It’s GREAT to be as zero waste as we possibly can but you’re just one person. The biggest impact we can have is by sharing the zero waste message far and wide, and voting with our $$$.
For example, in the last 6 months I have walked into Noodles Restaurant 3 times with my kids and each time we discover they are STILL only doing food in dreadful plastic whether you eat in or out so we explain to them that we’re not willing to eat there again until they bring back reusable plates and silverware. ALSO, even when they do have reusable plates and silverware, the kids meals always come in a plastic tray so we just order our kids an adult meal and take the leftovers home in tupperware.
So what can you do?
- Ensure you say ‘no straw please’ to your server BEFORE they go get your drinks. If they bring you one anyway, let them know why you asked them not to – spread the word – and make a point of not using it. Be obnoxious and take it out and leave it on the table : )
- If a restaurant offers you a landfill-destined cup for water, ask for an alternative or just use your water bottle. At Flower Child for example, they give out single use plastic-coated cups but when I ask for an alternative, they give me a lovely glass mason jar. (I also then tell them how sad I think it is that they don’t automatically give these to everyone.)
- Tell your server that your kids do NOT need plastic sippy cups. Bring their own bottles if you’re worried about spills or let them use grown up glasses.
- Ask for REAL silverware when offered plastic. At the French cafe in Boulder they were more than happy to oblige.
- Email the restaurant and express your disappointment at their environmental impact and suggest alternatives that customers love e.g. metal water cups.
- Question everything plastic. Be a squeaky wheel. I luckily have 2 other amazing Moms at my kids school who are as squeaky (if not squeakier!) than I am about avoiding plastic use. We regularly write to the Principal.
- Speak Up: When you see pointless waste happening, go over and say something. For example, Boulder High put on a Halloween event for the kids at our school and it mostly consists of a ton of black plastic bags taped together. I watched as they pulled it down so went over to talk to their teacher about what would happen to it. They were going to trash it so we had a discussion about how it could be kept and used for the next year. While this might not have happened (I have no idea) it will have planted a seed in his head and make him think twice when he puts it in the trash.
- Sit on the PTA or the Environmental Group. We managed to get reusable party plates, cups and silverware for each class to use as all parties until then were filled with trash.
At the Grocery Store:
- I sometimes pretend I’m doing a survey for a local marketing company and ask people their reasons for putting vegetables (particularly those with skins) into plastic bags. Often they don’t have a good answer and you can see them really considering why they’re doing this.
- Yesterday I saw a guy leave his car running the entire time he was in the store so I politely reminded him that this was illegal in Colorado. It didn’t go down well but I bet he won’t do it again!
- Talk to the cashiers. Encourage them to not push bags on people.
- Bring back all the packaging from the food you bought and tell them it’s their problem. If we all did this, packaging would reduce significantly.
Post on Social Media:
- Share your own successes. Share a photo of your Go Bag and tell people how awesome you feel about saving all that waste.
- Post about your favorite zero waste grocery store (hint: It’s Nude Foods Market ; ) and tell them about a specific product they should try there or a special offer that’s on
- Post about recycling and composting rules, post about CHaRM. In fact, share anything fun you’ve learned on this 21-Day Challenge that you think others might find interesting.
Talk to Friends and Family:
- This is BY FAR the hardest one as you don’t want to be super obnoxious and lose friends : ) I mostly try to lead by example and avoid preaching but the occasional ‘did you know’ can be received okay. E.g. did you know they also offer real silverware here? I hate eating with this plastic stuff, don’t you? Did you know that these cups take thousands of years to break down in landfill, it breaks my heart when I see them being offered out in restaurants.
- There are SO many people who have come back to me later, sometimes years later, and proudly told me that they no longer bag their veggies or they don’t use glad wrap anymore and you realize that all it takes is a little seed in their mind to create a big change. And others tell me I’m the voice in their head when they’re getting a take out coffee and they feel really guilty ha ha!
- Buy them zero waste gifts! Buy a gift card to Nude Foods Market as a birthday / new baby / new house gift or give them something like this cool rainbow silverware set or a fab reusable coffee cup.
Apps you can use to stop Plastic:
We love Remark which helps you send sustainability feedback to businesses in less than a minute and was founded by a Nude Foods customer!
And PlasticScore which is a crowdsourced zero-waste rating for restaurants take out and dine in packaging.
I know I sound pretty obnoxious in this post. Saying something scares the crap out of me every time because the reaction isn’t always particularly positive. But I do it because some things are more important than my comfort and I’ve seen over and over again, that by just planting a seed, you can grow a big tree of change.
P.S. If you’re looking for a great restaurant, I have recently discovered Cup of Peace at Arapahoe and 33rd (just near Nude Foods). They are really thoughtful about their impact and have great food. BUT do not get take out as they still put that in a plastic bag : ( More on that tomorrow!
Great post and ideas.
The department stores have the hardest time with bringing our own bags but they are getting better.