If you've been reading this blog for a little while now, you probably will have noticed that, more and more lately, we're venturing outside the confines of sustainable fashion to talk about sustainability overall. It's a pretty natural progression. The more you dig into the fashion industry, and its impact on our planet, the more you veer off into researching other areas of negative (& positive) planetary impact.
It's my hope that in the coming years Recess City will become a place where information on a lot of different areas of sustainability, and how to practically introduce them into your lives, will live in non-preachy, bearable doses. There are heaps on heaps of sustainability blogs out there, and I think primarily this will always be a platform dedicated to sustainable fashion more so than any other sector, but if there's something sustainable we're excited about, we want to share it with all of you,and we want to do so in a way that isn't holier-than-thou, that isn't I-compost-so-I-look-down-upon-thee, that isn't I-scoff-at-your-plastic-grocery-bag.
So much of our reasoning behind building a platform centered around ethical fashion in the first place was the feeling that too many people and companies were "niching" the industry toward ultra-green, hippie types. In the same way that an athlete and a self-proclaimed nerd someone from way down in Texas and someone way up north in Canada have all probably recycled more than a dozen things in their lives, sustainable fashion and sustainable practices should be geared toward people of all walks of life, and definitely should not be something marketed only toward those with closets full of yoga mats who subscribe to a vegan diet. You might disagree with me on this, and that's okay....but only one of us is right.
We thought our last blog post from Sri Lanka would provide a good backdrop for one element of sustainability that's been occupying our minds lately: reducing our use of single-use plastics. If you aren't familiar with the term "single-use plastic" it essentially means what it sounds like it means: plastics that you use once and then chuck. As stunning as Sri Lanka was, seeing the more-than-occasional trash-ridden beaches left a lasting impression on both Porter and I. A lot of dinners were spent talking about how on earth plastic is still so prevalent, and all sorts of ways to cut it out of our lives. This unfortunately led to Porter's recollection of my asking our middle school science teacher why we weren't solving rising ocean levels by pouring all that extra sea water into the Grand Canyon. Not my brightest moment (the rest of that sixth grade school year was filled with kids raising their hands to answer any question with "let's just dump it into the Grand Canyon") but I've moved past that....
The last hotel we photographed for in Sri Lanka (I know most of you already know this - but Port and I also work as hotel photographers, primarily for sustainable hotels), was called Tri and whether you looked left, right, up, or down, there were all kinds of examples of ways to ditch single-use plastic that I was taking notes on (obviously not literal notes, this is 2018 people, but in my notes app).
Here are some things we noticed during our time there, have now adopted, and think are simple ways you can reduce your single-use plastics, too:
1. Be Done With Plastic Straws
500 million is one of those too-big-to-fathom numbers, but that's the rough amount of plastic straws that wind up in the trash every single day in America alone! Now, I'm not about to say do away with straws completely because I happen to enjoy a good straw, they remind me of a simpler time like blowing bubbles in chocolate milk; they also happen to make Ginger Ale taste more comforting when you have the flu, but there is a BETTER WAY to straw it up. At Tri, the straws were made out of bamboo, but these days there's all sorts of reusable straw types you can purchase. Like this metal one, or this bamboo one, or this one, or this one especially for coffee (see what I mean?). If bringing your own reusable to-go cup to Starbucks intimidates you for whatever reason, the reusable straw is a good first step.
Sidenote: this is a good way to stick it to the man. Starbucks actually makes the circumference of their longer straws larger for no reason other than that you then drink your Venti faster and are left wanting more coffee. Your reusable straw won't play you like that.
Other Sidenote: If you need a statistic mantra to keep you from reaching for that former green plastic friend, think about the fact that plastic straws can take up to 200 years to break down. Ugh.
2. Swear Off K-Cups
Ah, K-Cups, they're so convenient that many of us are willing to overlook the fact that they make ridiculously sub-par coffee. I get it, if you're working in an office or have one in your dorm room, they just make getting that caffeine hit oh so simple. But think about how quickly you use and chuck a single k-cup, and how quickly you rip through a box of them. Think about the fact that a single k-cup can only make a single mug of coffee. Think about that plastic statistic I just shared with you. Now, think about how drinking something sieved through plastic that's been heated to nearly boiling point has been proven to add carcinogens to your morning pick-me-up. It's so, so not worth the convenience, and if you switch over to a french press for just a week, I swear that the taste alone will put K-Cups in the rearview.
Double points if you purchase your coffee beans somewhere where you can shovel them into a reusable bag...
3. Bring Reusable Produce Bags to the Grocery Store
I'm absolutely convinced that the shortest use-life of any piece of plastic are the tear-off plastic bags for produce in the grocery store. Your brocolli goes in, then five minutes later when you get to your house, it gets thrown away. Nowadays, if you use your grocery cart real estate accordingly, you can just put the produce straight in (you're going to have to wash it all when you get home anyway), but if that's icky to you, there are tons of reusable, environmentally friendly ones all over the interweb. Here's five: one, two, three, four, five.
Think of a fish trying to breathe through one of those disposable plastic produce bags. Disturbing image, right? Remember that when you're reaching for one.
4. Try to Make At Home One Pre-Packaged Item on Your Grocery List
Port actually came up with this one, and I think it's kind of brilliant, and not just because I'm trying to win some brownie points because I might have woken him up the past three nights with the classic plea for human contact: "are you awake, cause I'm awake."
There are a lot of grocery stores these days that allow you to buy nuts and seeds and all kinds of non perishables from big, reusable bulk containers that are far better for the environment than pre-packaged plastic ones. But then, there's also a lot of things that you wouldn't even know where to begin to look if you wanted to buy in bulk. Here's our challenge: choose one thing you purchase that always comes in single-use plastic, and make it instead. Whether it's yogurt singles, nut butters, chia pudding, or whipped cream, we're living in the age of the Nutri Bullet, so anything is possible. Just nixing one thing that you typically would buy in single-use plastic adds up! Plus, it's fun to make things you've never attempted to make before.
5. Don't Amazon Prime What You Can Buy At The Corner Store
The amount of plastic that goes into the packaging business is bananas. It's happened to all of us, you order like a single mascare on Amazon prime and it comes packaged as if the person filling the order was absolutely convinced the world was about to enter a post-apocalyptic nuclear meltdown. So. Much. Unnecessary. Packing. Don't even get me started on packing peanuts, which Porter seems to always get absolutely everywhere and are the sort of thing that should've been done away with a decade ago.
A quick way to reduce your single-use plastic impact is to think hard about whether your being lazy by ordering something online, or whether you're doing it out of necessity. The carbon footprint of the shipping industry is gigantic, and just by swinging by CVS on your walk to work rather than ordering something you're making a big positive impact.
Sidenote: If you're into it, read this article on why shipping things with drones is going to be great for the planet.
We hope this made for an interesting read. Shoot us some DMs on how you reduce your use, and how one of the above has or hasn't worked for you!
Anna Lisa & Porter
*Big shout out to Tri Hotel for hosting us during our time in Lake Koggala. As always, all thoughts & opinions remain our own.