Single-use plastics like straws, utensils, and cups are everywhere, but do they have to be? Nope! Each of us can take individual actions to start a collective movement to reduce disposable plastics by simply saying no to disposables. There’s a reason “Reduce” comes first in the saying “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, and that’s because Reduce is the most effective of the three R’s. Why? Because you don’t have to throw something away if it’s not produced in the first place! This month, eliminate straws and other disposable plastics from your life. See some tips below to rid yourself of some prevalent single-use plastics.
Stamping out Straws:
When eating out at a restaurant, avoid straws by saying “no straw please” as you order your drink. Unless you are certain the restaurant does not automatically add a straw to your water, etc., always remember to say the words. When you are on track for a straw free week, month, (or year!), it is extremely frustrating when a straw makes its way into your drink because you were a little too confident in the restaurant and didn’t say “no straw”. If you just could not avoid a straw (sometimes even after saying no straw, it may end up in your cup), you can try saving it and reusing or repurposing it (craft project?).
A straw is pretty typical in iced drinks at coffee shops, and while they are convenient, they are largely unnecessary. Luckily, coffee shop straws tend to be in a wrapper so you can just give them back. To avoid straws at the coffee shop entirely, try treating your iced drink as you would a hot drink - bring a reusable cup or ask for it in a “for here” cup. Did you know that a regular reusable coffee mug for hot drinks works just fine for iced drinks as well? Reusable coffee mugs already have lids, which will prevent ice from falling on your face when you go for a sip. In addition, double-walled hot coffee mugs actually help keep cool drinks cool, for longer.
Some people require straws for medical reasons, and in that situation, a reusable straw comes in handy. There are strong reusable plastic straws, stainless steel, and even glass straw options.
The Crestwood Healing Center’s Environmental Health team is working to develop a straw-free movement in Pleasant Hill to encourage businesses to eliminate plastic straws - based on the Last Plastic Straw campaign. We’ll keep an eye out for updates on their campaign, and will be sure to share it with you!
Eliminating Unnecessary Utensils:
Plastic utensils are often given automatically when you purchase any food items “to-go”. Unfortunately, the convenience of “to-go” in itself is made up of various single-use items, often including a bag, paper napkins, plastic or “compostable” containers, and those pesky plastic utensils. Plastic utensils (which are not even recyclable), are one aspect of a to-go meal that can be avoided. When you order something to-go, say “no utensils please”. Keep a reusable utensil set or “spork” with you (some are small enough to fit in one’s pocket). Better yet, pack yourself a reusable cloth napkin and you can avoid a paper napkin too!
Cutting out Cups and other Containers:
As mentioned above, reusable coffee mugs are great for hot and cold drinks. There are also reusable cups made specifically for cold drinks as well. Bring your reusable cup with you and use it when you can, or ask if there is a “for here” non-disposable cup option.
If you look forward to bringing home leftovers after eating at a restaurant, you still have the opportunity to keep those leftovers waste free by bringing a reusable container with you. Others may start to pick up the practice themselves!