Refuse and Repurpose: Changing Habits One at a Time

Here we are, halfway through the year and six months sinceI began focusing on going zero waste, or attempting to. If you remember, I mentioned in my previous entry how I prefer to call my New Year resolutions intentions rather than resolutions. Well, I have found that attempting to produce zero waste, or a less plastic lifestyle, really becomes an intention and an act of accountability. One needs to approach zero waste with serious intention and be willing to make the subtle changes in lifestyle necessary to make it a habit. It is not effective to declare that you reject single use plastics and then order take-out with your plastic container, fork, knife and cup.

Back in April, Food Conspiracy hosted a Zero Waste Workshop with Claire Kaufman from Zerology, and she spoke about how to reach a zero waste lifestyle. Claire gave us pointers on how to begin and maintain this practice. We are all familiar with the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Claire gave us two more Rs: Refuse and Repurpose.

Number one, Refuse. Refuse the plastic bag, the straw, the single use item. Don’t even go there, change your habits and refuse to use. Number two, Repurpose. Find another use for it or have it mended or repaired. I’m already seeing sites on social media outlets that talk about going back to the ways of our grandmothers. Instead of throwing the torn shirt away, have it mended, get as much life out of it as possible. Make a tote bag from those old jeans. This may be way out of the ballpark for some of us, but it helps us to look at things from a different perspective and think about how we can reduce the items we are sending to the landfill. How about a braided bath mat made from that old, ratty-edged bath towel?

Another tip Claire gave us was to begin logging the plastic items we use or purchase daily on our phone or tablet. This forces us to focus on what we’re actually doing and helps us break some of those habits we are unaware of. “Oh my, I used 12 pieces of plastic today. Five produce bags, a coffee cup, etc.” And it goes on and on. We need to refocus and change those habits about which we’ve never given a second thought.

So my recommendation? Be focused and cognisant of what you are doing. If you are really concerned about changing your habits and helping the environment, be intent on changing them one action at a time.

Nick Super

Top 10 Single Use Plastics

Continuing the list of the top 10 single use plastics from Nick Super:

6. Plastic take out containers: not all take out containers are recyclable, especially the black ones. Most recyclable plastic has to be clear or opaque. Black plastic doesn’t always get recycled because of the optical scanners used in some facilities. This one seems the most difficult from the ten to me. Because when eating out you don’t usually have an option of take out containers, unless you’re going to bring your own.

7. Plastic wrap. As with the plastic bags, plastic wrap cannot be recycled. The solution: use your own lided containers, or there are several eco wraps now available, some made with bees wax, etc and are reusable for several uses.

8. Plastic cutlery. Like the straw, a single use item that can be easily done away with. Some countys are starting to ban all single use items like cutlery, cups and plates. Some are compostable like the ones used at the co-op. Solution: get yourself a handy spork like I did.

9. Plastic Drink Cups. Same as the coffee cup, a wasteful single use item. Solution: use reusable cups, and bottles. I use my Hydro Flask for coffee, tea, water, hot or cold. Whether I’m at the co-op or Circle K.

10. Six Pack Rings. Again, an item we don’t have many options with other than not buying items packaged this way. Though some companies are looking into biodegradable versions. My suggestion with these is to always cut them up, so if they do end up out in the world, birds and animals aren’t getting tangled up in them.

Well, that’s the list. How easily can you do away with, or change your habits of your plastic usage? Most of this information I borrowed from but if you Google the top 5,7, or 10 single use plastics, you end up with very similar lists. It’s all about doing your individual part in what I’m going into 2019 with, by being more Earth Mindful.

Giving Up Single Use Plastics

Last time I was talking about single use plastics. Did you give it some thought about the ones you use? Well, here’s a list of the top 10 single use plastics that you can give up today. Think about how often you use them, and how you dispose of them. Do you try to recycle them, or are you sending them off to the landfill?

1. The plastic straw. Of course! Today that’s the hot item. Bars and restaurants have started banning them or only having them available upon request. There are reusable straws now on the market, stainless steel, glass, even bamboo. And the Co-op has them for sale too.

2. The plastic water bottle. Approximately 50 billion water bottles are used each year in the U.S. while only an estimated 23 percent get recycled. This means 38 billion plastic water bottles end up in landfills or littered. Solution: use a reusable water bottle.

