When last we checked in with Vinaigrette/Modern General owner Erin Wade roughly two years ago, it was right at the horrible start of the pandemic, and she’d just written an open letter to the food delivery app people about how they were making things untenable for restaurants. Before that, however, in 2019, things were looking better for Wade at her restaurants, particularly at Vinaigrette, as she had just launched the Summer of Sustainability, a program through which diners could make use of sustainable metal containers for takeout orders and also return compostable remnants of meals to the restaurant. That program is ongoing, but now, as the world manages to get back into worrying about things other than COVID-19, Wade is taking the next steps toward a more environmentally-conscious footprint and world with a new campaign that encourages consumers to “break up with plastic,” and one which has identified some of the tools to help us do so.
Henceforth, at Modern General, you’ll be able to purchase reusable products that aren’t made from the same plastics clogging our oceans, littering our everywhere and even showing up in our blood. It is, of course, challenging that the onus has been placed on individuals at a personal level—polluting corporations could do more to reverse the tide of climate change than people picking up reusable straws ever will—but since the powers that be have proven they’re not about to start changing, small things can go a long way.
“I’m trying to come up with gentle ways to not life-shame people,” Wade tells SFR. “How do you get people to not think these little things don’t matter, and to change their lifestyles? We’re all really overwhelmed and bummed out—there’s a lot of bad news always, and I think it kind of has this opposite effect, this counter-productive effect of making us feel paralyzed.”
To that end, Wade now sells a number of products from companies like Purify You, Burstenhaus Redecker and others, including reusable cotton totes and cloths, beeswax wraps, the aforementioned reusable straws, silicon baggies that work like Ziplocs but remain washable, as well as water bottles, travel coffee cups and more. To cap it all off, she’s created a small and simple yet powerful checklist to place by your door so you don’t forget your stuff when you head out. We’ve all walked into a grocery store only to remember we left our reusable bags at home, and this checklist aims to alleviate that.
“The pandemic renormalized a lot of waste, even just with gloves,” Wade notes. “The amount of gloves a restaurant has to use is crazy, and a lot of places switched to plastic cups. We’ve all been roped into these things we need for basic life functioning, and we’ve just got to take a moment to reintegrate [more sustainable practices] into our lives.”
Below find a breakdown of some of the products we’ve discovered and used through Wade’s new initiative, and which are available at Modern General now. Note, also, that Wade is hard at work on a book titled Why Restaurants Matter, and we’ll tall you more about that as soon as we’re able. For now, remember that while the shape of the world feels unfair, it always feels good to try and do a little better.
1. Burstenhaus Redecker Little Bee Fresh Wraps ($20)
Like cling wrap but reusable, these little beeswax wraps from Germany are great for fruits and snacks and anything else you want to keep fresh without tearing through a million yards of plastic film that doesn’t really cling to things that well to begin with. They also come in cute designs.
2. Burstenhaus Redecker Spültuch Cotton Cloth ($4.95)
It’s a simple cotton cloth, but it’s both soft and absorbent and dries quickly. It’s incredibly soft and absorbant, too. German companies make good products, too, that’s just a fact.
3. Purify You Grocery Bags ($32)
Coming in three different sizes, these nine cotton bags also cinch up, have comfortable handles and take up way less space than the plastic-coated ones we all know and use now. The bags come eight to a tube and you’ll also get a couple wooden keychains that remind you to take your bags along.
4. Purify You Silicone Snack Baggies ($27)
This box of four reusable silicone “bags” proudly touts on the side that the product eliminates thousands of single-use baggies. They look and operate like Zip-loc stuff, they’re just a little heavier (which actually connotes quality, probably). I filled one up with Goldfish crackers, and none of them crumbled in my shoulder bag.
5. Huskee Coffee Cup ($20)
You wouldn’t think cardboard-esque would be a compliment, but with Huskee travel coffee mugs, the minimalist design just looks clean and nice. It keeps coffee hot, too, and prevents spills.
6. S’well Water Bottle ($45)
With a faux teak exterior and vacuum-insulated coldness powers, this water bottle is a pleasant shape and size and has already upped my water consumption by…well, I don’t know the exact percentage, but I’m drinking more water at work.
7. Reusable Straws ($2-$3)
They’re reusable straws. Use them to drink things.