Let’s Dish!: As Green As We Can Be

Dish GreenLike our customers, we are increasingly aware of the impact our practices have (or don’t have!) on the environment.  We’re proud of the many “green” initiatives already underway at Let’s Dish! and are always looking for ways to do more.  Below you’ll find some questions we frequently hear, regarding our environment-friendly practices.  If you have further questions (or suggestions!) please let us know!

Rick’s Signature

Don’t you use too many plastic bags?

Many environmental commentators have taken aim at our industry for the perceived heavy use of plastic bags.  As involved and invested members of our communities, we are concerned about the environment and we strive to reduce all sorts of waste and usage of all items in our business, including plastic bags.  Yes, we do use a fair number of plastic bags in our business.  This is necessary because food  quality and food safety are the #1 goal and a certain amount of separation of ingredients is necessary for quality and required by the health department.  Remember, though, that overall, we tend to reduce waste relative to what a typical consumer would create because we order food in bulk.  Our proteins come in 40+ lb cases.  When we use canned items for some sauces and beans, they are the very large sized cans.  Our veggies and fruits also come in large cases.  We certainly do send these ingredients home with you in an assortment of plastic bags, but the total packaging used is the same (and usually LESS!) than what you’d consume on your own buying smaller packages in the grocery store.  The same bulk buying that contributes to the efficiency of our model also supports our environmental goals.  The other force that drives us to conserve our plastic bags is simple economics– bags are expensive!  We have every incentive to limit the number of bags in our recipes in order to keep our costs down.  But we always do so in the context of providing excellent food safety.

 Why can’t we wash out the bags and reuse them?

This is a health department rule.  We cannot mix certain ingredients or reuse bags in any way.  Some customers, we’ve noted, will keep some bags (that are barely used, for example) and take them home for other uses, such as picking up pet waste or storing kids’ magic markers.  We do NOT recommend that this be done when any sort of protein or produce item had been in the bag.  It’s really only when the bag hold bread/rolls that folks will do it.  We don’t advocate the practice, though.  Per the above, we try to limit the number of bags at the outset.

Why don’t you use more tin foil and tin pans rather than plastic?

There are a number of reasons for this.  They include:

1) Space– most of our customers prefer the relatively more compact packaging of the bags.  They can simply fit more into a freezer.  Too many pans in a freezer can be awkward.

2) Freshness– the tin pans are not airtright like the bags are.  Therefore, to maintain optimal freshness, one needs to wrap the pans with a considerable amount of plastic wrap anyway.  The net result is often MORE packaging because now you have the tin pan AND the few feet of plastic wrap.

3) Cost– tins pans are an order of magnitude more expensive than plastic bags.  While some customers might be willing to pay more for them (sounds like you might be one of them), the vast majority of our customers are not.  And in this inflationary environment, we simply cannot afford to absorb the difference.

Do you recycle?

We do, but we wish we could do more.  We face a couple big constraints for doing more in our stores:

  1) Some of our landlords offer paper recycling dumpsters but none offer metal/can options

2) Of the ones without paper dumpsters, some won’t let us get our own; others will let us, but at our own expense (which is  considerable, because we have  to build platforms, arrange for service, police its use, pay for the freeloaders who inevitably come and use it, etc.)

3) Without dumpsters, we are in a bind b/c health codes preclude us from keeping cardboard or cans around for too long inside our facility (ie, we can’t really keep them around all day until a pickup service came to get them. We wouldn’t have room anyway, and  health codes preclude it.   Plus, those pickup services are quite expensive and we’d have to raise prices to pay for this) 

We’re exploring options which include new outside pickup services, employees taking items home, customers taking items home, etc.  More and  more, employees are taking cans home to their own recycling or to the town/county drop off points.  It’s a nice system.  And we’re open to any ideas!  (There are obviously some pros and cons to these that I just listed).  If you have any, please let us know.  

What other things do you do for the environment?

Here are some examples:

1) lights- like most retailers, we have very efficient overhead lighting

2) we use high efficiency appliances whenever possible

3) We use filtered water coolers rather than bottled water coolers or water bottles

4) When we ship product, we try to use a crushed rock insulator that is more environmentally friendly than white stryrofoam; and when we do use styrofoam, we buy the kind that is 100% recyclable and we order it in component pieces that are efficient to store and ship

5) We provide and encourage reusable shopping bags (for us in our stores and in other retailers in the community)

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