I love free stuff, Groupon, discounts, hook ups, and so on. But my obsession with not throwing away food when there is some other use for it stems from more than the fact I like to save a little coin.
Americans generate more than 34 million tons of food waste annually -- which makes it the largest part of municipal solid waste being taken to landfills and incinerators.
Food leftovers are the number one source of waste in the United States according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Food waste includes uneaten food and scraps from homes, restaurants, and institutions such as school cafeterias.
Many restaurants don't seem to understand this. When I wanted to take home the two boneless chicken wings and few celery sticks left on my plate recently from the Chili's in Homestead, I requested a to-go box. The server, instead of graciously agreeing, looked at me with disdain.
Her attitude irked me. So this morning I decided to call the manager and ask if such behavior was condoned by the restaurant. I spoke, and I use the word spoke in the loosest possible sense since his speech was more like machine gunfire than actual words, with Reginald Miller, the manager on duty.
After being put on hold, then told to hurry up since he was on a conference call, his answer to my question was, "I have no comment. You can call our legal department." No problem there -- except the number that he barked at me was answered by a recording stating that the number I had dialed is not a working number.
I know, I know, as a journalist I should have confirmed the number with Miller before ending the call. See, the thing is I did. But while I was repeating it back to him, he hung up on me. Must have been a really important conference call.
Unfortunately, the three times I called back I received a busy signal. I'll keep trying and update you as to what the Chili's legal team says.
This response epitomizes that sense that it's wrong to take home food and surprise my dogs with a treat. Maybe I want the leftovers with some toast or a fried egg. Or I could feed it to one of the many stray cats in my neighborhood. Someone will eat it.
And if someone, be they biped or quadped, eats these leftovers then the food is no longer going to "waste."
But apparently, in our 'harder, better, faster, stronger' society, I'm a loser for not demonstrating to the world that I can afford to mindlessly discard half a plate of food every time I go out to dinner. Look around you the next time you go out to eat. You'll be astonished at the amount of food that people let bussers and servers take from their table.
And you know what this display of 'affluence' (mindless indifference/arrogance) does? It kills us.
All that food you and your friends let the server at Chili's take from your table and dispose of (because on your boss $14 per hour wage, you can afford to go to Chili's just for the ambiance) sits in landfills producing methane - a greenhouse gas 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Landfills produce over 20 percent of all methane emissions.
Fortunately, I'm blessed with the kind of disposition that enables me to brush my shoulders off when people look at me funny and think that I'm weird/cheap/pathetic/nuts and/or a multitude of other demeaning labels.
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Besides, when I see you letting your server throw away your half eaten order of Texas chili cheese fries, I'm looking at you thinking the same thing.
If you're interested in reducing food waste, the EPA's site has a lot of helpful suggestions.