Tools of Sustainability

Written by Genna

Tupperware. 
Utensils. 
Boba straw. 
Mug. 
Reusable napkin. 
Joy. 

These are the top things on my list whenever I leave the house to grab food with a friend, or treat myself to a yummy meal when I don't feel like cooking (which is most of the time). Because I always order enough to have leftovers (can you tell I don't cook much?), I started bringing reusable containers with me when I went out for food during my college years. 

At this point we know that climate change is ravaging the earth, and there is seemingly endless large-scale change needed in order to bring humanity to a livable pace.
It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the scale of this challenge- I have an Environmental Studies degree and I have personally hid from the environmental movement for years. Every time I really think about the state of our world, I am overcome with stress and pressure to contribute to the environmental movement in a big way. While I haven’t had it in me to take part in protests and actions in the past few years, I am always thinking about the impact that comes from my actions. Bringing reusable items with me is an easy and enjoyable way to lessen my waste, while also bringing sustainability into people’s minds where it might not have been before. 

I used to have a special tupperware for leftovers- it fit into all my bags and purses and popped open for a roomy leftover container. I have since given that one to my mom and I now use whatever tupperware is around. It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to work! Lately I’ve been loving this green container, and have found the portions to be quite useful for a variety of leftover combinations. I also carry a set of reusable bamboo cutlery in my backpack, and I supplement with small, light silverware (easy to find at a thrift store or yard sale) once I inevitably lose the bamboo version. Another thing I find useful is keeping a reusable napkin/mini towel in my bag. I generally wrap any snacks I'm bringing for the day in the napkin, and then I am able to forgo paper napkins when eating out. 


A very important item for me is my boba straw. I love the experience of drinking bubble tea, but I don’t love the massive amount of plastic that boba shops typically use. There are glass, aluminum, and bamboo straws all on the market at affordable prices. I try to always keep a clean straw in my bag, so that if a last-minute boba or smoothie craving hits, I’ll be ready. In those cases I take the plastic cup from the boba shop and ask for it without the plastic coating on top, and then I recycle the cup. The ideal situation, though, is when I bring my own mug or cup as well as my straw, and I can rejoice in enjoying my favorite zero-waste treat. 

Now, the experience of bringing your own tupperware can be really chill if you eat at a sit-down restaurant. When the waiter comes asking if we need boxes, I say no thank you and pull mine out to start transferring my leftovers. Most often, the staff are impressed and intrigued by this. When ordering at a more fast-paced establishment, however, there can be some awkwardness about asking the employee to put the food into my container from home. I always ask if it’s possible, rather than demanding they use my container. In general, there might be a moment of confusion or double-checking to make sure it’s okay, but most establishments are happy to forgo their own packaging for the one I provide. 

One thing that really frustrates me about the environmental movement is how strict it can feel.
Zero waste is defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance as “The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.” This extends into many sectors and aspects of society, and I am happy that people are beginning to change their businesses and lifestyles to lessen their environmental impact.
I want to stress, however, that IT IS NOT ABOUT PERFECTION.
The world we live in has been built in unsustainable ways, and it does take work to swim against the stream towards a more sustainable livelihood. I don’t always remember my tupperware; sometimes I get a craving for fast food or candy or something with crazy, unnecessary packaging. I do my best to live as lightly as I can, and I let go of what I can’t control.
My hope is that by doing what I can and encouraging you to do the same, we can inch closer to our goal of transitioning to a sustainable way of life for all. 


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