3. Coffee cups with plastic lids. Most coffee cups have an oil based plastic lining that can’t be recycled, so they end up in the landfill. If it is a paper or compostable cup, you still have the lid to deal with. Solution: again, a reusable cup or thermos. There are even collapsible cups that you can throw into your purse, backpack, or briefcase.

4. Plastic bags. The co-op stopped using plastic grocery bags about 7 years ago as have several other stores, but they’re still out there. Solution: carry your own reusable bag. Nearly everyone has them, but how many times do you forget them in your trunk. Make it a habit! Going shopping=grocery bag!

5. Plastic bags for produce. This is a hard one to break because it’s so ingrained in our every day life. Grab a bag for your onions and lettuce. And often produce gets sprayed down so you reach for the plastic so everything doesn’t get wet. There is a solution though: reusable linen or net produce bags, or ask for paper bags if available. Some produce departments have the green compostable plastic bags and those are a good option. You can use them again for your own trash. Even if it ends up in the landfill, you know it will eventually breakdown.

A note here about plastic bags. Plastic department store bags, black trash bags, kitchen trash bags, etc. Keep these out of your recycling bin! They jam up the machinery at the recycling plant. So if you have a trash can in your kitchen for recycling items, don’t line that can with a plastic bag and toss it all out together into your blue tote. Keep all soft plastic out of your blue recycling container. That’s bags, plastic wrap, shrink wrap, bubble wrap, etc. A plastic bag full of recycled items will most likely go to the landfill.

The next top 5, to be continued.

Nick Super

Single Use Plastics

Welcome back to Zero Waste with Nick. So, as I stated in the previous post/blog, one of the things I already do is keep my Hydro Flask handy to cut down on single cup use. Starting now, I want to expand that a bit. Since I work at the Food Conspiracy Co-op, I eat a lot of my meals from our hot bar. So every day it’s another single use paper plate, box, or soup cup. Yes, they’re compostable but why make the waste if I don’t have to? So, I now have a reusable plate, a mug for soup and stews, and my trusty spork which I’ve been using for a few years now.

You know, there are approximately 261 work days in a year. Okay, I’m not eating from the hot bar that many days, given days I bring my lunch, or go out for something different, but most the time I do. So, maybe 200 of the 261 to just pick a number? That’s 200 single use items I throw away every year. If I change that habit that’s 200 items that don’t have to go an extra step into the landfill, compost or the recycling bin. Imagine if four other employees did the same thing, that’d be 1,000 some pieces not being thrown away. And taking it a step further, maybe saving the Co-op a little bit by not having to order as much paper goods. It might not seem like that big of a deal, but the little things add up.

How about you? Do you work in an office or work place where you can bring your own plate? Do you drive through the local coffee joint every morning on your way to work and get a single use cup? Most places give you a discount when you bring your reusable cup. Take note this week, how many single use items you use. Use it once and throw it away. It’s something we do without even thinking about it. It’s become our norm. Can you start to change that pattern? Take a new awareness of your normal activity? Give it a try.

Less Plastic

Well, as we begin a new year, we all come to that task of new year resolutions, or as I prefer to call, intentions. One big intention I have for 2019 is to be more aware and responsible regarding the amount of plastic I buy and how much waste I produce.

This isn’t a new idea for me. I already try to be as earth conscious as I can. After all, I have my Hydro Flask that I carry with me to cut down on single use coffee cups and water bottles. And I try to buy products that are packaged in glass instead of plastic, and the tp wrapped in paper instead of plastic wrap. But it’s not always that easy is it? And when you think about it, recycle, reduce, reuse, can take some work to get it right, and to be diligent. And when I recycle, am I doing that correctly as well?

So, for 2019 my ‘intention’ is to be more conscientious about what I, myself am doing toward making the planet cleaner. And, I thought I’d share my thoughts, ideas, and actions in blog form, to hopefully start that ripple effect to those who have the same concern. I use the term ripple effect because I think that’s what is needed. To share ideas and knowledge and hopefully encourage others to become more discerning on the whole plastic and waste issue. I think a lot of people don’t think they can make a difference. They throw their recycling in the blue container and roll it out to the curb once a week, and they’re done. They’ve done their part. But there’s a lot more to it.

Join me as I start this journey. I’m not sure how it will progress, or for how long. But I’m going to take it a step at a time. I also encourage you to add your comments, perhaps share tips that you do in your household, and we can become earth protectors together.

Nick Super