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Doggy bags - a good deed for the environment

The Local · 26 Jul 2011, 11:51

Published: 26 Jul 2011 11:51 GMT+02:00

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We have all been there. Sat in a restaurant, stomach so full we’re about to explode but with food still left on the plate.

The Stockholm Consumer Cooperative Society (Konsumentföreningen Stockholm-KfS) has found that Swedes are often too embarrassed to ask for their leftovers in a bag, and hope that a new film focusing on the environmental impact of food waste will help to change restaurant culture.

“Producing food requires a lot of resources and produces negative environmental emissions to both air and water. If the food is then thrown away, all the environmental impact has been in vain,” says Louise Ungerth, head of consumer and environment at KfS.

According to Ungerth, a rough estimate shows that 300,000 tonnes of food is being thrown away in Swedish restaurants every year, with a big part being leftovers from customer’s plates.

In a recent survey carried out by KfS, 80 per cent of restaurant goers said they never ask for a "doggy bag". The survey indicates that the main reasons are that it’s embarrassing and impractical.

“I think that making people aware of the environmental issues of food waste will be a wake up call for a lot of people who haven’t thought about this before and hopefully it will make them feel less embarrassed to ask for ‘doggy bags’,” says Ungerth.

KfS’ new informational video offers tips on how to make food last longer and to cut waste and features Swedish rap star Dogge Doggelito.

Kim Pettersson, headwaiter at Stockholm restaurant Ulla Winbladh, says that the restaurant does offer doggy bags, but it is often only American guests who use the service.

“We do have ‘doggy bags’ in case our custumers should ask but it’s not very common that they do. Most people that do are either Americans or people who have been to countries where it’s more common.”

Whether it’s actually for your pooch or not, asking your waiter for a ‘doggy bag’ is something that’s considered the norm in even the fanciest restaurants in America.

But even though some nicer restaurants in Sweden might look at you with a furrowed brow if you ask for a ‘doggy bag’, most restaurants asked in the survey said that they would gladly pack up leftovers for their customers.

Some even said they would even consider offering "doggy bags" to custumers who still had food left on their plates to make it less embarrassing.

“We rather offer them a ‘doggy bag’ first before we throw the food away,” Kim Pettersson tells The Local.

Story continues below…

According to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen), one third of Sweden's collective impact on the environ comes from food production.

In a similar attempt to reduce food waste in the UK, it was calculated that the annual emission of carbon dioxide could be reduced by 18 million tonnes. This would have the same affect as taking one in five cars off the roads.

The KfS is not only trying to change people’s habits in restaurants but also at home where almost half of Sweden’s annual food waste happens, according to Ungerth.

Information published on their website includes tips, information and recipes using leftover ingredients.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:50 July 26, 2011 by hipersons1
You know, you're not limited to the term 'doggie bag' in fact I think its rather dated. I would say 'to-go box' or just 'hey can I get a box to take this home in?' I ask this question at all kinds of restaurants and I've never been met with a hesitation or a furrowed brow by the restaurant, only my friends! I deal with this by bragging to them the next day, 'Oh man that meal was so much better on day 2!'
15:51 July 26, 2011 by Tennin
I hope it catches on. I can barely eat about half the food on the plates at Swedish restaurants, their servings are huge. I always want to ask for a togo box or something, but my guy is like "NOOOO, noone does it here." So when I'm with friends and eat out I make sure I ask for a doggy bag.
16:53 July 26, 2011 by Shibumi
I have to split up my meals for health reasons, so I do this all the time. No one in Stockholm has ever had a problem with it when I say "This is delicious, but i can't eat anymore right now. Do you have a takeaway box for me to take home the rest?" Also, if I plan ahead, I sometimes bring my own box as it has a watertight seal and won't spill in my bag... then I don't even need to ask.
21:23 July 26, 2011 by dizzymoe33
I always take half of what is on my plate home and I ask for a togo box or a box to take my food home. I really don't see what the big deal is in asking for a box to take home in Sweden? I hate wasting food and besides I can get a whole meal out it by taking home the leftovers. It always tastes better the second day anyways.
13:35 July 27, 2011 by Åskar
@dizzymoe33: "I really don't see what the big deal is in asking for a box to take home in Sweden?"

I think people just aren't aware that you can do it.
23:52 July 27, 2011 by JulieLou40
" Askar: Nope, I don't think it's a case of people not being aware. It's because most swedish people are too socially retarded to ask. Remember...you speak to strangers as little as possible here!
12:21 July 28, 2011 by Twiceshy
In case you're thinking about taking leftovers for your dog, just remember not to feed them chicken/rabbit bones. Cooked bones splinter easily and can damage the intestines. The same goes for any food containing chocolate which is a no-no for most pets.

Or you could just eat them yourself, leftovers are good. A leftover meal can be quite varied and nice.
15:05 July 28, 2011 by stillwatersrd
Perhaps the concept would be likely to catch on, if the dog in the illustration looked more like she's sitting, rather than squatting.
11:23 July 29, 2011 by fishpicks
restaurants should actively encourage it with posters and waiters asking the customer if they left some of their meal. i find it's generally frowned upon by most waiters if you ask for a doggy bag, it seems they'd rather throw it in the bin than have people eat their food...
17:29 July 29, 2011 by CBKrasno
Great idea to start with doggie bags in Sweden (I live in US and thus take stuff home all the time) However, I rather see restaurants help fight the mass epidemic of obesity that is plaguing both countries. Why couldn't they make the portions smaller? I don't think we can blame just the fast food chains for the problem with obesity.
10:53 July 30, 2011 by fikatid
@CBKrasno: I think that if the restaurants needs to make the portions smaller, they should lower the price as well. :) Good idea though. Americans are definitely "bigger" but it seems that the Swedes are catching up.

I have seen more and more "muffin tops" by days.
16:23 August 5, 2011 by conboy
The Palestinian lads down in Hornsgatan in Stockholm at the Jerusalem Kebab have been providing this service for years. They do a top nosebag after a feed of pints!
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