Many of us know the 3 R’s of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle. However, in all these discussions we have of green living, we often tend to leave out the 4th, and possibly most important, sibling: Refuse. In the context of environmentally conscious living, this refers to refusing the use of single-use materials that is provided so commonly in our world today. Let’s take a look at a few places where you can start refusing stuff!
At the coffee shop
500 million plastic straws gets used in America every day. Plastic straws can’t get recycled, so they ultimately end up at a landfill or in the ocean. This shouldn’t be ok. Say no to this idea, say no to plastic straws. As alternatives, you can either drink straight from the cup or have a set of reusable metal straws with you at all times for when you get thirsty. While you’re at it, you can also bring a reusable cup or bottle with you wherever you go and request the coffee shop to make your drink in the container you brought instead of in their disposable cups!
At the restaurant
Containers and packaging account for 23% of all waste in landfills in the US, so let’s work together to reduce that number. Next time you buy takeaway food from restaurants, bring your own box for them to fill up instead of using their ones. On top of this, tell them you don’t need cutlery and napkins. Always have a set of reusable cutlery and handkerchief with you ready-to-use instead.
At the hotel
When booking hotels online, there’s always a “notes” or “additional requests” section at the bottom of the page before confirming your booking. Don’t be shy to fill that in. Tell them to not provide you with the travel-sized toiletries that’s always present in hotel bathrooms. Bring your own toiletries! You can also request for them not to wash your towels every day. You probably use your towel for multiple days at home, so why not do the same when you’re travelling?
At the supermarket
It goes without saying that supermarkets are a huge consumer of plastic bags, but this isn’t such a huge issue to fix on a personal level. Always have a tote bag handy just in case you end up doing some impromptu grocery shopping. Let the cashier know you brought your own bag and be proud!
So much of the physical mail we receive at home is junk - marketers trying to sell us things by sending us stuff we didn’t even subscribe to. An average household in the US receives 6 pieces of junk mail each day. As a result, 2.6 million trees are killed every year because of this. We tend of just ignore these letters and throw them when we see them, but we should do more than that. Call up these companies sending your junk mail and unsubscribe to their mailing list.
Above are a few places where you can begin refusing single-use items, but these really are just starting points. Get creative for the environment! Integrate this concept into all aspects of your daily life! This is how we can achieve a sustainable future.