Would you like to do something to decrease your footprint in a big way? If you would, here’s where to start. Commit to doing these three things and you will make a significant dent in fighting climate change. When you lead by example, others will follow. They will see your commitment and it will rub off.
First, it’s important to mention that as you shop for reusable items, do your best to steer away from plastic of any kind — even the BPA-free ones. Plastic pollution is choking every crevice and waterway around the globe. Plastic exposed to the elements breaks into smaller and smaller pieces that are mistaken as food by fish, marine life, seabirds, and plankton (a base organism we cannot live without). These turn into microplastics, which are found in lakes and rivers, the air we breathe, even Arctic snow! Also, plastic can only be recycled a handful of times as it does not retain its structural integrity. In other words, a detergent jug can never again be a detergent jug.
Buy food and beverage containers that are made out of glass, stainless steel, or wood. Two good sources to search for non-plastic alternatives are LifeWithoutPlastic.com or ZeroWasteHome.com. As you take these steps, it is good practice to acquire the habit of researching only the best quality, the most local (or closest to where you live), and the most sustainably produced materials as your guideline. Forming this habit early will make future choices easier.
1) USE A REUSABLE BEVERAGE BOTTLE/MUG: Use a reusable water bottle — NO EXCEPTIONS. Focus on it until the habit sticks and becomes involuntary, like breathing. If you forget, force yourself to go back and get it by walking back to your car. You are more inclined to remember it the next time. Attach it to your hip. Imagine it is your baby. Whatever it takes. Whenever leaving the house, I place my purse, reusable canteen, and a glass To-Go container in a shopping bag. Find what works for you and run with it. Also, rather than buying a soda in a plastic cup, use your reusable at a soda fountain machine — this option is available almost everywhere you shop.
2) BRING YOUR OWN TO-GO CONTAINER: Keep a clean glass or stainless steel container in your car at all times. Avoid plastic containers — especially leaving them in a hot car, as they leech chemicals. Take your container with you when you know you are going out to eat. Create a rotating system at work so you are never without a container by your work station. Additionally, ask your boss to set up a “food waste/compost” pick-up service so your food scraps and paper wraps don’t end up in the landfill (Princess Cruises, Starbucks, and a few others in Santa Clarita offer this to their employees). Tell your boss, “Starbucks does it. We should, too.” Also, use linen cloths or cotton kitchen towels instead of paper towels.
3) REFUSE/GIVE BACK UNNECESSARY WASTE: Refuse all plastic straws, plastic forks and spoons, all that extra butter/salt/pepper you don’t use. If you forget at the drive-thru window, park the car and walk it in. It will make you feel empowered and make a statement to all who witness the act. Always be kind, be assertive, and say thank you to all employees and managers you encounter. Positive experiences create positive change. Each time you accept waste, you validate that it’s OK to waste. Consumers can push back on this and businesses will change based on consumer demands. Also, keep in mind that companies would rather NOT spend the money on these items. It’s a win-win, as you will be helping to save the planet and the company to stay in the black.
Here’s another thing to consider: If every single Santa Claritan adopted these three habits, the “pressure” for starting up another landfill would disappear — poof! Just like that. No more wasting. No more land needed to hold that waste because the waste would no longer be a problem.
I believe all of us should do whatever we can as individuals to keep the ball rolling toward meaningful action, and it is rolling! Every small action matters. Don’t give up. Keep going. We are all in this together. We all have power to do something. Let’s do this!
If you would like to learn more about zero waste and follow my journey, check out @ZeroWasteSantaClarita on Facebook. I also recommend Bea Johnson’s bestselling book, “Zero Waste Home,” to get the best information about the zero waste lifestyle. I consult her blog ZeroWasteHome.com for tips and ideas.
Lisa M. McDougald lives in Valencia and is a member of the Santa Clarita chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.