A few weeks ago, the New York Times wrote an article about the role of composting in New York City and the city’s effort to expand composting even more by the end of next year. As someone who is constantly telling everyone I know about composting, this felt like a tiny silver lining, especially after hearing Trump’s announcement of withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. In other recent news, I saw a man yelling at another man for dropping trash and demanded he pick it up, so I think it’s safe to say Trump’s decision has made a lot of people take more action in protecting the environment.
While composting and reducing waste are important and will make a big difference from residents, it plays an even bigger role for establishments that sell food all day. Some establishments are required by New York law to compost, but they’re mostly stadiums, restaurant hotels, and really big manufacturers/wholesalers. That’s still a lot of potential waste hitting the landfills from the approximately 24,000 restaurants in the city that aren’t required to compost. A growing amount of restaurants offer to-go and delivery options carried in disposable containers, which only contributes to the waste. I made a commitment in the beginning of the year to reduce my habits of eating from places that have disposable packaging and dining in instead (you can ask my friends if I’ve also done a good job at finishing my whole plate.) If I do need to order from a fast food or to‑go style restaurant, then I usually aim for places that have compostable packaging. Here are three of my favorite places in NYC that are doing their part in reducing their eco footprint.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
This place is hands down my favorite ice cream place EVER and they are so good in every way. The owners are all about putting the best simple, organic, and ethically sourced ingredients in the ice cream. They also use compostable cups and spoons, but I usually opt for a cone to be completely zero-waste and because cones are way better. Who opens an ice cream store at 8AM? They do, because they also serve coffee in the morning and will take 50 cents off your order when you bring in a reusable cup. Double green points from me!
Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings
Dumplings are like French fries (the wedge kind) in Chinese culture. Often considered fast food, dumplings are not always sold in the most environmentally friendly packaging. Mimi Cheng’s is here to change that. Not only do they share authentic Taiwanese values in their recipes, but they also extend that into the community by respecting the environment. If you eat in, they serve your food in actual dishes and they only have a compost and recycling bin.
Vegan. Organic. Surprisingly delicious for even meat eaters. Since they’re also considered fast food and they have multiple stores in NYC, packaging is very important. Everything is recyclable and compostable – yes, even the plastic-looking cups and utensils which are made from plant-based resins (I totally want to research this more.) It only seems natural that if you’re serving plant-based foods, that you’d all serve them in plant-based materials.
One of the best parts about living in New York City is being able to eat anywhere and everywhere, but it doesn’t hurt to be mindful about how often you rely fast food/anything in disposable containers, and to make an effort to recycle those containers if possible. And before you get yelled at by the local trash police, always make sure your trash is properly disposed. Happy eating!