If you are like me, you have a tendency to be over ambitious with your new years resolutions. I often set out to cut something completely out of my life, shift to a whole new routine, or change my habits. In these cases I almost never succeed in my goals. Once the year starts and work takes up my time and energy and everything else piles on my plate I abandon them for something less ambitious. The only new years resolutions I can seem to stick to are those that require smaller changes. Like starting to floss or making my bed every day. Things that can be achieved with a small step, a single shopping trip, or a minute of thought.
Don’t get be wrong, change is great. I wish I had the resolve to say “this year I will cut plastic out of my life for good”. But I don’t think it will happen for me. So instead, these are the plastic related resolutions I am making this year. I am hoping they will inspire some of you to think about the small changes in your life to reduce your plastic-use.
1. Assess your biggest challenges
One of the easiest ways to make a resolution to reduce plastic is to figure out where you are still using plastic on a week-week basis. Where can you cut down? This differs a lot depending on your habits and even where you live. Currently, I have been doing a semi-weekly commute between two cities. I often leave early in the morning and buy breakfast at the train station, most often a plastic packaged yogurt. If I plan ahead and packed a breakfast ahead I would stop wasting that plastic during my commute!
Resolution: Pack breakfast to go.
2. Invest in your journey
Sometimes investing in better tools can cut down on your plastic use. Are you always using disposable coffee cups because you don’t have one you like? Buying bottled water because you like it sparkling? Still clinging to your old plastic lunch boxes? Sometimes investing a bit of time or money in a sustainable solution can pay off. For example, the aforementioned problems can be solved by finding a good to-go cup, a soda stream, or non-plastic lunch boxes (I prefer glass, but you can get some good metal ones too).
Resolution: Get more glass mason jars to help with resolution 1. Finally invest in bees wrap for my leftovers.
3. Remember to ask
I have gotten much better at remembering to ask for no bags when I am out shopping, but there are some other cases where plastic is common. For example, I have been flying a lot lately.
Resolution: Ask for no cup or straw when ordering drinks.
4. Work up your nerve
Sometimes breaking the norms of plastic use can be intimidating. If you are at all like me, you hate calling unnecessary attention to yourself in your daily life. I prefer to remain somewhat invisible when going about my regular shopping and errands. I know this is augmented by the fact that I am an ex-pat. If I can make it through a day without anyone noticing that I am not fluent in the language and customs of where I live, I consider that a major success. Consequently, I sometimes use plastic where I shouldn’t, like when buying bread at the store or getting a to-go coffee in a plastic-lidded cup. Going against the norm can be scary, but is a great way to start to change norms. This year I will try to gradually get over my intimidation.
Resolution: Start branching out and bringing re-usable bread bags, asking for espresso drinks to go in my to-go cup.
5. Get your household on board
It is hard to reduce your plastic usage if not everyone in your household has the same ideals. Maybe your partner does most of the shopping and loves to use plastic bags. Maybe your roommate keeps throwing out their recyclable waste. By talking about your goals with your family or roommates, you can increase your impact by making them more aware. Maybe you can’t shift their behavior, but by sharing your goals with others you can improve your accountability. Even if they don’t want to take part in your plastic-free journey, maybe they will learn about a small, accessible change that appeals to them too.
I hope that this has given you some good ideas to help set your resolutions for 2016! Check out this post for some ideas of good plastic-free products. If you are new to your plastic-free journey, check out this post on how you can get started this year! Also, check out this one for some more ideas of 2015 resolutions from the Plastic-Free Tuesday team. Wishing you all a happy new years from snowy Stockholm!
This blog post was written by Amelia, an American native living in Stockholm. Amelia is an environmental scientist with a background in science communications.