up some amazing food and reduce your overall carbon footprint.