A Week in the Life of Plastic-Free
Diving into the plastic-free life isn’t always the most straight forward. Some things feel easier than others— saying no to a straw at a restaurant? Easy. Remembering to bring your cup to the coffee shop? A little harder. Shopping in the bulk bin at the grocery store? Might be a little intimidating the first time you try.
With time, these kinds of small shifts become integrated into your lifestyle and with one choice, one change, one habit at a time, it gets easier and easier. Just remember to stay positive and treat so-called “fails” as opportunities for growth. We can do anything when we all do something and as long as your trying, that’s what matters most.
Week one of the 30-Day Plastic Free Challenge has me documenting our plastic usage (if you haven't signed up for the challenge, get on it over here!), so I thought I'd take you along with me as I navigate the plastic-free life.
Today I am headed to a coffee meeting to chat about a new project. I brought my to-go cup in case they don’t have mugs to stay (though most places do!).
On the way out I decided to get another coffee to go, so I asked them to fill up my coffee cup. The barista was encouraged that I was using my own mug, and the shop even offered a discount for people bringing their own in. Win!
I also had to stop at the local herb store (I am training to be an herbalist) to get some supplies for a tea I am making for a customer, but I forgot to bring my own bags. I figured the extra gas and driving several miles out of my way was not worth it to go back on another day. Luckily the herb store has compostable bags, and I will be sure to reuse them when sending tea to my clients.
Grocery shopping day! I headed to my local health food store equipped with my Stasher bags and some jars. I use these jars often so I have the tare (the weight of the jar) written down on notes in my phone, and same with my Stasher bags (let's be honest, I know those by heart).
At the grocery store, I fill up each bag and jar with the nuts and grains I need and take a picture of the sign with the cost per point and the PLU code to use at the cash register. I know this store is friendly about taking the tare off the cost of the product, so it goes smoothly.
I am also able to largely avoid plastic at the grocery store by opting for anything disposable to be in glass and throwing fruits and veggies directly into my cart or an organic cotton produce bag.
They didn’t have raw, fair trade cacao in the bulk section, though, so I ended up getting that in a plastic bag— it’s hard to find in bulk, so I often make this sacrifice.
At checkout, everything gets bagged up in my reusable totes, and we are good to go. Bonus: the person checking me out at the cashier comments on how cool my Stasher bags are (seriously, this happens to me nearly every time I use them) and asked where they can buy them. Here's to spreading the low waste lifestyle!
Headed to an event tonight, so I brought my trusty allies: a reusable cutlery set, my coffee cup (which is great for any beverage!), and my water bottle. When I get to the event they are serving snacks, so while I end up with a disposable plate, I can use my reusable cutlery to enjoy.
Partial win— though my plate was paper, not plastic, I still prefer to avoid any disposables! I save some grape stems and some other non-edibles in a Stasher bag to bring home to compost (yes, I am that person).
Today I had to be out at meetings all day, so I brought my lunch in a glass jar, and snacks in my Stasher bags. I also brought some of my favorite herbal tinctures and teas in a Stasher bag, because I love to have my favorites on hand in case I need anything.
Later in the day, I headed out to dinner with some friends. I brought my reusable container for any leftovers, which came in handy since I had some leftover gluten-free pasta. Sometimes it feels a little weird to whip out a mason jar at a restaurant. Yet one of the things I love the most about this lifestyle is that even though my friends might think it’s a little odd, they also think it’s pretty cool that I stick to my values. Sometimes they will even text me a week or two later showing they are doing the same thing!
I love that even though living a low waste lifestyle may seem unusual to others at first, it’s a great conversation starter and a way to inspire my friends, and sometimes strangers, to do the same.
Today I am heading to the airport to go out of town for the weekend. I brought my snacks and supplements in Stasher travel bags, and a mason jar with a quinoa salad to eat at the airport. I love bringing my food to the airport because it’s way more affordable and I can eat the healthy food I love instead of being limited by the not-so-great airport options.
I use my reusable cutlery, and I take advantage of one of my favorite airport travel hacks — I ask the coffee shop to fill up my reusable coffee cup with hot water, which most of the time they do for free, and then use my own tea bags so I can use my favorite tea.
I fill up my reusable water bottle at the water fountain. I also brought my reusable tote and some empty Stasher bags with me in case I want to grab anything while traveling — they weigh almost nothing and save me a lot of extra plastic.
Taking on some of these activities can feel overwhelming and kind of awkward at first, but they are also empowering. It takes time to adjust to any new habit or lifestyle, but the failures are also a way to learn how to approach things differently.
I constantly “mess up” and use it as a way to share with others and learn myself how to do things more sustainably next time. If it all feels too overwhelming at first, start with one habit at a time — maybe today you will tackle bringing your coffee cup to the coffee shop, and next week you will commit to shopping the bulk bins. Each step counts, and each time you avoid plastic, it makes a difference and inspires others.
This post was written by Sara Weinreb. She is the host of the Medium Well podcast, sustainability and design thinking consultant, contributor at Forbes, and shares it all on Instagram.