At SFGate today, Berkeley writer Tracey Taylor passes along a bit of sustainability advice from Edo-period Japan: Eat out more often.
Sure: Anyone who feels virtuous filling a cloth bag at the farmers' market is likely to've been Alice-shamed into thinking that overindulging in restaurant food is the globe-killing equivalent of making a Pampers run to Wal-Mart in the Escalade. Not so, says Azby Brown, author of Just Enough:Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan, a book, Taylor explains, that "chronicles the model lifestyle devised by the Edo people to stave off societal collapse due to environmental degradation." Make that people in the late Edo period, 1603-1868, though that "environmental degradation" business sounds disturbingly like, um, now. The eating out part? "Restaurants and food vendors use fuel more efficiently than the single household," writes Taylor, summarizing Brown's ― or rather, long-ago Tokyo's ― irrefutable logic.
Of course, diners in 17th century Japan didn't eat their fuel-efficient meals out of clamshell disposables, with chopsticks whittled out of Indonesian rainforest. And no doubt portion sizes weighed in somewhat smaller than the half-pound of animal flesh most prime-age Americans dispatch at a single meal. But hey, if it makes us feel good about picking up a couple of sushi prepacks from Whole Foods, we say why not.