In June we celebrated Seattle’s decision to become the first major city to pass a ban on plastic straws. Shortly after that news broke, global coffee magnate Starbucks announced plans to nix their iconic plastic green straws by 2020. While these actions may seem too small to make a difference at first, Seattle and Starbucks are both fully aware of how small actions begin to add up to have a tremendous impact and how important it is to make sustainable choices. With 500 million straws produced and disposed of every day, not to mention the staggering 90% of seabirds that end up with the same disposed plastic in their stomachs, the seemingly harmless straw sucks.
But it’s not just the straw that causes trouble— there are so many small things that contribute to tons of unnecessary, non-recyclable waste. Thus, the recent trend to boot the straw has kicked-off a beneficial (and well overdue) conversation about sustainability practices in general. With so many people now more cognizant, interested, and committed to the small lifestyle adjustments one can make to better our planet, we thought we would share some of our favorite, easy ways to become more sustainable with you.
Skip the straw.
Yep! We just talked about it so it should come as no surprise. Even if you aren’t in Seattle, it’s still best practice to follow their law. Skipping the straw is probably the easiest thing you can do when aiming to be more environmentally conscious. When you go out to eat, tell the waiter you don’t need a straw with your drink and ask for your to-go iced coffees with a sipping lid or in a “hot cup” instead. Easy peasy.
If you do love straws and would hate to see them go, there are many sustainable options, such as straws made in stainless steel. We’ve even seen some places replace the plastic straw with bucatini pasta (think thicker spaghetti but with a hole through the center)!
Consider the packaging when shopping.
While this isn’t actionable in the way that cutting something out of your life is, simply being mindful has a great impact, too. Think about what the aisles look like in your local grocery store or how much extra bubble wrap came in a package that you’ve received recently. There is so much unnecessary packaging in products these days, it’s easy to drown in it. It is also easy to think that excess packaging is normal since we are surrounded by so much of it, and on a constant basis no less. Many items are double or triple wrapped, have extra packaging added just for aesthetic purposes, and are even boxed up within another superfluous box. That’s not normal, but it is sadly our reality.
But we can change that. Simply by just thinking about the sheer amount of extra product there is on top of the product itself, you become far more aware of how much is actually being wasted in the end. The next time you’re in the grocery store, consider if the box of 24 individually packaged chips is worth it compared to a large bag with one piece of packaging or if you really need to put your bananas in a plastic produce bag. So too, online ordering is a big culprit of waste. We have all had a time where we ordered something small that came in a comically huge box. Instead, wait until you have a larger order so that you can make the most of box space and waste less packaging.
Limit your paper towel use.
It’s mind boggling how fast a kitchen can fly through a paper towel roll. Between hand and dish drying, spill clean up, and everything else in between, your trusty kitchen roll almost disappears into thin air… except it doesn’t. Because paper towels might be compostable and biodegradable, it’s not so much that the trash is the problem with paper towels as it is the production of the roll itself. Many trees need to be cut for paper towels, plain and simple. When your paper towel roll disappears, a few trees do, too.
Be mindful of how many paper towels you go through and consider relying more heavily on kitchen towels. While many argue that cloth towels collect germs, they shouldn’t so long as you replace them regularly. Keep your kitchen well stocked with towels and keep multiples out so you are more willing to reach for them. Additionally, it might be smart to color-code the towels that you leave out to avoid any cross-contamination (blue is for dishes, white is for hands, green is for drying produce, etc.). Train yourself to cut back on the paper towels and you’ll be doing a really good thing for a forest or two.
Rethink the coffee pods.
Instant coffee machines are amazing. But the single-use plastic coffee pods and cups? Not so much. All of those miniature plastic cups that hold coffee grounds just for a single cup of coffee have produced enough waste to wrap around the Earth 10 times. While we love the ease of use that the coffee pods provide, they produce waste that doesn’t even need to exist in the first place. Instead, buy a reusable pod and a bulk bag of coffee grounds. The companies that manufacture these instant-cup coffee machines have now made reusable pods that you can fill with any grounds and use time and time again, saving landfills from the thousands of pods that end up there each day.
There is often a misconception that being sustainable needs to involve the swearing off of trash entirely or that sustainable living requires a time commitment similar to that of a full-time job. In all actuality, making efforts to be more green is simple. Even the smallest of lifestyle adjustments have a huge impact on the state of our environment and we encourage you to be mindful of what small changes are. By electing to think and act more sustainably, your choice to skip a straw or make a paper towel roll last a even just a day longer does have an impact. Yet, it’s when everyone else begins to make the same small adjustments that you have that the impact becomes far more noticeable. It all starts somewhere and you should start now.