Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I have set an experiment to see if it is possible to reduce the amount of plastic in my daily life for the month of June. I want to increase my own awareness around my general consumption, the amount of disposable items and the amount of overall plastic use in my life.  My goal is to not buy anything that’s not comestible or consumable and to have an overall emphasis on reducing extraneous waste.

My goals:

  • Not buy anything that isn’t consumable (household and hygiene items only,) comestible (food) or an experience ( haircut, concert)
  • Reduce the amount of plastic that moves across my hands
  • Not buy anything in packaging that can not be recycled
  • Not use disposable items (cups, bottles etc)

Who I am:

  • Working mother of two sons
  • I live in urban Atlanta
  • As a family, we are busy and often on-the-go
  • I am not a “back-to-the Earth foodie” though I buy local and eat organic as much as possible
  • Though we often eat at home, we eat a lot of simple or prepared foods

Week 1 – June 1-6

Didn’t buy a card for a friend of mine! Made one instead.

IMG_20170601_215402

Did end up buying dinner on day 1! We walked to our local market (all local produce and organic meat) and bought dinner to go. Ugh – right off the bat – there’s plastic! It’s all recyclable but I bought it without even thinking about it!

Dinner box Day 1

As I walked home, feeling chagrined about my plastic dinner container, I realized I had not yet set my parameters and, as my partner said, it’s not about being “perfect.” It’s about increasing awareness day to day.

I live in a household of 4 people, 2 of whom are teenagers and this is my experiment. Though I refused a plastic bag for my dinner, they had just accepted the plastic bag without thinking about it. So we talked about it. It’s a start.

 

Six days in, my greatest take away is the lack of choice we have in our plastic consumption. I traveled over the weekend and being on the road makes it nearly impossible to be in control of ones own plastic consumption.

 

Trash (1)

 

Friday night I was hosted for a community dinner and everything was served on plastic. At this point, I am not carrying my own plate and cutlery so, if I want to eat, I accept the plastic. As we blessed the wine and food, I added an additional prayer to be able to gracefully manage the heightened awareness and pain that this experiment entails.

Saturday my beloved went out into the early morning and brought me back coffee in a paper cup – I don’t have a way to recycle it and I have no idea where the cup is going to end up. At breakfast, the server brought me a lovely cup of coffee in a mug and a bowl of “mini moos.” I asked her if she had creamer not in plastic  so she brought me not one but two little silver carafes of cream. All of that cream ended up going to waste. Which would have been better – the plastic or throwing away a 1/4 cup of cream?

Friends

Saturday afternoon I gathered with friends at a restaurant on the beach. Food came out on real plates but every drink was served in a plastic cup with a straw.  I noticed that the table next to us had water in regular reusable cups but for some reason all of ours were disposable plastic. We each had water and a cocktail – that’s 10 plastic cups and 10 straws. This is when I recognized the lack of choice. Straws are given automatically and are often not wrapped in paper so when they’re brought out, even if I don’t use one, it’s adding to the trash because it can’t be given to someone else. It didn’t occur to me to ask for a drink in a real cup.

The rest of the journey was variation on the prior experiences – plastic cups on the boat ride, mini moos for coffee, carry out food on plastic. I was grateful to get home and be able to have two full days of complete control.

Choice is the main take away for this week – it’s always been easy to reject plastic bags and to carry my own water bottle – I have been doing that so long that’s it’s second nature. Knowing what to anticipate (straws, mini moos, disposable cups at restaurants!) I can at least now be on the look out for these opportunities. But if you are not cooking at home or eating at sit-down restaurants, your ability to control the amount of disposable plastic is limited. Yes, much of it is recyclable and but most of it is not being recycled.

Moving forward, I am going to be that girl with cutlery, a reusable travel mug, water bottle and reusable bag all tucked into my purse.  I hope I have one big enough because I’m not buying a new one this month!

 

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