At home, we attempt to be as eco-conscious as we can. We eat fresh veggies from our garden, never use disposable plates and bike or rideshare on an every day basis. Heck, even our wedding china is recycled glassware. Our great downfall in this eco-friendly lifestyle? Hot n' Sour soup and Ma Po Tofu from China Bistro in non-recyclable containers. We thought about dining in but there's some thing so cozy about take-out Chinese, bamboo pajamas and watching some Netflix. We asked our buddies at China Bistro if we could bring back our containers for re-use and got a resounding no (more so for Health Department guidelines and not some dislike for the environment). So we had to get creative in re-purposing our take-out containers.
As a sidebar, kudos to these college students for their analysis project discovering that millions of disposable take-out containers find their way to landfills each and every year. From that study project came the Eco-Clamshell, a reusable take-out container that could withstand the heat of commercial dishwashers with a chemical composition that eliminated the use of Bisphenol A.
But until all of our local eateries make the most of such items, here are some tips on how to re-purpose take-out containers:
Forgo the Tupperware – It's expensive which makes losing a lid or the entire container to a neighborhood potluck even more annoying. Washing the take-out containers and keeping them on hand for your own leftovers and packed lunches is a great method to re-use them. Word to the wise though – we've had less luck with them when freezing food. Ours all tend to crack.
Have a budding artist? – Small containers make for outstanding paint trays and if you need to save it overnight, those lids are convenient to keep the paint fresh.
An unconventional desk set – All those small items on the desk that tend to clutter things up fit perfectly in take out containers. And if you're just a little klutzy like me, the lids serve a dual-purpose in keeping scads of paper clips and staples off my office floor.
Organize a toy room – Youngsters are pretty hard on both their toys as well as the containers they are stored in. Use take out containers to simply store crayons, pencils, smaller toys as well as other kiddie toys to keep a play room organized.
Start a garden – In particular, we've discovered that sauce and soup containers make for a fantastic starter garden supply. Rather than employing the substantial trays, we can plant seedlings in the individual containers and stagger start off dates. We also use sharpies to create notes on the containers noting sort of seed, amount of sun/water required and planting date.
It's not to say that these containers won't eventually make their way to a landfill or if you are fortunate enough, your local recycling center. But at the least you could get some use out of them before discarding. And, once more, it is in the hands of the individual to demand change in favor of the environment. If your nearby recycling facility does not accept take-out containers, keep asking them until they do. Even better, introduce your favorite restaurant to the Eco-Clamshell and let them know how happy it would make their favorite customer to have that eco-friendly option accessible.