Community Features Sustainability

7 Ways College Students Can Eat Out Sustainably

Take out can be sustainable too. Image courtesy of Rebecca Elliott.

If you’re looking for ways to enjoy a good meal while being mindful of sustainability, here are a few tips. Remember some facilities and restaurants follow health codes in compliance with COVID-19 and not all methods may be possible at this time. 

1. Order from environmentally friendly restaurants. 

Here are seven awesome restaurants that are either low waste, zero waste and sustainably serving food. Cafe 21 in particular minimizes food waste by offering smaller portions at lower prices and recommending what to order based on appetite.  

If these restaurants do not offer what you’re looking for, ask the restaurants about more sustainable options. You can search for ocean friendly restaurants by looking at the Surf Rider Foundation for certification, which helps ensure sustainability in fishing methods and finding small business restaurants that are locally sourced. The list below was provided by personal visits and

  • Cafe 21 
  • La Playa Taco Shop 
  • Cafe Coyote 
  • Oceana Coastal Kitchen 
  • Buon Appetito 
  • Baja Beach Cafe 
  • Harbor Breakfast 

2. Ask for your order to come without utensils or napkins.

The next time you order from Postmates, GrubHub or UberEats, be sure to eliminate unneeded plastics from your order. 

Upon reaching the step in the ordering process before check out, choose to have your order come without utensils. The same goes for sauces you already have at home to eliminate extra packaging. 

What if you’re ordering at the counter? Same rules apply. When asked if you would like utensils or napkins, but you’re taking your food home, just say no. This can limit excessive waste of single-use plastics. 

3. Properly dispose of inevitable waste.

Let’s face it. You are going to create waste if you choose to order takeout. Properly disposing of any containers, cans, paper or bags can help reduce the environmental impact of take-out. 

There are many restaurants that use recyclable packaging for their foods, but it is the consumer’s responsibility to ensure these items end up in the recycling bin. Becoming familiar with the types of items that can be reused or recycled allows us to do our part in reducing waste. 

Composting leftover fruits, vegetables, nutshells and other items also reduces waste significantly. A small compost bin is an option for people in small living spaces, like dorm rooms, who would like to reduce their environmental footprint. Compost is a great nutrient for soil, so the planet gets extra love if you put it to use.  

4. BYOC: Bring your own containers

In this pandemic-stricken world, schools may focus on using single use plastics in an effort to eliminate the spread of germs. But, what is that doing to our oceans, landfills or even our campus grounds? 

Next time you get takeout from the cafeteria, bring a reusable container, your own utensils or that one metal straw you ordered from Amazon but haven’t used out of fear of being labeled a VCSO girl. Since schools can’t provide reusable options right now, it’s up to you to do your part in taking care of the earth. Some options include bento-boxes, glass jars, tupperware or beeswax food wraps. 

5. Invest in a reusable water bottle and coffee cup.

Before COVID-19, coffee shops and cafeterias offered discounts that varied between 10 cents to 25 cents. But during pandemics, reusable cups are a risk companies are not taking. 

Now what? 

When you order a drink, turn down the plastic or paper straw and bring your own. Click here for a collapsible reusable straw, with a case for under 5 dollars. 

COVID-19 made bringing our own containers impossible, but instead, look for compostable or 100% recyclable containers when ordering. Investing in a reusable water bottle will not only save you money in the future, but it creates a long lasting impact in reducing plastic waste. 

6. Eat locally.

Find restaurants that use local and sustainably grown foods. If possible, opt for organic produce and pasture-raised livestock and poultry.

 Industrial agriculture contributes to the degradation of our land, air and water sources through the use of chemical fertilizers and unsustainable soil management practices. The concentration of animals in factory farming projects and the use of grain to feed them also comes at a grave cost to the environment. 

Eating sustainably allows you to maximize the health benefits of your food and support farming projects that promote regenerative agricultural practices. Double win!

For some restaurants in San Diego that support local farmers, visit: Included on the list is:

  1. FaVe Tacos – Hillcrest Farmers Market
  2. Royale – Point Loma
  3. Pannikin Coffee & Tea – La Jolla & Encinitas

7. PLNU Cafeteria 

Nicholson Commons addresses sustainability concerns in a number of ways. Click here for more. Here are some highlights:

  • 30-40% of Point Loma Nazarene University produce is purchased from local farms.
  • 100% of food waste is composted through San Diego’s Miramar Greenery Food Waste Composting Program. 
  • Leftover food is donated to San Diego Rescue Mission. 

While the caf is sustainable and has locally sourced food, which checks two major boxes on improving your sustainability, it never hurts to bring your own utensils, reusable water bottles and eliminate as much individual waste as possible. 

Written By: Charis Johnston, Anthony Cruz, Olivia Shine-Rodden