Aboo Ahmad Restaurant – for plastic-free takeaway

I finally snapped a photo of our favorite place for Egyptian street food – Aboo Ahmad’s! For those of you who haven’t eaten here yet, we highly recommend it. The restaurant is located in Asalah Square between 1,000 Items and Ghazala Market.

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Not only do they make the tastiest foul and falafel in town, the staff is also willing to put your takeaway sandwiches in your own container or wrapped in paper.

takeaway in own container

plastic free lunch

Most people get their food in plastic bags – and Aboo Ahmad gets very busy during the lunch hour – so please remember to be patient with the staff when you request paper or for them to use your own container. They are always happy to do so, but they work on “autopilot” so your request involves a bit of an interruption. But we have now visited there enough times that the staff knows when they see us coming that they won’t be using plastic for our food!

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Tips on Reducing Plastic at the Supermarket

shopping bag

Lately, I’ve been blogging mostly about how to REDUCE plastic when shopping for food at supermarkets and green grocers. Here’s a quick summary of tips:

And if all else fails,

    • BUY THE LARGEST PACKAGE AVAILABLE. Skip the individual size packages. Instead buy the largest box or bottle possible. This cuts down on the amount of plastic needed for each product.

I will continue to share tips and practical advice on shopping for food with less plastic. I will also start to discuss how we can reduce the plastic involved with household cleaning and self-care products so visit again soon!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Plastic-free Lunch

plastic free lunch

Looking for a plastic-free lunch to get on-the-go? REFUSE the little plastic bags that most street food stalls offer and ask for PAPER instead. Abu Ahmed’s shop, next to Ghazala market in Asalah Square, has paper and if asked they will put your sandwiches – and even a fresh bunch of arugula – in paper. We have shared the “Basic Concept of Plastics” (in Arabic) with the owner and he has shown interest in learning more about the problems with plastic. If more customers begin to REFUSE the plastic bags, it may help convince them that paper is okay (and that we aren’t the only crazy ones in town!).

Repurposed Flour Sacks :: Bin Bags

bakery bags

When I first posted on Don’t Mess with Dahab’s Facebook page about refusing plastic bags, I was asked for suggestions on what to use as bin bags instead. Many people REUSE the single-use plastic bags as liners for trash cans and believe that reuse justifies taking the bags in the first place. The only trash can in our house that is lined is the large bin in the kitchen. The small bins in my bathroom and other rooms in the house are “naked”; I simply dump the contents into the larger kitchen bin that does have a bag. So finding an alternative to the large plastic bin bags was the next step in my journey to using less plastic. And I’ve been meaning to share this success story for a few months now!

While they are still plastic, the large flour sacks that are used by the government bakeries make excellent bin bags – and are recommended by the local Bedouin as the woven plastic material is not easily ripped open by the various street critters. The empty flour sacks were once available for sale at a shop in Asalah; we visited several but had no luck tracking these bags down in town. So, off we went to the bakery in the city! It took at least four visits to the forn before they had enough time and the bags to sell to us. We were advised beforehand that the bags would cost LE 0.50 or LE 1 each, but in the end we paid LE 2/bag. (A young Bedouin neighbor agrees this is the going rate and that you can also buy the bags from the bakery behind  the Mubarak flats.) We purchased 40 bags which should last us a good while. I keep several sacks in the car for spontaneous beach clean-ups, one by my front gate for the trash I collect from the street, and one in my kitchen.

If you’re looking for an alternative to buying new plastic bin bags, consider repurposing these flour sacks!

Looking for an alternative to plastic bags for your smaller trash bins? Do you or someone you know read newspapers? Try this approach. Or ask your local shop for some cardboard boxes to use as garbage cans.

How do you handle the trash in your house? Do you have suggestions for your fellow Dahabians looking to use less plastic?

What’s in my bag?

veggie bag

WHAT’S IN MY BAG?!

1 kilo of pomegranates, 1 kilo of oranges, 1/2 kilo of dates, 1/2 kilo of carrots, 1/2 kilo of cucumbers, 1 kilo of onions, 1 head of lettuce.

ZERO PLASTIC!

What can *you* fit inside one reusable bag?

