By Yvonne Pflieger
It is usually when you are out and about that you get caught out when it comes to single-use plastic and unnecessary packaging. So being prepared is the best thing. If you are serious about reducing your waste, then preparation is key and you’ll see it will get easier and become natural the more often you do it. And you don’t need to buy anything new, we are sure you already have most of these reusables at home. 🙂
Plastic Free July initially focused on the Top 4 single-use plastic items: bags, straws, takeaway cups and water bottles. All these can easily be avoided with a little bit of preparation and sometimes restraint.
Think about what you are planning to do today and pack your bag accordingly. If you like your coffee on the go, then pack a reusable cup. If you’ll be out for a bit, take your reusable water bottle with you. Take that extra reusable bag in case you need to carry something home. If you don’t want to lug that many things around, why not take the time and actually sit down to have a coffee or eat in the café or restaurant, rather than on the go? It is so much nicer and healthier and gives you that extra breathing space.
If you forget your cup and really want a coffee, but don’t have the time to sit down, why not ask yourself if you really need that coffee in that moment. Can you wait until you are in the office or at home or until later when you have your own cup? Restraining yourself from wanting something if you are not prepared takes some willpower, but just think about the unnecessary packaging you saved from landfill. 🙂
Most of you would already be really good about these 4 items. Yes, from time to time you slip (that smoothie did come with a straw because you did not explicitly say you did not want one, or the waiter forgot), and that is okay. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Being part of this challenge and being a member of the Co-Op is already more than most people do. So keep going and inspire others!
And the good thing is you don’t even need to spend money on being prepared. We believe that you’d have most of the items you need already in your cupboards. So here is some inspiration:
Reusable Cups: Often you don’t even need to buy them as more and more companies have started to give these out for free as merchandise. Metal and glass are better than plastic (and it tastes better too).
Regular Cups or even jars: Do the ugly mug challenge. Most cafes accept regular mugs these days and you will get a smile with your coffee. Even glass jars can work. To not burn yourself, you could put the jar in a stubby holder or wrap several rubber ties around the glass.
Reusable water bottles: Glass and metal are better than plastic. You can get great bottles from non-profits and support them at the same time. Metal bottles will last you a long time, they might get dings and scratches, but that is part of the fun. 🙂
Carry bags: Jute, canvas, polyester, bought or made from a t-shirt, there are so many options and you surely have some hidden in your cupboards.
Straws and cutlery: There are metal, glass and bamboo alternatives to straws which you can buy. But do you even need a straw? A spoon is often enough if you have a smoothie or shake. Just grab some spare cutlery, tie it all up and wrap it in a kitchen towel or napkin or make a fancy cutlery wrap yourself (plenty of examples can be found online).
Week lunches are another thing where it is good to be prepared. If you don’t bring your own lunches from home and don’t have the time to sit in to eat your lunch, you will need to do a bit of research to find food outlets that offer take-away food plastic-packaging-free i.e. in paper bags or let you bring your own containers to refill. It will help them if your container has a similar size to the ones they’d be using and if you explain to them what you are trying to do. If they refuse, then look for other options. Don’t despair, it might lead you to places you have never been before. And always ask them to not add any cutlery, because you have brought your own. 🙂
And if you want to buy these items new to start afresh, that is fine too. Everyone has their own preferences and this is why we offer all kinds of reusables and zero waste products to make your life easier.
The beauty of joining the Plastic Free July challenge is that you will never be able to un-see plastic-packaging again. This is both sad, but also good because this means that your awareness is heightened as you become the ambassador and make others around you join in on the challenge.
What are your go to reusable items that you don’t leave your house without?
Check out manlyfoodcoop.org/plastic-free-july for the latest updates on events, challenges and promotions.