There’s a quote I read (by someone that I can’t remember) that has been sticking with me for months. It went something like:
How can it be believed that sending people into the forest to bulldoze a tree, sending that tree to a factory, processing that it and bleaching it until it becomes a paper plate, then shipping that paper plate to a store where customers drive to go buy it, use it once and then throw in into the garbage where it’s picked up by a garbage truck, transported to a landfill and dumped into a hole in the ground where it will never be seen again, could possibly be easier than just rewashing the plate?
This same idea can be used for any disposable (also called “single use”) items – plastic cutlery, straws, napkins, Keurig cups, to-go containers, plastic bags, coffee cups… I mean, look around you and I’m sure you’ll find something that you’re going to use one time and throw “away”. What could replace it?
So at a recent conference I met the people of ReThink Disposable (above). Check out their site to see what they’ve been up to (Hint: They are killin it in California). Their emphasis is on helping businesses look at what they can minimize as waste and switching out their products for better reusable options – hell ya. All of our workplaces could be throwing away less. And our homes? If you have a dishwasher, there’s little excuse not to be using reusable! This stuff really adds up. Imagine the person that goes out to coffee 4 times a week. That’s more than 200 coffee cups just in one year, thrown into the ground, never to be seen again. Just as there are “staring people in Africa” there are people all over the globe without resources for things that really matter, like beds and tables and books more or less a coffee cup. Is it the best way of using a tree? So if you want to make some easy changes…
Your Work Place
For work, I do waste audits at businesses and offices and it is shocking to me to see break rooms stocked with paper plates, plastic knives, all of the things you need to eat a meal. Also, they have a sink – which is essential for a reusable dishware program. They have no excuse! Okay, so they need to purchase reusable dining wear. There is no doubt that purchasing real plates and cups and silverware are cheaper than continuously having to buy paper plates and paper cups and plastic forks. You know why so many kitchen areas are like this? Because no one has questioned it yet. No one has had the balls to say “hey, we’re being pretty wasteful, mind if we get some reusable things and get rid of this single-use crap? The janitors will appreciate you, that’s for sure. You could even have a small campaign for people to bring in stuff from home. I mean, how many extra plates/knives do you really need at home? I’m sure you could spare one or two.
One thing you can’t do is assume that people will not change. People will, and reusable dishware can be attractive and can be used to boost morale. We have it at my workplace and I have more of a sense of being at home there. Also, I eat my meals without the guilt of knowing that I’m going to end up that is so easily reusable, into a pit in the ground. Because no one wants to be the coworker that leaves their plate in the sink or complains about a new program when the rest of the team is on board. Create hype. Make it the new norm. People will change – but first someone needs to give them the tools (the reusables – are you getting it?!) and someone to speak up.
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