After trying to reduce the amount of waste I produced at home (by shopping in bulk, refusing junk mail, etc.), I figured it was time to tackle the subject of the trash I create when I'm on the go.
And my first source of waste when outside of home was: drinks!
Whether it's a spicy chai, a green juice or a delicous bubble tea, the amount of plastic wasted in a matter of minutes on a daily basis is appalling.
Besides the fact that the idea of having a hot drink poured into a plastic lined paper cup makes me cringe (I always feel bad when I see a kid drinking their hot chocolate with a straw from a plastic-lid covered paper cup, but know better than to say anything), it's important to know that single-use plastic cups are usually not recyclable curbside and that paper cups are neither recyclable nor compostable because of their plastic lining (though you can recycle their cardboard sleeve).
As for "bioplastics", "biodegradable" or "compostable" plastics that certain (hopefully) well-meaning businesses have started using, they just cannot biodegrade or be composted in backyard compost piles or most municipal and commercial facilities. Only a handful have the technologies required to successfully compost resins intended for industrial facilities. So these materials simple end up contaminating compost bins (if wrongfully thrown in them) or in the trash (where they should be, for lack of adapted composting facilities).
So to me, the best solution for now is simply to have your drink served in a real cup and drink it in, or have it poured into your own container to take with you.
So here is are my 5 Steps to a Zero Waste Drink Order.
1. Choose the right place
I like to know where I shop, whom I shop from, so I do some research and go the places that inspire me the most or that have been recommended to me (think local coffee shop rather than Starbucks).
If you're in Portland, check out my Zero Waste City Guide, Recycling Advocates' BYOC Coffee Shop Campaign supporters Map and the Surfrider Foundation's Ditch the Straw PDX Map
2. BYOC - Bring your own container (and straw!)
As you know, I have a pretty thorough collection of mason jars, my favorites being the wide-mouth ones. Plus side, their capacity is written on them, it makes ordering a 12oz latte so easy!
I recently purchased a stainless steel drink top and am very satisfied with it.
Of course, you can always bring your own insulated mug to keep your drink warm longer.
As for straws, simply refuse them or bring your own. I always have a set of two on hand: regular straws (straight or bent) and fat straws (for bubble tea).
If you want to go one step further towards the elimination of plastic straws, take the Last Plastic Straw Pledge. I'm also a fan of #StopSucking.
3. Have courage
Bringing your own container the first time can be weird or scary. I once read that to obtain what you want, you should act and not ask (not applicable to all domains!), meaning, give your container to the barista as if you did this all the time. Don't ask permission, people will more easily say no.
You know the old line "Do as I say, not as I do". The truth is... I always ask for permission! And, for now, nobody ever said no. Should that happen, I'd have to stay calm and explain the reasons for my asking, but that's a whole other story. I'm French, so for me, everything has to be a fight or even a revolution!
4. Say thank you
Always. People need to know that you noticed their effort to accomodate your needs and that you don't take everything for granted.
5. Go the extra mile
Bringing your own containers is great! But spreading awareness by suggesting changes is even better. Should you notice that something could be improved, don't hesitate to mention it. For example, I'm trying to convince all the bubble tea places in Portland to get reusable straws! If the protection of the environment is not a strong enough argument, use the money-saving one, it usually works.
Here in Portland, Recycling Advocates are doing a great job with their BYOC campaign. You can also support them through Amazon Smile (Amazon donates .5% of the price of your eligible purchases to RA whenever you shop at smile.amazon.com)
Surfrider Foundation also launched their Ditch the Straw campaign and have successfullly convinced several businesses to only put a straw on request and look for sustainable alternatives.
Now go home, or go for a walk, or go meet your friends, and enjoy your drink! You deserve it!
Photographs by Octave Zangs for Conscious by Chloé, except for top and bottom one by Candace Molatore.
If you're a shop owner and you want your business to be more conscious, don't hesitate to contact me for consultancy.