5 Tips for Becoming a More Mindful Diner in 2019

Here are 5 small things you can do to make a big impact.

Kitchen fruit and vegetable waste ready for recycling. AdobeRGB colorspace.


Kitchen fruit and vegetable waste ready for recycling. AdobeRGB colorspace.

Photo by: lucentius


Restaurateurs Ellen Kassoff Gray and Todd Gray have already nailed down their 2019 New Year’s resolution. The owners of Equinox Restaurant in Washington, DC, decided their 20th year in business will involve a major push to cut down on waste—going well beyond recycling by trying to repurpose kitchen scraps like carrot tops and broccoli stems, replacing beverage napkins with silicon coasters and training kitchen staff to compost what can’t be salvaged.

“Continuously operating for 20 years now, we’ve seen a lot and used a lot,” says co-owner Kassoff Gray. “Hospitality is the number one contributor to waste, and I don’t feel good about being part of that statistic.”

She says that while the restaurant intends to start implementing big changes in the new year, an ambassador requested a zero-waste dinner for a private holiday party that will include items like kale-stem crackers and Reggiano-rind mac and cheese with black truffle peelings.

To achieve their resolutions, she and her husband, chef Todd Gray, hired D.C.-based (r)evolve to chart a pathway toward Equinox becoming a zero-waste restaurant. “It’s not just a tree-hugger stance anymore,” Kassoff Gray says.

So, how can diners improve their carbon footprint in 2019? Here are five small things you can do to make a big impact:

1. Bring your own take-out containers

Kassoff Gray says she does this, and she encourages patrons of Equinox to bring their own containers by giving them extra food when they do. She’s thinking of offering a discount as a way to further incentivize the practice and hopes other restaurants follow suit.

2. Eat less meat

Catherine Plume, managing director of (r)evolve, says choosing plant-based meals more frequently can offset your dining impact. “Maybe you don’t opt for the beef, which has a very high carbon footprint,” she says. “The other thing I would look at is portions. We’ve taken to splitting entrees or going for the appetizers because in some restaurants, the portion sizes are huge.”

3. Pass on the plastic

Plume also recommends asking your favorite take-out spot to rethink tossing plastic cutlery into the bag when you plan to dine at home. It’s also helpful to alert your server if you don’t need a plastic straw or those stirrers in your coffee or cocktail, and to bring your own reusable bag if you plan to leave with leftovers.

4. Compost

Kassoff Gray says she’s an avid composter at home, but one of the main recommendations from (r)evolve is that Equinox would significantly reduce its food waste if the restaurant started composting, too. As consumers, we should consider composting all possible take-out scraps, rotten veggies that languished in the fridge, and even compostable take-out containers and cutlery. “When it goes to the landfill, [food waste] puts off methane, which is one of the worst greenhouse gases there is,” says Plume. “At least try to compost it if you’re not going to consume it.

5. Do a bit of research

Plume cites the Green Restaurant Association as a helpful resource for those who prefer to patronize eco-friendly restaurants. If GRA doesn’t turn up much in your area, a quick web search will likely reveal some good options in your neck of the woods. In addition, she says a friend of hers is developing a phone app aimed at helping consumers make green choices when dining out.