Prior to the first pandemic of 21st century, circa 2019-2023, several environmental consulting firms and task forces set out to identify opportunities to minimize restaurant and markets’ use of plastic bags, cups, utensils and packaging. Creekside was the poster child for sustainability and eco-friendly takeout for “ReThink Disposable” at the time. This was by design from our operational start in 2017, partnering with Marin Sanitary Service and their Food To Energy program and recycling and the good-old Boy Scout mindset of “Leave No Trace” (and the Outdoor Code of “Leave it better than you found it”). That being said, we also had very little takeout business (under 5%, which is way below industry standards)… so our minimal footprint was not only deliberate (good), but also below industry average for take-out activity (not good, for us). We struggled with take out containers for hot food that wouldn’t melt or leak from heat, pizza boxes and liners that wouldn’t sweat on to car seats, and cups and vessels that claim to be 100% recyclable and made from plants, but actually have PLA (Polylactic Acid (C3H4O2)n ) that local recycling won’t accept. A local ban on plastics was adopted with pictures of turtles with plastic straws sticking through their noses as a marketing message. Still, it was a buyer-beware and consumer choice on who they would shop/dine/support. Few if any quickie marts or gas stations went along with it. The cost of bamboo and plant products were 100 to 400% more than plastic or hybrid partially recycled products. Then then COVID-19 made everything a Take-out world and the entire green save the planet project went out the window. We went from 5% take out to 100% take out in 2020 (and others had similar/relative changes). But in Summer of 2021… the wooden fork movement returned. In an article in the Ross Valley Reporter “War on Plastic Forks” (the scope of the challenge is much greater than this), the ban movement is back. Surviving restaurants have pretty much turned their dining rooms and food prep areas into “take out village” with the unprecedented demand for To-Go supplies from paper plates, napkins, cups, straws, to seasonings and utensils. Under all this well-intended fight against plastics is the question: How sustainable is deforesting for wooden forks, how sustainable is ravaging bamboo fields, what’s the cost in human labor and factory impact to stamp out and form utensils from plants, what machinery is harvesting and transporting the raw wood/pulp, and how much un-checked diesel fuel is blowing into the atmosphere from trans-oceanic cargo ships (one of our planet’s most polluting industries). Ironically, many of these wood/bamboo products are shipped…in plastic bags. Additionally, food costs, logistics and wages have jumped, with some towns/cities increasing minimum wages in the face of brutal adversity. So, how does a restaurant survive? The cost of all this stuff has to be passed on to the consumer; margins are just too low in restaurants. At many restaurants, un-disclosed fees may pop-up on your final bill, with some guest checks looking like a HUD-1 closing form with junk fees. It’s this or raising prices of menu items, or both. We’ve recently seen restaurants on the search for revenues to combat rapidly compounding operations: COVID Fee (5% additional on your entire bill), supply fee, table sanitization fee (regardless if you’re taking out), Takeout Packaging Fee (regardless if you’re dining in), Employee Wage Offset Charge (3% upcharge) or Wage Adjustment Fee (to help pay for your server’s increased compensation), Marin County COVID Fee (you’ll find these on some 3rd party delivery vendors…a $2 per transaction junk fee from delivery driver apps), It’s a real bummer when you get these charges on your final bill in addition to tax; it sours your meal, leaves a bad taste and diminishes your memory of the experience. So, Buyer Beware. Prices for food, dining, entertainment, takeout and dine-in are going to continue to rise (even more so with produce and proteins due to the drought). Don’t shoot the messenger, but do yourself a favor and be a watchdog for hidden fees; they can turn a good dining experience into a negative. At Creekside, you will never find a hidden fee. You’ll get the quality of service at the price we have quoted per item, that, and your standard sales tax. No upcharges, No mandatory included tip for parties over 6, No added fee to pay our employees, just your food, drink and tax. As we used to say in computer programing: WYSIWYG “Wissy Wig”…What You See Is What You Get. The debate on plastics v paper/wood will continue, but conservation starts with individuals and quickly needs global action from all countries to make a dent the damage done. Food for thought. You can discuss this over your next family meal. Thanks for dining local and supporting community businesses trying to minimize our impact on the planet.