Refusing wasteful products and practices goes a long way in encouraging people and businesses to make waste-reducing changes. Voting with your dollars and teaching by example happen simultaneously when we choose in public to refuse disposables in favor of reusables.
So as a challenge for us all, I encourage you to take a look at the single-use stuff you pitch and begin declining it before it’s even offered.
Here are a 5 more wasteful items to eliminate from your routine:
1. Plastic drink stirrers
Whether you’re getting a coffee or a cocktail, often it’s accompanied by a skinny plastic stick that, like straws, is difficult to recycle. What’s more, recent testing discovered that some black drink stirrers and other black plastics were contaminated with dangerous chemicals because they had been recycled from e-waste plastic. Disposable wooden straws are a little better since they’re biodegradable, but even better is declining a stirrer from the get-go. At a bar, ask the bartender to shake your drink or give it a stir with their own metal cocktail spoon, and at a coffeeshop, swirl your beverage in your (reusable!) cup a few times to mix that cream and sugar in.
2. Prizes and giveaways
Calling all moms: Imagine how much less cluttered the playroom would be without detritus from birthday party goodie bags, carnival game prizes, and miscellaneous giveaways that kids seem to collect? Help your kids understand the damage that these cheap, typically nonrecyclable trinkets are doing to the environment — both in terms of the energy and resources needed to produce them, as well as the space they take up as they accumulate in landfills. Chances are the kids will be willing to decline the next happy-meal prize, and I know your fellow moms will breathe a sigh of relief if their kids come home from your next birthday party without a goodie bag filled with junk.
3. Wrapping tissue and bags at clothing stores
Even people who are dedicated to bringing reusable shopping bags to the supermarket, often don’t think about doing the same when they’re shopping for clothes and other durable goods. The bags that clothing comes in are often a little sturdier than your typical grocery bags, which means you can reuse them a few times. But since they’ll end up in the trash, it’s far better to just not take one in the first place.
I like to keep a few reusable bags in my purse that are dedicated to non-food purchases only; that way my new sweater doesn’t come home covered with bits of onion skin or dried-up parsley leaves. I especially choose to decline the piece of tissue paper that nicer stores wrap a clothing purchase in. Sure, it looks pretty, but it’s completely unnecessary, and tissue paper is not recyclable (although it can usually be composted).
4. Drink caddies
Next time you’re getting take-out for a crowd, instead of using the Styrofoam or recyclable drink caddies, just bring a friend along to help carry your drinks. Or bring an extra cardboard box or plastic tub from home to load everything up for easy transporting.
While making all of the above changes can help the environment, for some, cutting down on, or eliminating one disposable could make an even bigger impact: Cigarettes. Some studies estimate that cigarette butts account for as much as 40 percent of the waste items collected during cleanups in urban areas or on beaches. And not only do cigarettes take at least 9 months to decompose, they’re full of toxic chemicals that leach into our water and soil. So, not only would quitting smoking improve a smoker’s health, but also it would dramatically reduce their negative impact on the environment.
Encouraging your family, friends, and community members to start turning down some of these disposable items will help send the message to businesses that single-use plastic and paper products are wasteful and undesirable. Let’s all make a few smart changes today, so we can enjoy a trash-free tomorrow!