Sustainable takeout

Somebody People restaurant leads effort on reducing waste with reusable tiffins for to-go orders

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When owner Tricia Maher and general manager Sam Maher opened their Mediterranean-inspired, plant-forward restaurant called Somebody People, their goal was to operate as sustainably as possible.

“We always wanted to be a zero-waste restaurant, first and foremost,” said Sam Maher said.

Somebody People, 1165 S. Broadway, opened in September 2019. Customers were encouraged to bring their own containers for their leftovers, but the restaurant had compostable containers for those who did not have their own.

At the time, Somebody People didn’t do a lot of takeout.

The COVID-19 pandemic “completely changed the way we operate,” Tricia Maher said.

The restaurant implemented its to-go system in April during the first shutdown, and launched its in-house delivery service in December.

But the Mahers did not begin these operations without considering the toll that takeout — and the surplus of single-use packaging that comes with it — would have on the environment. So with every takeout order, Somebody People now offers reusable tiffins for purchase, which customers can keep and reuse, or 100% compostable packaging.

A third option lets people exchange the tiffin they’ve already purchased from Somebody People. The exchanged tiffins are commercially cleaned and sanitized at the restaurant prior to the next use.

“Hopefully, consumers and restaurants are aware of the waste that is being generated during this time, and in general,” Sam Maher said.

Tricia Maher added that Somebody People is going to continue to offer the tiffins and operate as sustainably as possible well after the pandemic. She and Sam Maher would happily lead the effort of forming partnerships with other restaurants to get involved with the reusable tiffin system, they said.

“Everywhere is seeing a huge increase (in waste) with the takeout we’re consuming,” said Lauren Olson, zero waste manager at World Centric. But, “a lot of customers are also interested in reducing their ecological footprint. They’re more conscious about what they’re bringing into their home.”

World Centric is a California-based manufacturer of compostable restaurant-ware, including 100% compostable containers made from renewable fibers.

Olson added that World Centric started selling products in Colorado in 2013, and today, hundreds of restaurants in Colorado are using World Centric products.

“Progressive cities like Denver want to see their city at the forefront of waste management,” Olson said.

It is wonderful to see people supporting their local restaurants by ordering takeout during this pandemic, Olson said.

“But it’s also a great time to think about your waste,” she added. “World Centric really believes in sustainability, and we encourage whatever small steps that people can take.”

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