No Plastic, Please:
5 Steps Closer to Minimizing Your Waste
For a long time, I turned my head to environmental issues and my unconscious use of plastic items. Guilty! I knew pollution was terrible and, although I didn’t partake in the activity, I still wasn’t doing much to help/fix the problem. That is so embarrassing for me to put out there to the world. I turned my head, and you may have, too, at some point. If you’re still turning your head away from the problem, I hope you slowly come back. I’ve come back and it’s actually invigorating.
I’ll admit, it’s scary. I’m not scared of dying or snakes, but I am scared to Hell of the world I’ll be leaving my future children with. I could sit here and preach to you about how our environment is failing and it’s simply our fault. I could tell you, in detail, about the death of sea life here in Florida or talk about the wildfires, tornados, floodings, etc. But we all already know that things aren’t right, so I’ll save my Plastic Preaching sesh’ for another day. Today, I want to tell you how I fuel my fire and how I’m taking steps to avoid being part of the ‘problem’ anymore.
Step 1A: Read “Slow: Simple Living in a Frantic World” by Brooke McAlary
This isn’t a required step, hence the 1A, but it’s what is fueling my fire so I feel the need to share it with you. I listened to this book on tape and it has changed my world, and I am not exaggerating. While listening to this book, I donated 5 loads of things such as shoes, shirts, handbags, books, etc. I’ve been inspired to slow down and take time for myself. To breathe, practice mindfulness, reduce my waste, and simply be aware of myself, my life, and life around me. My home is less cluttered and I physically breathe better and feel calmer in my day-to-day life, which can get pretty crazy around the farm.
This book is not about giving all of your stuff away. It’s about simplifying your life and slowing down to take in the beauty of it all. The author gives you tools to use and ideas you take as your own while on your journey to simplifying.
Step 1: Skip the Straws, Y’all
I’ve written about it and I’m sure you’ve heard about it time and time again. Straws are a double-p-roblem, Y’all! I think this one gets to me so deep because I’ve lived in Florida my whole life and almost everyone I know is a fisherman (or woman!), hunter, environmentalist, farmer, gardener, you name it. This means the issue is brought to light quite often, even just simply from my Facebook feed. I mentioned earlier I used to turn my cheek and ignore the problem, but never contributed. Well, the one thing I’ve done for years is used reusable straws. I’ll tell you I’ve not always been as on top of it as I am now, but now is better than never.
It breaks my heart to tell you that the type of straws I carry around with me has been discontinued, but at home, we use these. If I didn’t have my current straws, I’d be carrying these cute things around with me EVERYWHERE! They ARE made out of plastic but they’re reusable and seriously I’m convinced they’re unbreakable. I don’t like the metal straws because I use my straws in hot liquids, and that’s just a no-no. If you never drink hot liquids, the metal straws are great and even better for the environment! Make sure you grab a straw brush to wash them!
Step 2: Cute Coffee Cups are Great Conversation Starters
One of my favorite things to do is go out and get coffee at a local coffee shop. My mother is a coffee nut and snob and, boy howdy, did she pass it down to my two sisters and me! She had a coffee shop when I was in high school and bought the nicest, organic, fair-trade coffee and that’s when it all started. I think if there were a “Coffee’s Anonymous” group, my little sister and mother would be candidates for sure. Anyway, moving right along here!
Whenever I go out to get coffee I bring my reusable cup. As I said earlier, I love iced coffee and rarely do I order a hot drink unless it’s hot chocolate. Even at home I ice my coffee! I use an RTIC Tumbler because they’re inexpensive but wonderfully made and keep my drink cold all day long. The yoga instructor I use online, based out of Austin, Tx (Yoga with Adriene), uses these cups called KeepCup and people seem to be crazy about them! It’ll be the next cup I try. They’re primarily glass but also have BPA free plastic options. I think I might put this reusable cup on my Christmas List this year!
Step 3: Do the Doggy Bag Dance
This idea is one I’m really excited to take part in! Alright…it’s not actually a dance but the heading of this paragraph was catching. We don’t go out to eat too often but when we do, it’s usually planned. I was so excited to hear this idea mentioned in “Slow”. When you’re going out to eat, bring a small tupperware or pyrex for your leftovers. Usually, leftover boxes are styrofoam which is one of the worst materials out there. Styrofoam is not biodegradable or recyclable and takes 500 years to decompose!
Step 4: Skip the Super Store
As Brooke McAlary points out in her book, everything you need is probably already made. Always buy used if you can help it. According to an article by Roni Dengler, as of 2015, the grand total of all plastic ever made since 1950 amounts to 8.3 billion metric tons. For example, I bought a bookshelf from Walmart the other day and that same day my mother-in-law’s neighbor was selling a nicer, sturdier wooden bookshelf for only $5 more. I’ve always loved second-hand items and would often prefer them to newly made items. I feel that they’re designed better.
The area I live in is thrift store heaven so there’s really no reason I should be going over to the Wally-World and buying poorly made shelves. Another great perk of buying used is you can usually get the item you’re looking for at a cheaper price! Check your local Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill before you head to Walmart or Target. Also, remember to always donate or recycle when you can. That way other fine folks can reuse your items instead of them ending up in one of our many landfills!
Step 5: Do It Yourself and Use Less
Do you love Kombucha? Are you tired of paying $5.00 per bottle? Well, you’re in luck because kombucha is wildly easy to make and could also be a great experiment with your children. If you have a large family, why not try to make your own detergent for the laundry? This is my favorite one. It’s a non-foaming soap and you only need a small amount, I use one scoop on my regular loads and 1.5 on my larger loads. This detergent lasts my husband and me for the whole year!
DIY projects are great for the mind and usually your pocket. We can even go a step further and state that it can reduce your use of plastic and pollution. If you’re baking your own bread, then you aren’t buying bread that comes in a plastic baggy. Another option is buying it fresh from a local bakery and bringing your own baggy! This way you’re reducing your waste, eating quality items, and supporting your small local businesses. Win, win, and win.
Bonus Step: Barter, borrow, rent.
I’m adding this step in because it was one I learned from “Slow” and I really love it (and want you all to read the book because it got an A+ from me!). I mentioned in a past post that my mother is the bartering queen. She barters for dinner, yard work, car service, eggs, or just anything she can possibly think of. Bartering is not a new idea in my life, although I don’t do it and should and will start! The things that aren’t as frequent in my life is borrowing and renting. I’ve never thought to rent, say, a dress or China for my large dinner party. The only things I’ve ever rented are an instrument and a car! Another great point McAlary made is about borrowing: we don’t do it enough. You sometimes need items for just one occasion and then you have this one item you’ll never use again cluttering up your home. Check in with a friend or family member, they might be able to loan you that item.
I’m not instructing you to throw out all your plastic tupperware and furniture to buy different pieces. If you have it, you have it and that’s that. No harm, no foul some would say. But if we all worked towards purchasing less plastic products, buying used items, supporting our local shop owners, and making a conscious effort to slow down, be aware, and take steps in the right direction, we’ll be right on our way to correcting some of the current problems.
My journey hasn’t only been about minimizing my physical belongings but minimizing my everyday stress and busy mind. I don’t have children yet but they are in the near-ish future. I have goals I wish to hit before taking that step and the clutter and busy-bee-brain were really holding me back. My problems are fixed because I got rid of my stuff, and I have a long way to go with the rest, but I’m closer than I was yesterday and that’s what matters.