Our oceans are facing a plastic crisis, our landfills are reaching capacity, and our recycling system is overburdened with cheap materials that hold minimal commodity values, and have nowhere to go. Many commentators are arguing that our system is broken, and while we don’t believe that to be the case, we strongly believe that every single one of us must take responsibility for our own garbage we create and make the choice to do better.
Here’s the thing though … We understand that for many Canadians, being told to ‘choose to do better’ can seem vague and mysterious. So many of us would love to do the right thing for Planet Earth, but struggle with where to begin. Moreover, many of the problems we are facing have been created because of our 21st century reliance on ‘convenience,’ and moving away from taking everything ‘to-go’ is no small feat.
So where do we begin? At MASS, we are encouraging everyone on our team to consider what steps they can take to take-back ‘convenience’ and put the planet first. How do we do that? Below, we’ve outlined our top 5 steps for putting together your own “Zero-Waste To-Go” plan, that will help to make your personal journey towards waste reduction as simple as can be!
1. Do Without
The first step we suggest taking when looking to reducing your waste, is identifying the key areas where you can ‘do without.’ While we definitely love “Zero-Waste Swaps” for reusable products, we’ve also come to realize that often these materials are products we don’t really need at all … In fact, we just use them out convenience (there’s that word again)!
One of the clearest examples of this is drinking straws. When plastic straws came to the forefront of media attention in recent years, many of us ran out to the store to purchase re-usable metal straws to use as replacements. While this is great, it also probably wasn’t entirely necessary. While some folks do have to use straws for accessibility purposes, many of us don’t actually need straws at all. In fact, most people do not use straws in their own home, so why do they need them at restaurants? If you fall into the group of people who can ‘do without’ when it comes to a drinking straw, consider exercising the words “no thank you” next one is offered to you, and consuming your beverage the old fashioned way. A reusable alternative is not always necessary, and sometimes opting for one is contributing to our over-consumption problem in an avoidable way.
Other areas where we’ve learned to sometimes choose to ‘Do Without’ include:
- ‘Just-For-Fun’ Clothes Shopping
- Produce Bags for Vegetables and Fruits That Come With A Natural Wrapper (aka a peel – like a banana!)
- Cute Journals & Notebooks (when we already have 5+ empty ones sitting in our desk drawers)
- A to-go snack from the gas-station that comes in a non-recyclable wrapper (like a candy bar)
As we focus on taking back convenience, we have learned that saying “No” to unnecessary items is just as easy as saying “Yes,” and our garbage bins fill up much more slowly, which is a huge win for all of us!
2. Naked Is Best
Before your eyes bulge out of your heads, this isn’t what you think! By ‘Naked’ we mean ‘Unpackaged.’ We have learned that products that come without a wrapper (in other words …. naked), are often the better choice when it comes to reducing our footprint.
This has become a part of our every day habits. For example: If you stop at the store to pick-up a quick snack, a good choice could be to choose an unpackaged piece of fruit, instead of a packaged fruit snack.
Option for unpackaged foods is just as easy as going for the packaged versions … It’s just about being conscious of your choices. This step allows us to consider the built in convenience from Mother Nature herself with the easily transportable snack-foods she’s given us that don’t require a man-made wrapper.
3. Take It To-Go … With Reusables!
While going without a product, or opting for an unpackaged version are both excellent options, the reality is that in life – there are times when these strategies simply won’t work. When that’s the case, reusables become very important. Reusables give us the convenience of enjoying life on the go, without creating garbage along the way. Our favourite ways to use resuables are as follows:
- Always carry a tupperware container in your bag or car. This way, if you order take-out or have left-overs at a restaurant, you can avoid using a disposable container, and use your reusable one instead!
- Craving a snack? We suggest carry reusable mesh bags with you wherever you go (again, toss them in your bag or car). This way, if you’re craving a snack you can hit up the bulk food section of your local grocery store and load up on your favourite candy or treat using the reusable bags, and avoid packaging altogether.
- Get your goods at the bulk store. Whether it’s protein powder for smoothies, flour for baking, nuts, chocolate, dried fruits, peanut butter … The list goes on … Countless items can be purchased at your local bulk food store, where they most likely will be happy to accept your reusable containers. Just be sure to have them weigh your containers first so they know what amount to charge you for at check-out.
- Reusable produce bags make a big difference when getting your fruits and vegetables. Opting for unpackaged produce is a great way to reduce your waste, and reusable produce bags come in many varieties to help you collect, transport, and store your fresh food.
- Coffee mugs & water bottles are something most of us have in our kitchens, but often leave behind when we venture outside. Make it a practice to always carry your reusables with you, so that you can avoid using disposables as much as possible when you’re on the go.
We have found that switching over to reusable products is much easier than you may think. Remembering to bring your reusables with you wherever you go is about building in the habit. However, once you start making it a daily practice to carry these items with you when you’re on-the-go, you will be amazed by how convenient it truly is!
4. If Reusable Can’t Be Done … Opt For Recyclable!
If you can’t avoid packaging and reusable isn’t an option, consider if the product you’re purchasing could be sourced in a recyclable container. For example: If you’re buying cookies, can you find them from a box board container in the bakery instead of a non-recyclable pack? If you need a cool drink on the go, consider a beverage that comes in a recyclable bottle, rather than a styrofoam cold cup! Recycling is always better than wastefulness, and we encourage you to get to know the recycling program in your area so that you can participate correctly.