A few quick tips for the busy person who thinks they don’t have time for “green.”
In a place like New York City, it can be especially difficult to follow the three rules of sustainability:
reduce, reuse, recycle
This city was built for people on the go—if you want to sit in a café while enjoying your morning cup of coffee, move to Paris. In New York, we don’t think twice about getting our large latté in a paper cup with a plastic lid and cardboard sleeve before hopping on the train.
And when that cup sits cold and forgotten on our desk, we go out and buy another. Maybe another during lunch. And maybe lunch is takeout.
It’s even easier to head straight to the grocery store on your way home and carry a few plastic bags home—always double-bagged might I add—and to not once think about the consequences of those simple, everyday actions. (Note: Trader Joes and Whole Foods will always give you paper double-bagged—a small step in the right direction, but still not eco-friendly by any means).
And don’t even get me started on bottled water.
A simple google search will inform you of the horrifying effects of plastic on our environment. Most plastic bags are not biodegradable, which means they’ll be around for hundreds of years releasing toxins into the environment, threatening wildlife, depleting our natural resources, and congregating in the several “trash islands” throughout the world’s oceans.
Paper, as in paper cups and bags, isn’t much better as it also uses immense amounts of petroleum to be produced.
I get it, you’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy.
Luckily for all of us, the answer to living a more sustainable life has become increasingly more convenient, even for the fast-paced New Yorker who would rather step on in front of traffic than wait a few second at the crosswalk.
Living a little more sustainably doesn’t have to change your routine. Think about it: you’re already heading to the grocery store, why not pick up a reusable cup and bag while you’re there? You’ll actually save yourself money since most grocery stores give a small discount for bringing your own bag, and coffee shops tend to give an even larger discount. No wasted time, no wasted money, no waste, period. It’s a win-win.
Here are a few quick tips to easily reduce the amount of plastic you use every day:
1. Buy Reusable Cups. Get one for cold drinks and water, one for hot. This will probably cost you a total of $15, but as I mentioned, you’ll start saving money by using them. If you shudder at the mention of having one more thing to carry, maybe bring your favorite mug to work. If you’re currently drinking out of a plastic water bottle—reuse it!
2. Invest in a Reusable Bag. They’re all over the place now – you can purchase one almost anyway, in almost any form. My favorite is the Chico Bag. It’s made out of recycled materials, which makes it a truly eco-friendly choice, and it’s designed with a little pocket so it fits inside of itself!
3. Reduce Packaging. Most grocery stores have a bulk-food section. Not only will you save money from purchasing here, but you’ll almost completely bypass the waste of finite resources that goes into the unnecessary package. Which will make it easier to accomplish this next suggestion:
4. Eat less takeout. If you don’t have time for an eat-in lunch, taking a few minutes to pack your own lunch is also a huge money-saver and super eco-friendly. I know leftovers are typically not a favorite, but a great alternative is to make a big meal on Sunday and portion it out in reusable containers. Make your favorite meal and you’ll be in heaven all week.
If you’re already reading this site, there’s a good chance I’m preaching to the choir. In this case, I know you see what I see. You’re one of the few (albeit growing) with your canvas tote and your Kleen Kanteen. But there’s still something you can do: spread the word! Let people know, subtly and kindly, that their choices aren’t as simple as they may think—plastic-waste is a very big deal.
By following these few tips, you’ll already be working to help reverse the damage. There’s only so much ocean to fill.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman