Being aware of our impact on our local and global environment is making its way into the psyche of more and more of us. No longer does being eco-aware earn you the nickname ‘swampy’ or make people assume that you hug trees.
Many households are now striving to be ‘zero waste’. And lots are at least thinking more deeply about the impact of food waste, excess packaging and single-use plastics. There’s been a rise in initiatives such as Zero Waste Week which provide fantastic inspiration.
But what about outside of the home? How easy is it to stick to our principles when we take the family out for a special dinner, or go for drinks with friends?
We’ve found a selection of venues which are helping zero waste dining to enter the mainstream.
Silo in Brighton achieves its zero-waste status in a number of ways. These include local foraging, ethical suppliers, composting and reusable food containers. They also have a ‘nose to tail’ policy, meaning they use all possible parts of an animal.
Their underlying ethos is one of respect – for the environment, for food and for its nutrients. They use whole foods, locally produced and farmed. Plus they’re fermenting, milling, baking, churning butter and making almond milk on site.
And it’s not just the food and drinks – even their furniture, crockery and glasses have been upcycled.
Nine Lives, London
Nine Lives is a basement cocktail bar in London. They prove that not only is zero waste dining possible, zero waste drinking is too. Nothing is wasted and each ingredient is ethically sourced.
They even make ‘loops’ which are drinks made using spare ingredients from other drinks, such as lemon rinds. There isn’t a single-use plastic straw in sight.
And in the back garden, there are lovingly tended fruit and veg patches, all planted in upcycled speakers and filing cabinets.
In their own words, Nine Lives is a “total passion project”. Even the staff uniforms are sourced from vintage shops.
The Redemption restaurants are located in Notting Hill and Shoreditch. The locations serve up vegan, sugar-free and wheat-free dishes with zero, or even a positive, impact on the environment.
The policy here is zero waste, and the vibe is recovery. They use quality, fresh and healthy ingredients with nothing thrown away. Plus the menu features zero alcohol and nothing but wholly nutritious recipes. Even their raw desserts are good for you.
Their motto is “Spoil yourself without spoiling yourself”. This is certainly true, and could happily include not spoiling the earth, too.
Tiny Leaf, London
Tiny Leaf is not just a zero-waste restaurant. Their all-vegetarian or vegan fare is organic and sourced from surplus stock at local suppliers, farmers and growers.
The menu is created around the wonky, unloved and excess fruit and vegetables they receive each day. Aside from their organic, biodynamic wines, you can also enjoy a zero-waste Toast pale ale, brewed using leftover bread.
This is a real foodie venue, with each dish crafted with passion for the ingredients and where they’ve come from.
Any food wastage from the kitchen is recorded and steps are put in place to avoid it happening again. Frequently uneaten dishes are noted down and either altered or removed.
Their quality ingredients are locally sourced and 100% seasonal; the only fresh ingredients imported from outside of the UK are citrus fruits. Over half of their ingredients are organic and what little waste they do produce is composted and recycled.
Sounds pretty sustainable to us!
The Doggy Bag Returns
These restaurants and bars are part of an exciting and growing trend for zero waste dining out. At the moment, they tend to only be in large towns and cities. But happily, there’s also a growing acceptance of asking for a doggy bag to take your leftovers home in.
Many restaurants are now equipped to hand out recyclable food bags and boxes. Restaurants in Scotland are even offering Good to Go food containers to consumers with leftover food on their plates. This also helps remove any embarrassment people might feel asking for one.
Trying Out Zero Waste Dining
Being zero waste takes commitment and planning, and zero waste dining out, even more so. Luckily, zero waste restaurants and initiatives like the Good to Go scheme from Zero Waste Scotland are a great help.
You can even go a step further. Ask bar staff not to add plastic drinking straws to your drinks, and carry your own reusable cutlery with you when you have lunch on the go.
Avoid over-ordering, request a doggy bag and join the dining revolution!