For tips on using your own reusable bags at the green grocers here in Dahab, read Bags, Bags, Everywhere! You can also find out where to purchase cotton bags in Dahab

Incredible, edible eggs!

eggs

You can REUSE plastic bags for buying eggs.

I love eggs – scrambled, fried, in a quiche – and I use many in baking – waffles, cookies, cakes, and muffins. Needless to say, I buy a lot of eggs! So you may be wondering what those eggs are doing in a plastic bag. Well, it is the same plastic bag I have been REUSING to buy my eggs in for the last few years.

We are lucky here in Dahab. Eggs arrive here in our supermarkets plastic-free! But then the supermarkets give us small plastic bags for carrying the eggs. This doesn’t protect the eggs as much as a cardboard container would. I’m sure we’ve all ended up with cracked or broken eggs in the process of getting them home from the supermarket. We need to take extra care to get our eggs home in one piece. This usually means carrying them by themselves or carefully placing the bag of eggs on top of the other items in your cotton bag. Since customers are expected to bag their own eggs, it is easy to REFUSE the plastic bags provided and use your own, whether that’s a cotton bag or a plastic bag that you are REUSING.

TIP: Bring a reusable container or cotton bag to carry eggs in. Don’t worry about the size of the bag. If all you have is a large cotton bag, use it. Just tie the bag in a knot so the eggs are snug and don’t roll around.

TIP: Reuse the same plastic bag each time you purchase eggs. When you get home, give the bags a rinse if necessary and put them right back in your cotton bag. That way you’ll always have a small plastic bag to REUSE for eggs whenever you are at the supermarket.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Delicious, Nutritious, and Plastic-Free!

Supermarket ~ Green grocer ~ Pharmacy ~ Bakery ~ Household goods shop ~ Electronics shop ~ Restaurant Take Away ~ Community Markets 

Where else can we REFUSE plastic shopping bags here in Dahab?

Besides the typical shopping bags, there are other plastic bags that we can learn to REFUSE – like the small bags that are used at the local fool and tameya shops. If you are anything like my husband and me – lovers of this local traditional street food – REFUSING these smalls bags can save a lot of plastic from ending up in the dumpsters.

Traditional Egyptian food in a reusable plastic container.

Traditional Egyptian food in a reusable plastic container.

Nadim buys his lunch nearly everyday: one fool with egg sandwich and one aubergine sandwich. His favorite place – and one that has learned his plastic-free habit – is Abu Ahmed’s, located in Asala Square between Ghazala Market and 1,000 Items. It has taken some time, but Nadim has developed the habit of bringing his own reusable plastic containers to the shop and asking the servers to use these instead of the plastic bags. This may make you feel silly or embarrassed at first, pushing you out of your comfort zone. Be brave and remember, Egyptians are generally friendly people and a smile goes a long way.

It has taken some time for the shopkeepers to get used to Nadim’s request, but it has happened. In fact, a few weeks ago, he left the house without a container but decided to buy lunch anyway and the shop owner asked Nadim where his box was!

TIP: If you don’t own any lightweight reusable containers, check to see if you have any old food containers that you can REUSE, for example, the plastic boxes that cheese, sour cream, or helawa come in.

Tameya in a paper cone.

Tameya in a paper cone.

My favorite shop is no longer open, but there they would wrap the loose tameya or sandwiches in paper before putting them in a plastic bag, making it easy to refuse the bags and take the yummies away in only paper. Many shops regularly use paper for the loose tameya but not the sandwiches. I wonder why more shops don’t use paper for sandwiches and how we can convince them to do so.

TIP: If you forget your own container, check to see if the shop has paper. If they are not too busy, they should be willing to use that instead of plastic bags for your order of sandwiches.

TIP: If the shop is really busy when you arrive, be prepared to wait. Interrupting the factory-like production of the sandwiches with a request for no plastic bags is sometimes difficult. Hang in there! And don’t be discouraged if your request doesn’t always get fulfilled.

TIP: If you carry a backpack or a large purse, put your reusable food containers in the pack before you leave the house in the morning. That way you’ll always be prepared for a delicious, nutritious, and plastic-free snack!

Do you like to eat the traditional Egyptian street food? Would you be willing to try to bring your own containers? Or do you already use your own food containers? Do you have a favorite shop or can you recommend one that is willing to take the time to fill your containers instead of plastic bags or one that uses paper instead of plastic?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle