Fed Up with Plastic Waste

We’ve been an ecologically-minded family for many years. It seemed like the easiest thing to do when we lived in a single city for many years. Moving around the globe, however, we have found a wide range of reactions to our reduction, or refusal, of single-use plastics. Here are a few key areas in which we chose to focus in order to minimize our ecological footprint in our travels.


Plastic Straws

You might only use it for a few minutes to sip at your beverage during a meal, but according to Ocean Conservancy, it’s one of the most likely products to end up as plastic ocean waste, contributing to the poisoning and killing of more and more water-based species every single year. Consider carrying your own reusable variety, or even simply going without.

But don’t forget to ask! On a recent visit to San Diego to see family, we dined out at a beautiful brunch restaurant called Snooze. When I initially inquired about paper straws, our server informed us that they were unavailable, so I refused. Noting my sincere desire to prevent plastic waste, he took the time to double check the restaurant’s supplies and located these sturdy striped beauties!

This beautiful brunch featured Chile Verde Benny and Steak and Eggs Benny + my striped paper straw for sipping!

I’m happy to report that my pretty paper sipper here was sturdy enough to last all the way throughout our leisurely brunch. This place also has a killer Eggs Benedict and pancake selection, too. If you’re in Southern California, I *definitely* recommend stopping by for a bite!

Plastic Bags

Shopping for food can vary dramatically in different parts of the world! Some of our favorite shopping in Sicily happened in the weekly farmer’s market in our tiny little town. It offered easy access to fresh produce, literally from the people who grew the food, with minimal waste.

Our Little Sous strolls through the farmer’s market in Sicily.

We’d simply bring out own cloth tote bag, collect our produce, and head for home. But, what happens if you get stuck or forget your reusable bag? Ever been caught where you really needed something to carry your purchases? What can you do with that pesky plastic shopping bag?

Here’s a quick video demonstrating one of our favorite folding techniques, which we learned during our ten years living and working in central Japan. This origami-like process allows you to quickly and easily store your plastic shopping bags in a pocket or handbag, so you’re always ready to pick up beautiful local produce on a stroll around town!


Plastic Bottles

Depending on where you live or travel, it can be difficult to avoid single-use plastic bottles for drinking water. We were blessed to live in a small town in central Japan where fresh spring water was literally flowing in the streets! Natural runoff from the snow-capped mountains ran down the rivers and flowed freely from wells all over our fair city. It made it easy to carry our own reusable bottles and refill with clean, potable water as needed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case all the world over.

Free flowing water, right next to our international Montessori School in central Japan.

If you must drink bottled beverages, find out how your city’s municipal services collect and dispose of them, then do so appropriately. Locate a reputable recycling company or initiative in your community, and contribute.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to say, “No!” That’s right, it’s perfectly OK to refuse to take a plastic bag from a merchant or vendor.

Yes, you may get some really strange looks. You may have cashiers and sales associates who insist that you really should just take the bag. Remember, just because it’s generally accepted as normal doesn’t mean that you need to do it.

During our time in Mexico, my family and I got those strange sideways glances regularly, at first. After about a month walking up and down the streets of our little beach town, always carrying our backpacks or cloth tote bags, we could see that we’d earned the recognition and respect of many in the community. Simply explaining that we wanted to reduce the terrible trash problem that everyone saw in the streets on a daily basis encouraged sympathy and greater understanding of our cause. Soon, we would overhear baggers and shopkeepers telling their fellow staffers that we were the family that carried our own reusable bags. On occasion, we even saw others shopping near us refusing a bag for the solitary item for which they’d run to the market that day! We loved these little victories!!!

Our Chef de Partie shows off his produce packing skills after a bike run to the farmer’s market in Australia.


What Can You Do?

1 – Shop as close to your local food sources as possible, and maximize purchases of items in nature’s wrappers, to reduce packaging waste.

2 – Bring your own bags to carry your things home with you.

3 – Reuse and repurpose the wrappings and containers that you can.

4 – Recycle materials such as paper, plastic, metal, and glass so that they can be broken down and used to make other items.

Our favorite glass bottle, used for storing teas in our new kitchen in Albania.

Every little bit counts. Every single thing you do makes an impact.

What will you do today to reduce plastic waste in your daily life, wherever you are?

Share your tips in the comments below, and help us all help one another, and our planet!

Many thanks, from Our Kitchen Classroom to yours!!!

2 thoughts on “Fed Up with Plastic Waste”

  1. Love it. The big supermarkets in Australia are phasing out single use plastic bags. By 1st July they’ll be gone! I must remember to pack some bags using your technique.

    1. Yes, Karen King! More and more places around the world are beginning to acknowledge the damage that these bags are doing, and have either begun phasing them out or charging their customers for each bag. I hope having to pay will discourage more and more of us from using them, or at least encourage people to reuse them once they have them. This simple folding technique certainly makes them easier to store and access.

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