Today I started to notice (and subsequently bitch about) the ridiculous amount of waste that the fast food industry produces. Just like every other college student, I rely on fast food for late night snacks, drunken binges, and a cheap meal between pay periods. I know there are fast food establishments all over the world, but it seems as though the South hosts more greasy fast food “restaurants” than anywhere else. Maybe it’s that whole “Southern Hospitality” thing. Southerners love to feed each other. As a guest in a typical Southern home, this is the kind of food lovin’ you would receive:
- Light snack when you arrive: some kind of biscuit with homemade jam, whole milk, and some sugary juice squeezed from some backyard fruit
- Brunch: fried chicken, fried okra, fried pickles, fried potatoes, biscuits, cole slaw, rich and creamy mac ‘n cheese, sweet tea
- Snack: fried somethin’
- Dinner: barbecued pulled pork on a white bread bun smothered in all the sauce you can squeeze out of the plastic bottle, biscuits, collard greens, corn on the cob, sweet tea
- Dessert: apple pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, chocolate pie, whole milk
Hungry yet? Translate that menu to a college town within one of the poorest counties in the country and you get chicken-fried fast food that will make your heart stop just by looking at it. Instead of the fresh food picked from Grammie’s backyard, a Southern college student treating his sweet little thang to dinner on a Friday night chooses from one of the fifteen (that’s a real number, people) Southern-style fast food chains located conveniently in good ole Athens, Georgia. So, what’s the problem with this Southern gentleman feeding his Southern Belle? As far as etiquette is concerned, he is doing a fine job. As far as the environment is concerned, he is killing Bambi.
Southerners love to force food down our throats and encourage us to eat, eat, eat. The problem with always wanting us to eat (in addition to our contribution to the American obesity stats) is that they will find any way to feed us. This means that in order to keep up with the demand of all the people itching to enjoy Southern comforts for the low price of $5 a meal fast food establishments have to produce tons of waste.
Yesterday I went to an Atlanta Braves baseball game with some of my meat-eating friends. We stopped at one of the hundreds of fast food restaurants on the way and, of course, it was a fried chicken place. I ordered fries and a side salad. The salad was yuck. The fries were fabulous. As I was sitting there thinking about the day when all meat will be produced in an efficient and environmentally friendly way and I will be able to enjoy some greasy fried chicken with my friends, I was abruptly interrupted by the scene around me as I noticed that the wastefulness of the industry should be enough to keep this hippie out of all fast food places. They have Styrofoam practically covering the walls, using it for cups, plates, to-go boxes, and eat-in trays. Wherever the Styrofoam is not, plastic takes over: forks, knives, wrapping for each individual plastic knife or fork, cup lids, straws, sauce containers. It was appalling. My shock was immediately followed by guilt, and then a weird feeling in my stomach (which could have been the special sauce). Needless to say, if I am going to boast all the tree hugging that I do, I should also remove fast food waste from my contribution to environmental destruction.