As a belated ode to Earth Day I wanted to introduce a new series, Simple Swaps. Simple swaps are those easy though often overlooked steps that help us reduce our waste and our environmental footprint. I have been easing into the steps of reducing my waste for a bit over a year now. Perhaps even closer to two years? Although I am still learning and navigating my way towards a less waste life, many of the habits I’ve picked up have become second nature. Forgoing plastic sandwich bags, bringing a reusable napkin to work daily, and most importantly, coffee.
I am a big coffee drinker though luckily I’ve never been one to purchase a coffee daily on my way to work but I'm not perfect. There is something so appealing about a sweet iced coffee on a warm spring day that makes me want to head to a little café downtown, and more often than not, I do. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, grabbing a coffee in a plastic cup with a plastic straw every now and then but it’s said that on average, we use 500 million straws in the US per day. The straws nor the plastic cups are recyclable and fill up our land fills and more often than not, end up in our oceans.
This summer I am taking it upon myself to ditch the plastic altogether. No more “it’s ok this one time” excuses. I’ll continue posting about my simple swaps and plastic free journey here and over on Instagram if you care to follow along. A few tips of encouragement for swapping your to-go cup with a more sustainable option below:
BYOC | Bring your own cup. The easiest way to skip the plastic, bring along your reusable thermos, mug, jar, whatever floats your boat. For iced coffee I tend to lean towards my numerous miscellaneous jars but for the colder months I love my Healthy Human tumbler (which comes with a reusable straw!). The YETI tumbler and Keep Cups are popular alternatives as well.
DITCH THE STRAW | Ditch the straw or go reusable. Iced coffee especially is awkward to drink sans-straw but luckily there are a multitude of options. From stainless steel, to glass, or bamboo. It’s important to note, bamboo straws are not indefinitely reusable though they are biodegradable. Stainless steel or glass are best in my opinion. Both of the stainless steel straws I have have been in heavy rotation since my journey to less waste and they’re still going strong. Many glass straw options even come with a carrying case for worry-free travel. I try to keep one in my bag at all times for my germaphobic husband who feels he always needs a straw.
Don’t stress about cleaning your straws either. Most come with their own brush for easy cleaning. A quick rinse and a pass through with your brush and you’re on your way. I have even popped mine in the dishwasher! If you drinking something thicker, like a smoothie, I recommend rinsing your straw immediately to avoid build up.
DIY | Make your coffee at home. if you’re new to reducing your waste, it can be awkward asking for the café to use your own cup, especially when it’s crowded. My introverted self still doesn’t like it. Avoid the shops altogether and make your own coffee at home. If you’re anything like me it will likely become a ritual for you each morning and something you’ll look forward to. I especially enjoy it on the weekends when I know I have plenty of time to sip and relax.
Since my husband isn’t a big coffee drinker, we opted for a Keurig in our home. I like having the option to choose how many ounces I want, or if I want a single serving or to brew a whole pot. I skip the plastic k-cups and opted for a reusable coffee filter instead. Just make sure it’s compatible with your machine if you choose to go that route. Looking to up your at-home game? Try making coffee iced cubes or purchasing a milk frother to practice your latte art. Another good thing about brewing your own coffee is you know exactly what you’re getting. You can choose (to the best of your ability) where your beans come from, and how to dispose of them. I often make a coffee ground scrub simply by saving my old coffee grounds and adding in a bit of coconut oil. Coffee grounds are also easily compostable or simply add them to your garden beds for a quick and easy fertilizer.
So there you have it, a simple swap to reduce your plastic waste. Did I miss anything or do you have any other tips to share? I’d love to hear! Please follow along here and on Instagram and join in on my journey towards plastic free!