This week I've been pumping copy at one of my favorite clients, ReadyMade magazine. One of the great things about working there, as I do every couple of months during the production deadlines, is the office's proximity to VIK's Chaat Corner, a purveyor of delicious Indian food (the menu even includes masala dosas, much to my delight).
But there has always been a downside to my lunches there: no matter whether you were eating in or taking your food to go, the treats would always come in a nonrecyclable #6 polystyrene compartmentalized container. I tried washing off the containers and saving them, thinking perhaps I'd find some use for them later, but I never did. And since the editor-in-chief's attempt to get the restaurant to reuse one of its own containers was rebuffed, I never tried that, either.
Every time I ate at VIK's, I would look at the garbage can full of those plastic plates and despair. Then I'd toss my own and feel a terrible wave of guilt. But the food was so good and so cheap, I couldn't stop patronizing the place. I fantasized about starting a petition, but images of getting shooed away and told never to come back haunted me.
Once I asked the guy at the register why they didn't use real plates and a dishwasher. Too expensive, he replied. "But look at all this plastic that's just going to the landfill," I protested. "I for one would be happy to pay a little more, and I'm sure lots of other people feel the same way." This was, after all, Berkeley, the high altar of environmental activism. But he just gave me the Indian head nod/wiggle and suggested that I call the manager.
That was months ago. I've been busy with this parenthood thing. And besides, I first wanted to get info about Berkeley's composting program, because I'd heard from another restaurant that they actually got paid for their food scraps. So I emailed the city. Turns out, businesses get a 20 percent price break if they can use food waste recycling rather than refuse service. Fantastic! Hmm, but does that mean they can't have any non-food garbage? Clearly a phone call was in order.
But now comes the exciting part of my story: When I ate lunch at VIK's today (hunger having drowned out the little voice telling me to resist the restaurant's magnetic pull and stay true to my Wallet Mouth ideals), the food came in a ... paperboard container! My curry tasted so much better without the side order of guilt.
I didn't see any compost bins, however. Next time I'm there I'll make sure VIK's knows about the food-waste discount.