For Lent, I avoided single-use plastic as much as possible. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, but some items presented a bigger challenge than others. Here’s a quick recap for you:
Drinks at restaurants just come with a straw. Sometimes a straw is served in your drink and other times they just set it on the table. At that point though, it is already wasted because they can’t reuse it. Regrettably, I used several straws during Lent.
Coffee stirs are the same way. Several times I ordered coffee in a mug to avoid throwing away a plastic cup, only to be served coffee with a plastic stir. If I made my own coffee at a self-serve station, many times I just didn’t stir it if the only option was plastic. When I am using my reusable coffee mug, I can close the lid and shake it. So handy.
This also goes for cocktails. Straws are just included with the drink.
I started ordering drinks with no straw, but you should mention it right away or it is too late. I am not 100% sure this is a change that is going to stick with me, but I have become more mindful of how many straws we use and I will try to avoid them when possible.
Plastic wrap for fruit and vegetables
The produce aisle of the grocery store is the biggest part of our weekly shopping trip, since we are trying to eat more fruits and vegetables around here. That said, almost everything organic comes prepacked in plastic of some sort. If given the option, I always just placed the fruit or vegetable directly in my cart without putting it in the plastic bag first. Most of the time that wasn’t even an option though because it was already covered. The types of packaging they use are not conducive to reusing because you must cut or tear them open to get what’s inside. Any suggestions on this one?
Plastic I will still use mindfully
This one got me during Lent. I did use one plastic spoon and one plastic fork during the forty days. I had been carrying around a little travel set of my own cutlery, but I had taken them out to put them in the dishwasher when I got an unexpected lunch invitation from my mom. I assumed Whole Foods would have reusable cutlery like Ellwood Thompson’s, but they did not.
This is just one of those things that I will try to avoid, but at other times I know it will not be possible to eliminate this from my life at this time.
Changes that will stick
Reusable coffee mug
The beauty of this reusable cup is that you can close it and throw it in your bag when you are on the go. No more walking slowly and carefully (rarely an option with young kids) to avoid spilling your coffee. Furthermore, my coffee stays hot hours after making it. This is such a treat since I rarely have a full cup of hot coffee anymore. Yesterday I enjoyed the coffee I made at 9:00 at 11:30 and it was still piping hot.
This includes shopping bags, Ziploc bags and the wet-clothes bags at my gym. It’s not that I will never, ever use them again, but I am definitely more aware of how much I wasted in the past. The main takeaway here for me is to reuse.
During this experiment, I used the same wet clothes plastic bag at the gym for 6 weeks, when in the past I would use one bag per day. Shopping bags have been drastically cut as well. Sometimes the baggers can sneak plastic in without you knowing it; they love to put milk and meat products in there as extra protection. I used to love that, but now I realize how much we wasted. If I do get a bag, I make sure to reuse it in some other way.
I was most stressed about avoiding Ziploc bags, but it turns out I just don’t need nearly as many as I thought I did. I will still use them on occasion, but not for one time use like snacks or lunch for my kids (unless we are in a huge pinch). Instead, I have found these little containers make packing lunch and snack a breeze. I love the little compartments and they are super easy to pack and clean.
- What are some creative ways you reuse plastic items?
- What is one single-use plastic item you can use less?