Green fast food? No, I’m not talking about fast food that will make you look and feel a little green. There’s plenty of that. I’m talking about fast food that is both quick and that is eco-friendly. Does it even exist?
Imagine this. You’re running between activities on a Thursday night, and you’re desperate for something to eat. If you’re a typical North American, you pull up at a drive-through or run into the closest restaurant for takeout. You return with a foam carton of food that is full of high fat and lots of carbohydrates – but it will keep you going. If you’re trying to be health-conscious, you might pick up a sandwich or a salad. You eat in the car or throw something onto the table for the kids when you get home, then head out to the next activity.
I often wish that there was a Fast Food Watch wallet card that would tell me what fast food is good for my health, for the environment, and for workers around the world. Maybe it’s because we haven’t invented such a food, but I just can’t seem to find such a card. So what can a dedicated sustainable foodie do in a mealtime bind?
Know what restaurants to frequent. Stop by the local coffee shops and check out their menus for fair trade and organic items. Support local businesses. Is there a mom-and-pop sandwich shop around the corner? Use it as a fast food joint. The money from this business likely flows right back into the local community, and perhaps the owners are even active on the local board of trade. For those who are in a rush to make dinner, getting fast food delivered is a better carbon choice that making a separate trip to the store to pick food up. On a busy night, delivery people will go to many houses on their route, reducing the carbon impact of the trip. Of course, delivery is also a good excuse to relax on the couch!
Know what products to buy. This is easier than knowing what products to avoid, because label-reading is not usually on the agenda when time is tight. Those concerned about fair labor practices will want to avoid fast-food dessert items that contain chocolate. Those who are concerned about the ethics of meat production can look on the vegetarian menu. Those who want to safeguard the oceans can look for sushi without tuna. Look for products with less packaging, and say no to that extra bag. Some restaurants allow people to bring in their own containers. Invest in a tiffin box or other segmented container that keeps different foods separate until meal time.
It’s also possible to create your own fast food. Cook double the amount at one meal and freeze the rest. Purchase products that are almost fast food, like pre-cut organic vegetables and dips. These are healthier and generally have less packaging than many fast food restaurants. They may even be organic or local.
In this busy life, it can be difficult to look for sustainable food on the run. Slow down, take a deep breath, and find a time to look around and source out good options in your community. That way, when you’re busy and looking for a quick meal, you will know where to go.