Natalie Hanke is on a mission to reduce waste and increase personal accountability — one take-out container at a time.
The Castlegar resident has started a campaign to encourage people to bring containers from home with them whenever they go out to eat so they can package their leftovers in a more environmentally friendly way.
“Bring Your Own To-Go Box is about consumers understanding the power behind the small choices they make every day,” says Hanke.
Hanke has been visiting restaurants around the West Kootenay and beyond in recent weeks trying to get owners and managers on board and asking them to display a sticker saying they support customers bringing their own to-go boxes.
She has received a mostly positive response as people see that it is one more thing they can do to be environmentally responsible.
“As consumers we need to take responsibility for ourselves and end the era of entitlement,” she says.
Hanke says she hopes the movement follows on the heels of other similar successful movements.
“No one thought people would start bringing cloth bags to grocery stores, no one thought people would bring their own mugs to the coffee shop — but people have.
“It is not just about raising awareness — it is a cultural shift that I want to instill in people.”
Hanke likes to point out that many to-go containers are not recyclable, and even biodegradable containers cost energy to produce and have associated shipping emissions.
Hanke prefers to take an in-person approach to promote her ideas and has been known to just turn around while waiting in line and give her pitch to anyone who will listen.
She has not created a webpage or social media accounts to spread the word, but rather prefers supporters share the message themselves.
“If someone supports the idea of BYOTGB, I encourage them to take a picture of the sticker. Share it on their social media, but make it personal,” explained Hanke.
She wants people to take ownership of their actions and believes personal contact is more effective in spreading the message than generic posts that people can give a thumbs up to and then think they have done their duty for the environment.
“Change is not happening quickly enough through government and industry,” said Hanke. “Consumers need to take responsibility for their buying power.”
The movement is not without its challenges. Changing people’s minds about the propriety around bringing in your own container, especially at fine dining establishments, is among them.
“I am trying to break any stigma around bringing your own container. My vision is for it to be commonplace,” explained Hanke.
Some restaurateurs fear potential liability if someone were to get sick after using their own container, so the area surrounding this new aspect of legal responsibility is another challenge.
But Hanke has done her research and spoken to Interior Health on the matter.
Hanke says she was told by Interior Health’s environmental public health division that restaurants are not liable for what patrons choose to take their leftovers home in.
She has also discovered that B.C.’s Ministry of Health has just drafted a new policy for restaurants to take the idea one step further and actually use customer’s own containers for take-out orders if the restaurant updates their food safe plan.
Hanke is finding support outside of restaurants as well. The Castlegar and District Public Library will be putting up a display on Nov. 13 featuring eco-conscious books and examples of current to-go boxes and the alternatives that would support the Bring Your Own To-Go Box movement.
If you would like to help support Hanke’s mission, she would love to hear from you. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.