This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on February 03, 2020.
We’ve covered so much ground in just the last couple of weeks, and this week we’re tackling what may be the most difficult part of beginning any new lifestyle journey - changing habits.
In our guide to simplifying your life through sustainability, we share some of our favorite ways to make zero waste more convenient, but if we don’t change our habits too, convenience doesn’t really matter, does it?
To keep things simple, we’re going to focus on the “Big 4” plastics - bags, water bottles, coffee cups, and straws.
As with any new habit, these tips take a bit of discipline at first. But eventually, they just become part of the routine, and you won’t even think about it anymore.
“I always forget my reusable bags at home!” (Or in the car!)
I hear this one all.the.time. But it’s also one of the easiest fixes!
Let's start here: you likely already have some reusable bags around your home. There is no need to go out and buy new.
In fact, a 2011 study by the UK government showed that a new cotton tote would need to be reused 131 times to have less of an impact on our planet than a single plastic bag, or 327 times if the plastic bags were to be used again as trash bags.
Make that bag a new organic cotton tote, and another study estimated that tote would need to be reused 20,000 times to have less of an impact than a single plastic bag.
(There is a reason we only carry bags that also do a world of good by supporting and empowering female survivors of violence in Rwanda. Visit the shop to learn more about our bags!)
And remember - "refuse" comes before "reuse" in our 6 R's of zero waste. So refuse those new bags and continue to use the ones you've already got!
So, how do we make sure we’re using those bags laying around our home?
First and foremost, keep your reusable bags in your car. I keep a basket in my trunk that has all of my shopping bags, produce bags, and even a few extra jars just in case.
“But, Krystina, when I bring the bags inside to unload my groceries, I forget to take the empty bags back to my car!”
Yep, heard that one, too. If you don’t want to take the bags back to your car immediately, I get it. Put them under your keys so the next time you go to leave, they’re right there for the grabbing.
“Okay, so I put my bags in my car, but I forget to take them inside when I go to the store.”
I’ve been sharing this next tip for years now, and I can say, hands down, it’s one of the most effective.
If you forget your reusable bags at home or in the car, do not allow yourself “just this once” to get disposable bags (plastic or paper!). Instead, put each item back in your cart after checkout, load each one into your car, and unload them at home in the same way.
I guarantee that after this experience once or twice, you’ll never forget your bags again.
“Phone, water, wallet, keys.”
Make this your mantra. Say it. Say it again. And again.
When you leave the house, I’m willing to bet you say some form of “phone, wallet, keys” to yourself, amiright? Add “water” to that list so you’re never caught without a reusable water bottle! Or mason jar, if you’re like me.
This also works for reusable coffee mugs, or whatever your drink of choice may be.
No mug? No latte.
Similar to the bag hack, practice this one a few times and you’re unlikely to ever leave the house without a mug of some sort again.
Sure, maybe brewing coffee at home is more sustainable than getting it in the wild. But sometimes, friend, you just need that delicious peppermint mocha in your life.
And, yes, you can get lattes in your own mug, not just drip coffee. That's the zero waste wannabe secret 😉
“I’d like a water with no straw, please.”
Practice this at home. Get comfortable saying it. Try it with different drinks.
“I’d like an iced coffee with no straw, please.”
“I’d like a margarita with no straw, please.”
The more you say it, the more it becomes second nature.
Most drinks don’t really need straws. But some do (helllloooo mocha frappuccino!). Or maybe you just really like drinking with a straw. That’s cool! Throw a reusable one in your bag so you’re always prepared!
And here’s some tough love about straws in restaurants (coming from someone who has worked in the service industry since she could legally get a job). Once a straw touches your table, it’s being thrown away whether it’s used or not.
I hear pretty regularly “I don’t ask for no straw, but I also don’t use the one they give me.”
As much as I hate to say it, that does nothing to curb the 500,000,000 straws used every.single.day just here in the United States. We must refuse these items before they even make their way to us.
Maybe you’ll still end up with a straw in your drink even though you’ve asked for its omission. That can be frustrating, I get it. But just as we are trying to change our habits, our restaurant servers are trying to change theirs too. And the more we say “no straw, please,” the more commonplace it becomes, and the easier it is for us all to change our habits towards a healthier, more beautiful planet.
“Alexa, remind me to take a fork to work.”
Okay, one more bonus tip. Set an alarm!
If you leave your house for work every day at 7:30am, set an alarm on your phone for 7:20 reminding you to grab a fork to use at lunch. Or to take your bags back to your car. Or to bring your mug to the coffee shop.
Whatever the thing is that you use the most, set an alarm to remember the reusable option.
Alright, how are you feeling, EcoWarrior? Ready to ditch some old habits and embrace new ones?
Hop over to the EcoWarrior Pod Facebook group or comment below and share with the rest of us which habit you’re conquering this week! Let’s support each other and hold each other accountable 💙