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Popular Thai restaurant is inviting customers and local businesses to help them get greener

In this Following Up feature we go back to Na Ha Thai’s Kitchen for take-out with a new eco-friendly approach

Na Ha Thai’s Kitchen on York Road is eliminating all single-use plastic bags and utensils at the restaurant and they are offering local businesses and organizations an incentive to help them do it.

The restaurant is going to charge a little more so it can start reduce the amount of plastic utensils it uses as well as allowing businesses to donate reuseable bags to help eliminate plastic ones.

“If people want to promote their business, they can bring us reusable bags with their logo on it,” said owner Narvemon Verspagen. “Maybe the big grocery stores can give the bags to us and we will provide them to our customers.  I don’t care what name is on them.”

The request goes out to anyone with reusable bags they want to donate and they will even provide you with a food sample for your effort. 

“I bet, at home, you have tons of them, right?,” she said.  “Bring them here and we will reuse them. Make it happen. The City of Guelph, if they want to donate bags with their logo on it we will use it. Then it won’t go to the landfill.” 

Verspagen has been calculating the impact her take out service was having on the environment since they opened in 2014.  

“I started thinking about this a long time ago,” she said. “We are open five days a week and we go through 250 to 500 plastic bags that our customers bring home. They will all end up in landfill.”

They had 200 reusable bags with their own logo made and have replaced most of the single use bags with paper.  

“We try to not use plastic bags anymore but about five per cent we will have to keep because we have curry and something could spill,” said Verspagen. “But 95 per cent of the time we can use paper bags or reusable bags.” 

They have reusable food containers as well.

“If we do curry, plastic takeout containers will have to be used but they will be reusable,” she said. “You can wash them and use them again or you can bring them to us.  We have the dishwashing machine so, we can put them in there and use them again.”

The idea is catching on with regular customers.

“We have customers who are already bringing their own containers and their own reusable bag for us,” she said. “If they forget, no problem. We have bags they can use and they can bring them back the next time.” 

They are also replacing their plastic cutlery. 

“All the plastic forks and spoons, we won’t use them by the end of the month,” she said. “We have ordered compostable utensils made from birch wood.  The chopsticks are already compostable. They are made of bamboo.”

The changeover will increase the cost of doing business and some of that cost will be passed on to customers. 

“We are slowly changing because when I did a marketing search for compostable utensils the price is three or four times more expensive,” said Verspagen. “If we do everything right away, people will be shocked. We have to raise the price slowly and see how it goes.”

The response from customers appears to be positive.

Takeout customers will have the option not to pay for the utensils.

“For dinner customers we don’t give utensils to them because we assume they are going to bring it home,” said Verspagen. “We are going to start asking lunch customers if they want them even if they are compostable.”

Regular customer Chris Davis said he supports their efforts to get greener. 

“I don’t mind paying more to help the environment,” said Davis. “It is still cheaper than you pay for Thai food in Toronto and just as good or better.”

Verspagen hopes the change will catch on and other restaurants and businesses will look for ways to reduce their impact on the environment. 

“If we act and think differently we might not help everything but it’s a start,” she said. “It would be great if everyone can do it but some have different conditions. If they are ready to do it it is better for me. We can’t force everyone. They must be ready to do it.”