I made the choice to start a zero waste lifestyle last year, when I came across the No Plastic Solution and started stuffing all my nonbiodegradable waste into eco bricks. Back then it was all about diligently stowing away all my plastic trash before stuffing and packing it tightly into an oversized plastic bottle, but now it’s evolved into so much more than that.
I have a designated area in my room and in the office for plastic waste. Every day I would fill those areas with the day’s trash—mostly plastic food wrappers and sometimes even the odd used up beauty product or two. As weeks went by I noticed that I wasn’t actually reducing a significant amount of my waste. It was piling up instead! I realized that refusing plastic bags and going strawless was simply not enough, I had to go bigger.
I singled out the enemy with a quick scan of what was in my trash—single-use plastics. There they were, staring at me from my pile of nonbiodegradable goods: a shameful collection of plastic forks, spoons, coffee cup lids, takeout box covers, and A LOT of candy wrappers.
From then on I vowed to step up my game. After joining a zero waste group on Facebook, I reviewed the contents of the community. Suddenly, I had access to tons of information on how to reduce waste. I was inspired, to say the least, and was elated to have finally found a place where I could address all my environmental concerns and to belong to a group of people with the same love for their surroundings.
I decided to quit relying on single-use plastic. I started slowly by bringing my own metal cutlery to work, so that when I bought my own lunch I wouldn’t be tempted to reach for plastic utensils. From there I started bringing my own tupperware with me because styrofoam and other plastic containers took up too much space in my eco brick bin. Pretty soon it became a habit to grab my canvas bag stuffed with my cutlery, tumbler, and tupperware right before I left for work.
Aside from lugging around a personal set of tableware everywhere, I also noticed my eating habits change. With each plastic wrapper I collected, the more guilty I got for choosing a packaged product. Instead of snacking on wrapped snacks, I’d make it a point to bring food in a tupperware if I wanted to nosh on something in the office. Every time I was out and tempted to eat a popsicle wrapped in plastic, I’d tell myself to wait until I got home to eat a spoonful of ice cream from a reusable tin container instead. And each time I left the house without a container to bring my food in, I wouldn’t eat unless I ate my food in a place where I could sit down and eat my food with reusable materials.
I was hooked. There was a certain joy that not creating trash brought me, and I wanted to see how far I could take it. Little did I know I’d be testing my dedication to this cause.
One morning a colleague and I stopped at a milk tea kiosk for some caffeine. I handed over my tumbler for the saleslady to fill, but she refused the container. She told me that if I wanted to use my tumbler, I could simply pour the drink into it and throw the cup away. I tried to explain that the very reason for using a tumbler was so that I could avoid throwing trash, but I was met with an explanation that the brand needed a tally of the cups for inventory purposes.
Though my colleague got her coffee fix, I couldn’t bring myself to support the establishment, and I walked away empty-handed. I relayed my experience to the person who got me into the zero waste lifestyle, my sister-in-law, and immediately she said she’d message them about their practices.
I paid little heed, not believing that the brand would actually pay attention. But the next morning I woke up to find a copy of the conversation my sister-in-law had with the establishment posted in our zero waste Facebook group.
The comment section was on fire. I scrolled through messages from group members saying they’d message the establishment to address their waste management practices. After a few days the brand messaged my sister-in-law, asking her to take her post down. (She didn’t since they failed to actually do anything about the issue.) Amazed by the response, I realized that a simple act had big repercussions to my cause. I learned from it, and got to work.
I started being more proactive about cutting out single-use plastic. For each time my reusable container was refused, the establishment would receive a calm but firm Facebook message on the pitfalls of plastic pollution. Usually, my messages were met with favorable responses (shoutout to Costa Coffee for reaching out to me to clear the issue and to confirm that they do accept tumblers, just not ones with their competition’s branding. Whoops!), but there were some messages that fell on deaf ears. Despite that, with each message I sent, the urge to carry out my cause grew stronger.
To be honest, I’m FAR from achieving a zero waste lifestyle—my stash of plastic-encased beauty products and clothes made of synthetic fibers can attest to that—but the little steps I’ve taken to perfect my process has taken me far from where I first started. Sure, I’ve got a long way to go, but what we all have to realize here is that all you need to do is start. Once you refuse that plastic straw and make the conscious decision to live responsibly, the whole community of zero waste practitioners opens up to you, ready and willing to accept the part you want to play in Earth’s survival.
Now, dear reader, it’s your move. What’ll it be?