I will admit it up front, plastic free street food is still a little way off at the moment. While a superficially plastic free service is already possible, I don’t believe we can totally do away with the over-used molecule chain just yet. Up until recently no one really gave a monkeys but this year, thanks to David Attenborough the tide is suddenly turning. We now have the chance to make a sale by going green, as well as that warm, fuzzy, saving-the-planet feeling that is just for you.
Plastic Free Service
The moment you give food to your customer is undoubtedly the place to start. From a cynical point of view this is where your audience will actually notice and appreciate, and this is what eco-conscious festivals and events will ask you about. This is because the general public, as a whole, are terrible at recycling. Sure, you can provide 4 separate bins for glass, metal, cardboard and non-recyclable stuff, but the moment one of those bins is full that rubbish will get shovelled in wherever it fits.
Provide packaging that will compost; that suddenly solves the problem. Win.
It’s worth reducing the packaging to a bare minimum first. If you’re serving something that isn’t eaten with a knife and fork, you will need to include a napkin. So serve your meat-in-a-bun directly in that napkin if you possibly can – boom – compostable packaging. If you have several elements to a dish, don’t put them all in their own pot. If you are serving hot drinks, don’t put a sippy-lid on it unless the customer asks for one. They manage to drink out of a grown-up cup all the rest of the week, I’m sure they will figure it out today. Saves you money, saves the planet. It all adds up if everyone does it.
The ideal scenario is one that involves no packaging at all, so we have started offering £1 tea and coffee if you bring your own cup (down from £1.50 normally). At a folk festival where everyone brings a thermos this can get you a whole weekend of tea sales.
Plastic Free Prep
This is not so easy, and there is much less incentive to get on board with it, because effort. All our food, even the amazing artisan cheese and bread, comes wrapped in disposable plastic. We recycle this plastic if we can (the plastic bags on the bread, for example), but a lot of this still ends in the bin.
We’re working on it though. It’s easy to get high and mighty about recycling credentials and take a swipe at those doing less, but that isn’t going to help. So I propose that we all try and do our bit, cutting down packaging wherever we can. At Jabberwocky HQ we try and buy bigger packages if we can, because the net packaging is less. We have roughly halved the amount of disposable gloves we use during prep and service over the last 2 years by just trying to be more aware of them. We recycle when organisers provide facilities to do so. Some folks probably do much more. You guys deserve an appreciate nod and a thumbs up. Have another look at the Dales picture if you really want to treat yourselves.
Biodegradable packaging is, I think, the next best thing after no packaging at all, so once you’ve pruned any unnecessary extra receptacles it’s time to make whatever you have left a touch more eco-friendly. Even our local expanded-polystyrene-loving wholesaler has a fair bit of biodegradable packaging these days, albeit next to all the ever-lasting orange muck, but the option is there and the market will be driven by the consumer.
We still have a lot of old stock to get through (see buying in bulk, above) but we are planning on going full compostable service by the end of the year, which is about time, as even this lame excuse of a current government is starting to throw legislation about. Thankfully we never offered straws in the first place, although that was always more because we’d expect to keep accidentally upending the packet all over the van during transit than for any especially ecologically sound reasons. So yey, bring on the straw ban.
If we all make the convenient small changes, then that’s already a huge difference, so let’s do that. Otherwise I’m sending Attenborough after you, and he will be disappointed.