Day 7: Unintentional Trash

I came so close to a 100% trash-free day today! I created no trash or recyclables almost the entire day. However, I have to go into state government buildings for work and, because I don’t have an ID badge, that means I get stuck with a Visitor sticker. It’s something that’s out of my control, and it’s recyclable to boot, so I don’t feel bad about it.

But over the first week of the challenge I have been thinking about “unintentional” or thoughtless trash we create as we go about our daily lives. It’s one thing to focus on and reduce the trash in your home environment, since you’re in control. Out in the world, you have to contend with public restrooms that only have paper towels, glasses of water with a plastic straw that materialize at your table in a restaurant, receipts that you didn’t ask for.

For me, it’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, and effecting meaningful change requires more than individuals changing their behaviors. Maybe that means taking an extra minute to ask the manager of your favorite restaurant not to distribute plastic straws automatically, or asking the management of your office building to install hand dryers in the restroom. Or maybe it’s choosing to spend your dollars with companies that show care for the environment and take meaningful steps to reduce waste and energy use.

Individual changes absolutely matter too. But if enough people care enough to speak up or vote with their pocketbooks, over time we can make things like trash-free grocery shopping the norm, and not something boutique and available to a select few.


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