So I was sitting in my office kitchen today, looking down at my lunch garbage, and it got me to thinking about how all of my garbage was really unnecessary. And how it could have all been easily eliminated.
And honestly, it would have been so easy.
- My uncrustables sandwich wrapper was unnecessary because I could have made a PB&J to put into one of our sandwich containers just as easily as grabbing one already made.
- The bag of pretzels was a waste because, first of all they are so tiny, but second, I could have easily filled a tupperware container with the pretzels that we have already bought in bulk. And added something to the side, like Nutella for dipping.
- And then there was my can of seltzer, which I did put in the recycle bin (cans are 100% recyclable), but I could have done even better and brought in soda made in the soda machine that we already own, in a reusable bottle, thus eliminating the need for a disposable/ recyclable container in the first place.
The Reduce/ Reuse/ Recycle triangle that we all know so well, is not actually an equilateral triangle at all. The most important thing is reducing anything that we don’t need. Then reuse what we can’t reduce. Then recycle what we can’t reuse.
But these things are really hard because we live in such a “disposable” society, where convenience and saving time are way more valuable than living within our means, or even living completely sustainably.
My ultimate goal is to live 100% waste free, like a blogger that I discovered while doing research for one of my environmental courses. Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, lives each day eliminating all waste from her life. She has her actual garbage down to fit in one mason jar for the entire year. Talk about goals. If we all lived like she does, we would have no waste disposal issues, and virtually no need for any other environmental concerns, either.
But we can start small.
It is our obligation to make the world a better place for the future. But we aren’t going to be able to do this UNLESS we make changes to our current lifestyle. We aren’t going to see a huge impact tomorrow, and maybe not in our lifetime either. But if want to leave any planet left for the future we have to start today.
It is a matter of thinking ahead and being prepared. Do you have a favorite coffee place that you always go to? Buy their reusable to-go mug and bring it with you each time you get a drink from there. I will not go to Starbucks if I forgot to bring my mug.
Need to get a water? Get into the habit of bringing a reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go. If you forget one then make sure you carry the plastic water bottle around until you can actually find a recycle bin to properly dispose of your waste.
Buy your food and snacks in bulk. This eliminates a lot of the packaging. Even better though, would be to shop in stores where you can bring your own jars and containers to purchase the ingredients and then you can make the entire snack at home. Which would require the disposal of ZERO wrappers.
Forgo the straw. This shouldn’t be the first time you are hearing this, but, PLASTIC IS BAD. And straws are not even a necessity to drink a beverage, for the average person. If you really want or need a straw, then you can purchase nice reusable straws. (Just make sure you also get a special tool to clean the insides of the straws too because they can get gross.)
When deciding between two items or two brands, chose the one with less plastic/ packaging. Believe it or not, consumers do have a say in these things. Based on their decisions and purchases.
And finally, skip the plastic bag!
Suffolk county has only recently enacted a 5¢ bag fee, though I know it has been in the works for years now. And working in retail, I have seen the very ugly side of Americans who demand things like this for free. And are not good with change either. From what I witnessed in Scotland, (where they had just enacted their own 5p bag fee when I got there) everyone became acclimated very quickly and painlessly. And us transplants just accepted it as a part of the culture and it was no big deal.
But actually charging even such a small amount for bags has made such a huge difference already because people are not taking it if they don’t absolutely need it. And that is good. It has made every single customer stop and think about if they really need that bag, and I have not seen one person ask for a double bag anymore. Progress is slow, but it is still progress.
Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.
Slowly we could all change the market, but the laws of supply and demand require that it starts with us, the consumers. We need to be the ones demanding better of our products and brands, and right now, unfortunately, that might mean purchasing items that are the more expensive, until demand goes up and then the price will come down.
And I challenge you to eliminate one wasteful habit from your life. One simple change can make a world of a difference. Start with one and then you can build up to be on Bea Johnson’s level too!
Leave a note in the comments if and where you caught my Lorax reference.