Now I am definitely a man of the tote – much nicer than a plastic bag – and I have an extensive collection of Monocle ones that go with me from beach to grocery store. And, yes, I am happy to forego plastic cutlery and sip without a straw pressed to my lips. But there’s something about the rallying cry against plastic that sometimes seems all too easy.
In the past year the takeaway lunch spots near Monocle have started removing their plastic cutlery from display – not getting rid of it mind, just hiding knives and forks away like dirty magazines under the counter. They still discreetly drop it into your brown paper bag if you are not swift enough to point out you have some back at base. So what’s the point? Well the alternative is that they will be harangued for their plastic display. I have heard the sanctimonious lectures delivered in cocktail joints, cafés and salad bars to waiters and check-out staff with no control over the purchasing process.
It’s funny that the lecturers who have such strong views on the devil in the straw don’t seem that interested in all the other stuff – or the staff. Does that sandwich chain offer opportunities to people in need of help? Does it pay them well? Is it helping to hold the neighbourhood together? These questions take a bit longer to ask and answer so we dodge them and focus on the straw, the plastic bag. Surely once they are removed the world will be a better place?
A couple of emails have come my way in recent weeks – nice, friendly – that have latched onto the bag debate. In essence, they’ve suggested that we should be wary of featuring businesses that use plastic bags. It’s a big ask. How would we even police that?
Since launch Monocle has tried to avoid using words such as “green” and “sustainable” because too often they are just badges added to sell. Instead we have quietly tried to focus on things made to last, whether that’s a jacket or a house. Indeed when you look at the residences we have shot across the years, most are houses gently moved on, where life can unfold for generations and furniture is with people for the long haul. And we have also tried to focus on makers and brands that haven’t outsourced production to the cheapest nation of the moment.
Which brings me to the banana. I like bananas – a lot. But there are lots of restaurants where Mr Yellow Jacket is shunned. He’s not a local, you see. He grew beyond some made-up exclusion zone. Again, the debate about food miles is an excellent one but banning the banana – or, say, the ingredients needed for Indian food because they come from too far away – is to deny us access to tastes, cultures and sensations that open minds and mouths.
The move against plastic and to using our resources more effectively is great but let’s have a bigger and better conversation about this world of food and restaurants. Although, if you need the perfect built-to-last tote, I’d recommend a Monocle subscription. We’ll send you one strong enough to hold a whole canteen of cutlery – and some nice bananas.