I’ve been really inspired recently to work on reducing the amount of plastic waste I create. It’s hard to avoid plastic – it’s literally everywhere. One thing I am constantly annoyed by is the amount of plastic used to wrap fruit and vegetables – especially if they’re organic. Why is it impossible to buy a cucumber without a plastic wrapper?
But there’s also a lot of plastic waste we create “on the go” – grabbing a cup of coffee usually means a paper cup with a plastic lid, smoothies and juices are served in plastic cups with plastic straws, and when we buy some groceries on the way home from work, we grab a plastic bag as well.
A lot of this plastic waste can be avoided by simply being a little bit prepared. If you’re a woman reading this, chances are that you’re carrying a purse most days. If you’re a guy, maybe you carry a laptop bag or backpack. So really all you need is to remember to take a few things with you when you leave the house in the morning. Here are four things I’ve started to carry in my purse pretty much all the time:
Reusable shopping bags
Supermarket chain Netto recently announced a test campaign in cooperation with WWF to introduce a deposit on plastic bags – bags get more expensive and customers get a small amount of money back when they return the bags. The returned bags are then recycled. For now, they’re testing the concept on the Danish island of Funen.
I think it’s a great campaign, although it could go even further. I think plastic bags at the supermarket should be priced much, much higher to actually deter people from buying them every time they’re buying groceries. If they cost 50 Kroner a piece, maybe people would actually consider bringing a reusable bag!
I have different fabric bags at home, but the one bag that’s always in my purse is this foldable shopping bag I bought at Helsam for maybe 25 kroner. It can be crumpled together to the size of a tennis ball, so it doesn’t take up much space in your bag. It holds a ton of stuff and is really sturdy to boot, so I highly recommend this. I’ve maybe bought one or two plastic bags at the store since I got this bag, and that was only because I ended up buying more than anticipated.
I also avoid packing my vegetables in the plastic bags provided in the fruit and veg section, most of them are charged by the piece anyways. At Løs Market and ecological stores, you can also buy fabric bags in different sizes to use for the same purpose.
Finally, supermarkets like Irma will often have the cashier pack items such as packages of meat into a separate plastic bag – it’s meant as a service, but if you’re quick enough, you can manage to say “nej tak” to that as well!
Reusable water bottle
Are you drinking enough water? If you’re anything like me, probably not, and in that case, a reusable water bottle serves a dual purpose: saving plastic while keeping you hydrated! They don’t take up a lot of space in your bag and water is easy-peasy to come by even on the go.
My bottle is a glass bottle from Retap, a Danish brand that I’ve already written about a while back. I’m super happy with it – it’s actually really sturdy, it doesn’t leak, and it’s nice to look at. Bu there are of course tons to choose from. Kleen Kanteen seems to be a super popular brand if you’re looking for an isolated bottle, or you can always recycle what you already have, e.g. an old juice or water bottle.
Reusable coffee cup
I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t have a thermos or other reusable coffee cup, right? But most of us probably just use it to bring hot beverages from home, when we should also be using it when buying coffee to go!
Someone did some awesome crowdsourcing in the “Expats in Copenhagen” Facebook group to compile a list of coffee shops and cafés that will refill your reusable cup, which I’m allowing myself to repost here:
- Espresso House (I have personally experienced that Espresso House will refill a reusable cup, but I’ve also been told they only do so if it’s one of their own, branded ones, which I find ridiculous)
- Coffee Collective
- Coffee Studio
- Small, independent coffee shops are generally more flexible and will usually let you use your own cup.
One trick I have learned from a zero-waster on Instagram is the following: if you ask to get your coffee in your own cup and they refuse, simply ask for it “for here”. Then they will prepare it in a glass or a porcelain mug, which you can then simply pour over into your own cup. It’s not ideal, but you’ve still saved on plastic.
I’m using a KeepCup and a Starbucks thermos cup, both of which I’m super happy with. The KeepCup is especially awesome for iced coffees, cold brews, etc. and I love it even more because I got it from a friend!
My latest commitment to reduce my consumption of plastic is to #stopsucking – meaning I’ll stop using plastic straws. You can start by simply refusing plastic straws whenever possible. Almost always, cafés will serve juices, lemonade, or other cold drinks with a plastic straw – when it’s just as easy to drink from the glass. Or are you using plastic straws when you drink a glass of juice at home? For drinks with ice cubes, having a straw is often easier (and avoids ice cube-related injuries to your teeth!). You can find reusable straws in many different versions, including glass and stainless steel, and in different sizes. I bought mine at Eco Ego close to Nørreport station.
Are you carrying any of these items in your bag? And do you have any further suggestions for reducing plastic waste? Let me know in the comments!