Daily Mantras of the Plastic / Waste Free
There are a few things you will find yourself saying over and over again on a daily basis in order to avoid an onslaught of unwanted plastic.
It falls on those of us who want to live life waste free to proactively request that we aren’t given plastic, otherwise it will simply be handed over to us out of habit.
The more you say the below mantras, the more automatically they will flow from you, until they come out unconsciously. When I began using these phrases I felt apologetic when speaking them, feeling sorry for ruffling any feathers and being difficult, for not just going along with the norm, but after repeating them numerous times in numerous circumstances, I became confident saying them and realised that they were not an imposition but a valid appeal.
Each time I would leave proud, happy in myself and more convinced than ever that I was doing the right thing and had done my bit to make a difference, no matter how small.
And, the more people that chant the below refrains, the more those in the service industry will get used to hearing them and the more prepared and more willing they will be to accommodate your request, and the requests of the reusable nation as a whole.
No bag, thank you
The first thing that anyone wanting to reduce plastic use and waste learns to say at every checkout is “no bag, thank you”.
Some businesses don’t offer plastic bags anymore (thank you!), some make you pay for them to deter you from using them and some automatically shove your purchases in them. If they charge for them, they’ll usually ask you if you want a bag, but if their staff are trained to place whatever you have bought in plastic bags (which is often the case with companies that use plastic bags with their logo on to get free advertising while you walk around the mall), you’ll need to explain that you’ll be putting your goodies in a bag that you have brought or just carrying them out in your arms.
Personally, I have never been refused, but I have heard of cases at clothes shopping outlets where the cashier has rejected the request to not place items in a plastic bag.
Hopefully, the amount of times this occurs is few and far between. I am not sure how I would react in this situation (probably take the plastic bag with my purchases in, then take them out again out of site and leave the plastic bag in the store, hoping it is reused), but I am sure that me visiting the same store again would not be likely.
It is best to have any reusable bags you have brought to use ready for use when you get to the point of sale, especially if there is a long line, out of consideration for other customers. It will also leave you less flustered when trying to quickly pack your things and will enable the person at the register to immediately see that you plan to use your own bag and will not be needing a plastic bag.
No straw, please
When ordering a drink, you’ll need to say, “No straw, please” upfront every time.
You know that you are trying hard to cut plastic from your life, but your waiter or waitress doesn’t and may not even be aware of the waste-free movement.
So, politely ask that they don’t put a straw in your drink if it comes with a straw (you'll be surprised at what comes with a straw sometimes!).
Whenever I have asked, it has never been an issue and the person serving me has thanked me for letting them know up front, with some of them having experienced people shouting at them for serving them a drink with a straw. It is not their fault society has been conditioned to drink out of straws!
And, this does not help the no straw crusade.
Being well-mannered and explaining why you no longer use straws will be received much better, and will hopefully make those sharing out straws think harder about blindly and aimlessly giving straws with drinks that don’t need them.
Or, if you have brought your own reusable straw, simply get it out and say, “I have my own straw” when ordering. Having your own straw can help, providing a visual and more of a clue as to why you don’t want a straw. Pulling out one of these beauties – the last straw you’ll ever need! – will send a strong signal that you won’t be sipping on no plastic straw.
I won’t need a paper napkin
Even though you may have just explained that you don’t want a straw, if you are eating as well, you will probably still have to say, “I won’t need a paper napkin”, else you will get a paper napkin with your knife and fork.
Again, giving everyone a napkin or serviette is conventional and they may understand and agree with not creating waste by using straws, but they may not realise that your waste free ambitions extend to the use of paper napkins as well.
And, rightly so, as some people are plastic free, not waste free.
Maintain politeness and maybe explain that you are waste free and don’t use or want any disposable items with your meal.
If you’re a messy eater like me, you may not want a napkin but you may need a napkin! Available waste-free alternatives include a reusable fabric serviette, or using your fingers to clean up the immediate mess on your chin and washing your hands (and face, if necessary!) in the toilets after eating.
Again, getting your own napkin out also lets them see you won't be needing one and will remind you to say you don't need one.
Can you please put it in this?
A more imposing appeal, as this may actually be a nuisance in certain situations, this is where it is most important to be polite and thankful.
For a yes to be more likely, it is best to go during less busy periods and to ensure your container is clean and the right fit – no one wants to handle another person’s mucky dish and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to use your container, so it is vital that it is the right size and shape for whatever you want placed in it. You can even phone beforehand and ask over the phone if it would be possible for you to bring your own container.
I have only been turned down once (by a chain claiming health and safety reasons). Other than that one time, everyone has been more than happy to oblige. I have never been judged; only met with either curiosity or praise.
If you get a yes, be grateful and thank them for accommodating your request. They really don’t have to, so they are doing you a favour, and the more polite and grateful you are, the more likely they are to do it for you and others in future. Give the reusable nation and us zero wasters a good name!
If you get a no, respectfully ask them why this is the case and listen to their answer. Although it is their choice and a business’ choice whether they accept using a reusable container supplied by a customer, there are no laws that prevent the use of reusable containers.
It is your choice whether you still make the purchase or choose to go somewhere else if you are refused. There is usually no point in fighting it, and the best thing you can do is put your dollars where your heart is and take your business elsewhere.