zero waste

coffee routine

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{photo credit: Trish Hamilton / Today}

My daily morning coffee at work used to be a waste producing routine.  I would pour the pot of coffee into a paper cup, add 3 of those individually packaged creamers, add 2 packets of sugar and then stir it all up with a disposable plastic straw.

Although my coffee routine now isn’t completely zero waste, it is a lot less wasteful than it used to be.  Instead of a paper cup, I use a ceramic cup.  I bought a half gallon of Silk’s Very Vanilla Soymilk and use that as both my cream and sugar, since it’s sweet.  And instead of stirring everything with a plastic straw, I use a silver spoon (or fork, or knife, depending on what’s easier to grab that morning) and then rinse it right away.

I’ve been doing this for a several months now but even just counting how much trash I kept out of the landfill in just one month (~21 working days) keeps me motivated to continue swapping disposables for reusable alternatives whenever I can:

  • 21 plastic straws
  • 21 paper cups (with plastic lining)
  • 42 packets of sugar
  • 63 plastic creamers

Total = 147 pieces of trash!

zero waste

plastic bags banned in California

Prop 67 passed on Tuesday, which means, effective immediately, stores will no longer provide single-use plastic carry-out bags to customers.

After reading this article, I learned that this proposition was actually paid for by the plastic bag industry to serve as a distraction.  Plastic bags were already supposed to be banned back in January 2015, but the plastic bag industry wanted Californians to vote on this issue before the law became effective.  The reason behind this was two-fold.  One, they bought themselves another 2 years of selling plastic bags.  Two, they hoped that Californians wouldn’t pay much attention to this issue and that most people would default to voting “no”.

I can’t even remember the last time I took a plastic bag from the grocery store (or even a retail store).  I almost always have a reusable bag with me.  And the few times I do forget to bring my own bag, I will pay $0.10 for a paper bag or just carry the items out loosely.

Even though the ban on plastic bags doesn’t affect me all that much directly, I am so happy that it passed because I know a lot of Californians wouldn’t change their habits otherwise.

zero waste

junk mail – credit card offers

I absolutely hate getting credit card offers (and all other types of junk mail for that matter).  Junk mail is what makes checking the mail a tedious task for me.  Think about it, if every piece of mail you received was something important like a postcard from a long-distance friend or a wedding invitation, wouldn’t checking the mail be so much more fun?  I think my special distaste for credit card offers comes from the fact that it promotes our nation’s consumer debt problem.  Plus, they’re hard to rip up thanks to the cardboard insert and/or fake card they put in it so I have to go through the extra effort of opening it first and then and ripping up/shredding the individual pages.

Since I’m the one who sorts the mail for not only our home, but also my mom’s, I get to comb through credit card offers for all three of us.  As I went through the mail this past weekend, I decided that instead of complaining like I usually do, I was finally going to take action and do some research on how to get rid of these pre-approved cards once and for all.

Enter Opt-Out Prescreen.  I signed all three of us up for the “permanently opt-out” option.  It’s kind of annoying how they make you sign and mail the form in.  But if that means none of us will receive another credit card offer ever again, then the extra effort is totally worth it.

If you’re interested in reducing your junk mail, here’s a great resource.

zero waste

airplane cups

Have you ever noticed how many plastic cups are used on a single flight?

If it wasn’t for my new interest in zero waste, I don’t think I would’ve ever noticed (or cared, to be honest).

On my flight to Taiwan two weeks ago, I was keenly aware of how many plastic cups were being offered to us during our 13 hour flight.  I accepted my first plastic cup of water without even thinking (ohhh how easy it is to revert back to old habits).  When the flight attendant came by with a second cup of water, I held up my water bottle and asked if she could refill my bottle instead.  She said she could but I’d have wait a few minutes since she had to finish serving everyone else before running off to the kitchen to fill my bottle.  “No problem”, I said.  Before I had a chance to even react, she set the second plastic cup of water on my tray and jetted off.  I guess she figured I still wanted a cup of water in the meantime.

Once I got my bottle filled, I didn’t use another plastic cup for the remainder of the flight.  Each time I ran out of water, I’d simply walk to the kitchen and ask a nearby flight attendant if she could fill it for me.  I eventually got James on board after he went through three plastic cups of his own.

We used the same method on our flight home.  The only exception we made was using a plastic cup for drinking non-water beverages like soda and juice.  We did, however, hold onto our cups the entire flight, asking the flight attendants to refill our cups each time instead of handing us a new one.

Hey, every little bit counts.

zero waste

zero waste

Zero waste is my latest obsession.

It all started when my favorite blogger recommended this podcast.  The guest speaker in that episode introduced me to 2 well known zero waste advocates: Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer.

I’ve watched Bea Johnson’s talk at Google at least a dozen times already:

Before I heard about zero waste, I was only focused on reducing my use of the bad kind of plastic (i.e. the plastics made from materials that are hard to recycle and harmful to our health).

Now, I’m trying to reduce my overall use of plastic and the amount of trash I produce.

A couple steps I’ve taken so far include:

  • No longer putting trash into my personal trashcan at work.  Even when the trashcan is less than halfway full, the whole trash bag gets tossed and replaced.  I know the cleaning crew is just doing their job and I’m sure if they didn’t take out the trash every day, there would be a lot of angry employees complaining.  But after noticing how wasteful this practice was, I started to collect my trash in the corner of my desk and tossing it into the kitchen trashcan whenever I walk by.  That trashcan is always full.  By developing this habit, one less trash bag gets tossed into the landfill each day.
  • Bringing my water bottle with me whenever I eat out at restaurants that only have paper cups.  Paper cups are not nearly as recyclable as everyone thinks they are because they still have a plastic lining on the inside.
  • And as of last night, I started bringing silverware with me to restaurants that only have plastic utensils.

I still have a long way to go before I am truly living a zero waste lifestyle.  But one baby step at a time.

zero waste

repair if you can

Repair something if you can…even if it’d cost you less to get a new one.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a shoe repair shop really close to my office.  I brought in my worn out work heels and the shoe man said he could repair it for $12.  Considering the heels cost me $99, it was much more worth it to repair them than to replace them.  However, last week I brought in a pair of heels that only cost me $16.  The cost to repair my $16 heels was $20 since the damage was more severe.  For a moment, I was tempted just to toss the $16 heels since repairing them for more than they were worth seemed silly.  But then I realized that by repairing them, I’d be keeping them out of a landfill for that much longer.  And I wouldn’t be adding to the fast-fashion cycle.

So I went ahead and paid the $20.

zero waste

plastic

Watching this trailer and reading up on some of the issues about plastic on Bag It’s website renews my motivation to curb my plastic consumption.  One small change I’ve made recently is not using plastic utensils at the office.  It’s by no means a difficult change but it does take some conscious effort.  I still frequently catch myself grabbing the plastic fork before putting it back for the metal one.  By the end of the day, sometimes I’ll have 2 or 3 utensils at my desk because I haven’t gotten in the habit of washing them right after I’m done with them just yet.

On a separate but related note, I’m loving the fact that grocery stores like Trader Joe’s are starting to charge for bags (even their paper ones!).  It’s funny how 10 cents will make the difference between going back to my car to get my reusable canvas bags or shrugging and saying I’ll just use it “next time”.  Now I just need to start getting used to carrying my Baggu in my purse at all times for all those spontaneous purchases.