Tips to Reduce Waste:
While on this eco journey of mine I stumbled on an account called 5 Minute Beach Cleanup which has a super simple message: Each time you visit the beach, spend 5 minutes picking up litter. Since then I’ve been doing that every time I visit the beach. I’ve also picked up several tips to reduce waste.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling like a fraud.
“It’s not easy being green”
-Kermit The Frog
What I mean, is that the more I speak out against plastic waste, the more I feel guilty for everything I do that isn’t totally waste/plastic free. I work in the fashion and hair industries, two of the most wasteful, polluting industries there is. Every time I get a PR package with tons of plastic bags or stuffing I feel a little like a hypocrite. Every time I use rubber gloves or a processing cap in school, I get a little down on myself. I feel like I have this “all or nothing” mentality sometimes and can’t be satisfied with my progress. This could be why my room is either a complete disaster or meticulously organized down to spare safety pins.
As much as I try, sometimes I have to use plastic, either by mistake or because I haven’t figured out how to completely cut it out of my life yet. But it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing” we can all do small things that add up. Other than my 5 Minute Beach Clean Ups, here are some of the things I do to reduce my waste:
- Request aluminum foil when taking leftovers. (also no plastic bag, or cutlery please) You don’t have to be the crazy girl with your own Tupperware. Simply ask what kind of containers they use, if it’s plastic or styrofoam, request aluminum foil instead. I’ve never been to a restaurant that didn’t have aluminum foil on hand. This helps in two ways. It reduces plastic waste and it signifies to the restaurant that customers aren’t satisfied with plastic or styrofoam take-a-way containers.
- Refuse plastic bags. I try to always use reusable bags. (I have them in my most of my bags, my car, J’s car, etc) This can be a hard one in the beginning because we are so used to convenience. If I realize I don’t have one with me I’ll either only buy what I can carry to the car, ask if they have paper bags, ask if they have this bag for purchase, or just come back when I have a bag of my own. If you’re at the mall and have several stores to visit you can visit a store you know has paper bags first and ask for an extra. If plastic is unavoidable, you can also ask for the largest bag they have and use it for all the stores you visit so it’s only one bag instead of several. Just make sure to keep that bag with you or in your car for future visits! Another thing I’ve done is ask if they have any plastic bags from “returns” like someone brought in new stuff to return and tossed the bag, you know it’s clean since they just transported their merchandise to return in it, it’s the store brand bag and you’re reusing it! Also, if you buy something that can be used as a bag, like a hamper or box of some kind, just ask the smaller items be put in it and skip the bag! You just have to think outside the bag a little. Pun intended. Check out this bag I designed!
- Reuse “single-use plastic” containers. I reuse my yogurt containers into Tupperware which is an easy one, but I also reuse takeout containers. I have an obsession with Acai Bowls and I can’t control it. So once, I asked for it to go. I devoured it and considered recycling the container when I realized I could save it and reuse it every time I go in. If you show up with the same container they use, perfectly clean, they’ll generally reuse it for you. “Health code” sometimes prohibits this but that’s a policy I’ve gotta work on changing.
- Lunchtime Tips. Use real cutlery. I don’t know why people who pack their lunch in reusable Tupperware still bring disposable cutlery. It makes no sense to me. You’re going to bring all that home and wash it anyway, why not wash your silverware too? Try to pack a lunch with nothing single use! I also wrap sandwiches with paper towels and a rubber band rather than ziplock bags. You can also buy in bulk to help reduce waste. I buy the large Skinny Pop bag and put a serving in an old yogurt tub instead of buying “100-calorie” packages. It’s the little things y’all! They add up!
- Reusable water bottle. (I LOVE this bottle and straw attachment lid) I don’t think this needs much explanation as I’ve beaten this topic to death. I will say though if you’re flying, a lot of places in the airport won’t refill your bottle for you. The places that generally will are sit down restaurants and bars. As long as you’re ordering from them and they want a tip, they’ll almost always refill it for you.
- Refuse straws. (Or Bring your own.) I swear, this is the worst one because even when I request, “no straw please” sometimes the server forgets and still brings a straw. Make sure you’re polite and just explain they you’re trying to limit your plastic waste so please don’t bring a straw. I find that a short explanation helps them remember more often. I also don’t get as strange of looks when I explain it. (I had a server ask me if I have a straw phobia before I explained it 🙄)
- Order wine or beer instead of cocktails. This will guarantee no straw or plastic citrus pick will end up in your drink! Plus, it’s one of the most dietetic alcohol drinks!
- Recycle Recycle Recycle. We have a bin for almost everything and try to use the trash bin as little as possible. We also have a recycle bin upstairs. I feel like it’s easy to forget to recycle shampoo bottles and face cream jars because you’re in the bathroom so adding a second recycle bin near your bathroom, closet, laundry room, etc will help a lot. Make it easy to recycle and not annoying and you’re much more likely to do it. Also, make it a reward! You don’t get to go to Target unless you’re recycling something! They have bins for plastic bags, cardboard, batteries, CFL bulbs, etc. So I always reward myself with a Target run only if I have something to recycle!
- Bring your own flip flops to get a pedicure. Those foam sandals are totally worthless. They are single use in every sense of the word and will take upwards of 1000 years to biodegrade. Plan ahead and bring your own flip-flops to leave the salon in. ( I keep a pair in my car!)
- Get a Menstrual cup or disc. 20 billion feminine hygiene products are flushed (they wreak havoc on pipes and plumbing as well as the environment btw) or tossed annually. Each woman will throw away hundreds of pounds of period-related trash throughout her lifetime. Plastic applicators? Plastic wrapping? None of that can be recycled. A menstrual cup or disk is a one-time investment and can last from 2- 10 years depending on the type. There is a learning curve, and not every cup will work for you so you may have to try a few. Once you get the perfect fit for you though, you’ll never go back! Plus, you don’t have to change them for 12 hours!! They are so much more convenient for that reason. I will say, the discs are more comfortable, easier to get in and out, and you can have mess-free sex with them in!
So this post is just as much for me as it is for you. We need to try not to get down ourselves when we slip up. It’s important to just keep working on it and be proud of the impact we’re making. Continue to inspire others to join you- trust me y’all, it’s contagious. Know that life is about balance, you do what you can in every way you can so you can feel okay about your minor infractions. I’ll try not to beat myself up for eating a kind bar (wrapped in plastic) because I make a difference in so many other ways.
If you haven’t seen A Plastic Ocean (on Netflix) yet, I challenge you to watch it. I dare you! I bet you can’t watch it and NOT make some of these changes!
Thank you for reading,