Grabbing A Green Lunch

Greening Your to-go Can Be Done

When grabbing and going lunch-style, it's not always easy being green.

All that to-go packaging for food also produces waste. So what can a person do to Go Green in Chicago for lunch?

Dan Rosenthal, Co-Founder of the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-Op says, "First thing you should look for is Styrofoam, that's a first indicator that you are not in a green restaurant."

*(Per The Dow Chemical Company, there is no such thing as a STYROFOAM® cup,  STYROFOAM® is actually a registered trademark of The Dow Chemical Company, and it’s not just a brand of plastic foam; it’s an entirely different type of foam than what’s typically used to make coffee cups, take-out containers and packaging peanuts.  Disposable plastic foam containers and packaging are made with a different type of foam known as expanded polystyrene (EPS).)



According to Greg Christian, Owner of Greg Christian Catering, "The food industry is the biggest polluter of any industry on the planet by far. A third of the dumps is food."

It goes way beyond the plastic containers. Here are some things to look for:

  • Recycling options
  • Biodegradable cups, packaging, utensils, and bags
  • Organic, local, sustainable foods (Green City Market has a list of its suppliers/customers)
  • Reduced waste, or waste-free kitchen
  • Low-flow/auto technology in restrooms/kitchens
  • CFL/LED lighting for signs and ambiance
  • Eco-friendly delivery vehicles

Florian Pfahler, Owner of Hannah's Bretzel, says greening your lunch is the only way to go.

"Hannah's has been built on the idea that organic and healthy and environment all go together," Pfahler adds.

If someone can't make it out of the office, there is a green delivery lunch option from Greg Christian Catering. Christian boasts the only waste-free kitchen in the city, and regularly visits the farms where his produce, meat and cheese comes from. Christian even tracks the carbon footprint of all the goods that come into his kitchen.

So, does it cost more to go green lunch style?

"You can still get lunch for less than $10," Phaler says. "We also have soups and salads that are in the $5 to $7 price range. Again, it comes in organic packaged and green packaging, so it's at a bit higher price point than, say, fresh choice. But it comes with a better product in my opinion, and more environmentally friendly packaging, which in my mind is worth investing in."

So why Go Green at lunch? Rosenthal says it’s a no brainer.

"Short answer, we're drowning in our own garbage -- it's just that simple," Rosenthal says. "We need to combine personal will, political will and technology to save the planet. We can do it -- I think someone else said that."

For more restaurants that Go Green (this is not a complete list) :

Sopraffina Marketcaffe

Hannah's Bretzel

Greg Christian's Catering


Prairie Grass Cafe

North Pond Café


Blue Water Grill

Chicago Botanic Garden Café

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