You know the drill. You’re going out on the town tonight. Dinner and a movie with friends or loved ones. The waitress automatically gives you a plastic straw for your drink. There’s so much food, you can’t finish it all, so you ask for a takeout container. It’s either plastic or styrofoam. The straw goes straight into the trash after you leave. The next day, you throw the to-go package in the bin. It goes to the landfill. Congratulations. You’ve just created unnecessary garbage that will linger on Earth for centuries to come. You are not alone. Most people do the exact same thing. It’s what we do. We are trash creators. We are burying ourselves in refuse without giving it a second thought. But there may be a better way.
We humans have become lazy and complacent, without regard for the long term effects on the planet our decisions cause. Perhaps we are spoiled. Perhaps it is just a matter of our conditioning, how we were raised. We behave by osmosis. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the capacity to learn and grow and make good choices that will lesson our negative footprint on the environment, and it isn’t really that hard at all.
As Pantheists, we understand our connection to all things; to each other, to the Earth, and to the universe. Most of us have a love for nature and protecting the wild. Living more sustainably is an integral part of this stewardship spirit. We may have the ability to do more to protect the environment, and reduce our footprint on the land.
You and I have it in our power to make a huge impact in decreasing garbage and cleaning up our cities and the environment. With a few small changes in restaurant habits, a person can make an enormous impact.
- Refuse the plastic straw. At the restaurant, first things first, refuse the plastic straw. There are millions of straws thrown into the garbage every single day. Think about that. Every. Single. Day. They end up in landfills and floating in our water ways, or littering our streets. It takes some 450 years for these one-use straws to degrade, and even then, they do not disappear completely, but become micro plastic, with the same harmful chemicals in them. Plastic straws contain BPAs and other toxic chemicals which are unhealthy to humans. My take on it is, if the container for your beverage isn’t already clean enough to drink from, a straw isn’t going to help the cleanliness of the liquid. Kids and grown-ups can learn to drink a beverage without the aid of a straw. If you absolutely must use a straw, bring a stainless steel straw with you to the restaurant. Stainless steel straws come with their own reusable pipe cleaners for easy clean up and longevity. Stainless steel is durable and lasts for many years, after which it is recyclable. Other alternatives include bamboo straws, and paper straws. Bamboo is a fast growing grass, which is highly sustainable. Paper straws are not as ideal, because we like to save our trees, however, they are biodegradable and recyclable.
- Bring your own to-go containers and bags. For take-out or leftovers, bring a stainless steel storage box with you to the restaurant. Stainless steel containers are dishwasher safe, durable, freezable and oven safe. You can keep a set for your family readily available in your vehicle. Sets are available for as little as $20. By using your own take out containers, you can eliminate an enormous amount of styrofoam and plastic from the environment. The same is true for bringing your own stainless steel cup with lid. You can also opt for silicone, which is biodegradable. Just get in the habit. Or if you prefer, bring your own bees wax wrap paper for to-go sandwiches. For carrying your food, bring a sturdy, reusable cotton or canvas bag, or biodegradable plant based bags.
- Buy long-term use items instead of plastic. Keep in mind, when you buy these items, you will have them for years to come. The initial cost may seem more than you anticipated, but you won’t have to buy them again for a long time. You will actually notice a cost savings overall in the long run. Do your own research. There are many reputable places from which to purchase these items.
- Teach others. Once you become comfortable with this new outlook and it becomes a habit, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to tell others about how easy and affordable it is to live more sustainably. Pass on the knowledge you acquire as you learn more ways to live more sustainably. There is immense satisfaction in knowing you are making a tangible difference in the quality of your environment and your community.
Items to buy:
- Stainless steel straws
- Stainless steel storage boxes
- Stainless steel cups
- Bees wax wrappers
- Cotton tote bags
- Biodegradable plastic alternative bags
- Silicone storage options
Here are a few possible websites from where to purchase items. Do your research. There are many, many places to buy sustainable items.
1. Life Without Plastic: https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/ (this online storefront has stainless steel box sets for $20, as well as stainless steel straws.) https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/metal-travel-jar-kit-without-plastic-5-pack.html
3. Etsy: Thrown for a Loop wax paper wraps for $4 https://www.etsy.com/shop/Thrown4aLoop?ref=l2-shopheader-name