Don't Underestimate the Big 4

DSC_0961 (1).jpg

Since I’ve started living in St. Croix, a place which is beautiful, but has practically no recycling, I’ve had a bit more of a struggle keeping up with my own zero waste goals. However, it has given me a whole new appreciation how important eliminating those first few disposables from your life is: Plastic Bags, Water Bottles, Straws, To-Go Coffee Cups, and napkins.

Though I’ve had to make constant compromises when it comes to waste here, I have been able to stay away (mostly) from these items, and that alone has absolutely made a huge difference in my waste production.

So here’s a little review of the BIG 4 - even if you have no intentions of going zero waste, eliminating these can make a huge difference!

1. Plastic Bags

The no-brainer! We see reusable bags all over the place now, which is awesome. The hardest part here is simply remembering your reusable bags. I tend to keep a few in my car, one stuffable one in my bag, and the rest right by the door of our apartment. Usually this means I don’t go to the store empty handed.

I brought one stuffable one here to St. Croix, and that combined with my large purse has kept me covered here!

2. reusable water bottle

In most locations here on St. Croix, rainwater is collected via cistern and used for bathing and washing, but generally not for drinking. There’s also many historic buildings, from which the tap water is not drinkable. These realities result in most locations using jug water dispensers and a supply plastic cups, including my own office!

But having a reusable water bottle has kept me both hydrated (as long as I remember to drink from it!) and zero waste with regards to water. I prefer stainless steel water bottles, mostly because of their durability and ability to be endlessly recycled.

3. Straws

This one is the most simple, but somehow it feels like you have the least control over it!

When you are out at a restauraunt or bar or wherever else you could possible get a straw, just as for “no straw, please” with your drink orders. You will get looks of annoyance, confusion, begrudging respect, excitement, & I’ve even gotten a free drink out of it before (coffee)!

I’ve also had many a waiter, waitress, bartender, etc. put a straw in my drink, realize the mistake, (sometimes) make direct eye contact with me, take the straw out, and subsequently throw it away. AH!

All of this can feel a wee bit frustrating, and I get it. I’ve found the best attitude to have is to just try your hardest. If you ask for no straw and one comes, don’t freak out. Just keep on keepin’ on!

Also sometimes carrying your own straws helps servers remember / understand wtf you’re asking for. There are so many options out there: stainless steel / silicone, bamboo, glass, potentially things I don’t know about! So find whatever works best for you and go for it!

4. reusable Coffee Mugs

So, my partner worked at Starbucks in the mountains for a bit, before my zero waste days. I used to hop off the bus and pickup a free chai latte for myself on my way to work in the morning. Admittedly, almost always in a to-go coffee cup. Single use. Not recyclable. I don’t even want to think of how many of those stupid freaking cups I’ve thrown away.

However, that was just because he would have them pre-made for me. I’ve been bringing my own tea and coffee around and having mugs filled since I was in high school. I just wasn’t thinking about it quite as analytically as I do now.

Anyway, the only person I’ve had refuse to fill my coffee mug was a Delta flight attendant who was being a complete a**hole must have been having a bad day. Almost any coffee shop will ablige no problem, and often give you a small discount for your efforts!

I love both Hydroflask and Klean Kanteen’s to-go coffee options. I’ve also used my Klean Kanteen tumbler for alcoholic drinks many a time at festivals and other events - keeps my drinks nice and cool even in the summer heat!

My dutiful Hydroflask kept my coffee warm all night in the field on Buck Island, monitoring mama sea turtles!

My dutiful Hydroflask kept my coffee warm all night in the field on Buck Island, monitoring mama sea turtles!