01 July 2008

Disposables Have Got to Go

by EcoDeaf contributor, Erika Thompson

Americans need to stop the disposable paper and plastic mentality! In my conscious effort to slow down global warming by reducing the CO2 emissions, my "carbon footprint", I decided to ban paper and plastic disposables as an experiment today.

At Starbucks, during an unexpected stop when I had to wait for a certain store nearby to open in half an hour and baby Blake was awake and demanding breastmilk, I decided to sit down and have a drink to pass my time. Instead of getting disposable cups (which greatly harm the environment with the production of paper and plastics that emit a lot of CO2, and most of which aren't recycled by consumers), I wanted to buy a permanent starbucks mug which I'd leave in the car for every SB visit.

Upon ordering my tea, I asked through speech to have it poured into my new mug. Instead, the employee used a paper cup and a plastic lid, thinking I only wanted to buy but not use the mug (huh??). I then wrote down to clarify, and this was worse... she transferred the contents into my mug and then THREW away the paper cup, hence nullifying my fight against global warming if that paper cup was already "disposed of" on MY account. Not only this happened, but I had also wanted to buy a large glass jar for loose leaf tea infusion. Without asking me, this same lady immediately wrapped the jar in lots of tissue paper. She had only just begun with a slight wrap without yet crinkling or folding the paper when I halted her and asked not to. BUT then she CRUMBLED and and THREW the entire pack of tissue paper (in almost perfect condition) that she had barely used!

AND then, she quickly took out a gift bag for the jar, but I stopped her right away, insisting that I'll just wrap it myself with the receiving blankets I already had in my tote bag, and to simply put it in the bag (Duh!). I failed my effort to zero out my "footprint" today. Looking back, I should have accepted the paper cup, declined to purchase the new mug (since I'd already have the disposable when it was too late), and with restraint, accept the tissue paper (so I could re-use it myself later, a lesser evil than seeing it go to waste).

The message of conservation needs to get across to all Americans, so those of us who do care, don't need to struggle to NOT do harm.

Weeks later, at a GAP, where I was exchanging Niel's gift shirt for a different size, I had brought in the shirt already folded in a little "Baby Gap" box. I clearly asked the sales lady to use the same box for packaging that I had brought, and she agreed to do that. When I glanced away (of course to my sweet baby near me) and then back to the lady, I caught her trying to slip a darn store plastic bag over the box, struggling to get the bag over without ripping it. I couldn't help but yell, "No! I don't need that, thank you!" I obviously didn't have a problem arriving without a bag, so why should I need help leaving the store with a bag? I had my stroller with me, where I could conveniently place the box without the bag after the exchange.

Today, I am proud to have walked into Ralphs and out with a lot of groceries without consuming any bags - paper or plastic. I simply asked the bag boy to put all my groceries in the cart without any bags, and then at the car, I transferred everything into my tote bag that I had forgotten to take out in the first place. It was easy! 

What about those fruits and veggies in the produce section? Don't I need those little plastics for covering 'em? Nope. No bags at all . . . I wash my produce before eating or cooking them, so why the bags? I'm wasting a LOT LESS plastic or paper bags now than I ever did before, and feel exhilarately great about it!

Click here to see a power point slide about the harm plastic bags are doing to our environment. I happened to get it recently from a friend and from my mother through email, and thought it was appropriate to share in this post.

by EcoDeaf contributor, Erika Thompson


  1. Erika,

    Good Grief! I know...

    It makes me sad whenever I see plastic bags hanging on tree branches. I call them the plastic monkeys. :)

    San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007. :)


    Maybe the best way is to get your home city to legislatively ban plastic bags.


  2. Encore, encore, Erika!

    I have been on the same boat as you and it is so frustrating to encounter constant ignorance and self centeredness by people like that. One lady I made a friendly suggestion to use a mug to get her fill instead of plastic still comes to work with starbucks disposable plastic cup everyday.

    Those being worldly uneducated are doing a great deal of injustice and disservice to our earth that are inhabitated by animals, mammals and us, humans, for many generations to come.

  3. Erika,

    Your commentary and efforts pay off. For every action you take, a seed is planted. I am big on using my own stainless steel mugs at any coffee shop and do not have trouble with baristas. Giant's will deduct five cents per bag that you use that is not a paper or plastic bag but rather a canvas bag. How cool!


  4. i have made effort not to use bags at stores. I wonder what best way to line the trash can other than plastic bags.

  5. BTW, this is an interesting article about how and where plastic bottles are made from.