How to take a plastic-free stand when no one else will
Picture this. You travel to a different country, or maybe only a different city or town, to find that the plastic-free movement so prevalent at home has not yet reached here. There are no water refill stations: you are expected to buy water in plastic bottles. What is described as a ‘bulk food’ shop only provides plastic pouches to put the bulk food in. Supermarkets give out plastic carry bags willy-nilly and disposable cups are the only option for your daily coffee.
As someone who lives in Australia, where any of these situations would be greeted with outrage, this makes you uncomfortable. What do you do?
Can you do anything?
Below are some ways both individuals and businesses can consume less plastic in this instance.
Buy a filtered water bottle. Many countries do not advise that tourists drink the tap water – forcing you to buy bottled water. If this is not alright with you, consider purchasing a reusable bottle with a filter – there are many affordable options out there. However, we suggest you research what is wrong with the tap water in these countries so you know what you need to filter out, and buy according to this.
Bring your keep cup. This is a habit many of us worship when at home, and yet the trusty keep cup often seems to be forgotten when packing for a holiday. And yet, when better to be able to buy a guilt-free coffee – when you are travelling, constantly on-the-go, wanting a pick-me-up to get you to that next museum or through that next train ride.
The same goes for a reusable bag. When buying souvenirs or groceries (if planning on cooking), your backpack can get very full, but you don’t want to accept the plastic bag that cashiers automatically put your purchases in. If you would bring your reusable shopping bag with you at home, make sure not to forget it when you travel.
Wanting to extend your business into a new country, but not sure how well-accepted plastic alternatives will be? Here are a few tips.
Provide paper bags. By all means, advertise the fact that customers can bring their own reusable bags, but if this is not a widespread practice then people might not go for it. By supplying paper bags you provide a more sustainable alternative, allowing customers to buy from you without you stress while also promoting the idea of a more eco-conscious practice.
Sell keep cups. Provide an accessible and affordable way for people to bring their own keep cups, and provide discounted prices on coffee.
Communicate. Put signs up on your walls highlighting the damage plastic does to the environment, and detail ways that consumers can reduce their plastic consumption. You might find many people are aware of the issue but at a loss to how they can make a difference, while others have not considered the impact of plastic waste but are eager to learn.
And give it a go! Nothing will ever change if companies go with the flow of the places they are working in. Creating conversations and educating people is one of the most powerful tools there is. Who knows, maybe your sustainability decisions will cause other businesses to make changes in their practices, too.
Post by Tallis Baker.
Planet Friendly Packaging acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we work.