When I was a kid, I was expected to be at my best behavior especially when my family eats at a restaurant. It was the perfect opportunity for me to display that I have imbibed the “elbows off the table”, “use the proper utensils,” and “finish all the food on your plate” rules, among others.
Thanks to the recent WWF-Philippines Savour Planet workshop, The Sustainable Diner: A Key Ingredient to Sustainable Tourism, I learned that, aside from the social niceties of eating out, the younger generation should be taught to eat responsibly and sustainably as well.
For instance, did you know that food waste is actually the biggest threat to the environment today? Seventy percent of terrestrial biodiversity loss and and 69% of global freshwater use is attributable to food production and consumption. A significant portion of this concerns dealing with food waste.
With this in mind, WWF-Philippines launched its The Sustainable Diner Project, an initiative that aims to lessen food wastage and contribute to the improvement of the implementation of sustainable consumption and production processes in the foodservice sector.
The Sustainable Diner’s Savour Planet series aims to empower and educate Filipino diners, media partners, the academe, as well as fellow non-government organizations and food security projects on the importance of sustainable food systems and sustainable dining. It released a nine-step guide for the public to follow when eating at restaurants to contribute to efforts in lessening food waste.
Being both a foodie and a mom, I reflected on how to integrate these concepts to both aspects of my life. Here’s my take on how you can apply the guide when dining out with the family:
One: Dine in sustainable restaurants often.
A sustainable restaurant is one that incorporates sustainability in its operations: from sourcing of ingredients, food preparation and service to clean up and waste disposal. Earth Kitchen Katipunan which hosted the workshop, for example, espouses the farm-to-table concept in acquiring ingredients that not only lessens the carbon footprint involved food transport but also supports local farms and indigenous communities.
Talk to your kids about these concepts and how to spot these kinds of eateries. You can also apply similar tactics employed by restaurants when packing their baons.
Two: Choose dishes made of ingredients that are in season.
In-season local produce involves far less transport from where they are grown to your plate. Restaurants that use such produce also take advantage of their plentiful supply and freshness.
Personally, I associate certain fruit flavors with seasons and I look forward to the time when I can taste them again. For example, luscious ripe mangoes are for the summer while the sweet and earthy avocados are best enjoyed during the rainy season.
When dining out with your kids, do point out which fruits are in season. This will help them see that there is a proper time for everything, and they can learn to anticipate when they can enjoy their favorite fruits again.
Three: Be adventurous! Try plant-based dishes.
When dining out, expose your kids to dishes that feature plant-based ingredients. Vegetarian-friendly eateries such as Wabi-Sabi and Pantry by Rub Rack, for example, both feature tasty meat-free dishes that kids will love.
You can even incorporate more produce in your home cooking. In case, plant-based food does not figure much in your cooking repertoire, you can always refer to cookbooks on the subject.
Four: Order only what you can finish.
Many of us have received admonishments from our parents while we were growing up to finish whatever is on our plate at mealtimes. This is actually a reminder for us to be mindful of how we consume. Finishing off our plates means less wasted food; eating our three square meal a day is a luxury considering that many in the world actually experience involuntary hunger.
When kids are at their favorite restaurants, they sometimes want to order all their favorites and resort to pester power to get their wishes. As parents, we should guide them to only order what they can consume.
Alternatively, we can also bring reusable take-home containers so you can bring leftovers home.
Five: Ask about the dish and its ingredients.
By asking the restaurants about what goes into the food they serve you as well as the livelihoods they support, you are letting them – as well as your little ones – know that these concerns are important and factors into the decision of which business you want to support.
Six: Don’t be afraid to request for modifications.
There’s really no harm in asking for minor changes in the way the food is prepared or served, especially if it doesn’t significantly impact the restaurant’s operations. Requests such as “less oil please,” or “leave out ingredients that I’m allergic to or won’t eat” will, at the very least, be considered by the restaurant staff. Making your preferences heard and addressed also teaches your children about their rights as consumers.
Seven: Bring your own reusable utensils.
Restaurants usually provide disposable plastic spoons, forks or straws. Avoid using them to lessen those being just thrown away and adding to the landfills. When possible, bring your own set that you can clean at home afterwards.
Eight: Segregate your waste properly.
If your favorite eateries are still not into waste segregation, encourage them to practice it. Waste segregation makes it easier for everyone – the restaurant owner, the waste disposal team, the government and even you as the consumer – to maximize all the resources involved in handling your food.
For example, the leftover bits of food can be composted to fertilize soil for farmers, the dry materials can be recycled while the actual waste that go to landfills are minimized.
Teaching your kids to segregate is a good way to teach them to classify things and view them according to their maximum potential use.
Nine: Educate your friends about sustainable dining.
Encourage your kids to share their sustainable dining habits to their friends by gifting their friends with reusable utensils or inviting their friends over to your place where they can see how you practice it.
Seeing your kids influence their friends for the good of the environment is quite an achievement as a parent.
Bringing up kids who are environmentally aware and practice sustainable dining not only helps in environmental conservation but also imparts values and behaviors to them that will stand them in good stead as they take their place in society.
For more details about WWF-Philippines and its initiatives, visit wwf.org.ph.
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Header image by Pablo Merchan Montes on Unsplash