Changing habits isn’t easy. As a professional beach volleyball player, I’ve learned this the hard way throughout my career. Whether you’re training to get rid of a bad habit or try something new, it takes time. I’m a big believer in small incremental changes, working towards daily improvement that is actually manageable. Small consistent improvements compound massively over time.
I’ve found this is especially true when the thing you’re trying to avoid or reduce is all around you, as is the case with single-use plastic. If you try to switch to a zero-waste/plastic-free lifestyle overnight, that’s going to be damn hard.
Single-use plastic is everywhere in our daily lives, and it’s even harder to avoid when we’re traveling. Also, we’re all human. Sometimes we forget our grocery bags or our reusable water bottles at home.
A few things that have helped me is to think about where I use plastic in my daily life and when I’m traveling. Also, I’ve found that having the right gear that you’re actually stoked to use helps me remember, thank you MiiR!
Here are a few ways I’ve tried to use less plastic at home and when I’m traveling:
1) Think Reusable
Day to day at home or on the road, I usually drink what is probably an unhealthy amount of coffee. Then I (hopefully) balance it out with a couple of gallons of water at my beach practice, in my gym workout, and for recovery. If I wasn’t using the MiiR Travel Tumbler for my coffee and multiple Wide Mouth Bottles, that could be a dozen or so plastic bottles/coffee cups every day. Training five to six days a week, that adds up throughout the year.
2) Keep it Cold
I split time between LA and Rio de Janeiro, living and training in the summer year-round. It’s hard to explain what the heat and humidity are like, but having ice-cold water at the end of a long training session is a beautiful thing!
3) Skip the Plastic Bag
Aside from coffee and water, I realized that single-use plastic creeps in when I’m grocery shopping and ordering food to go. I’m not perfect, sometimes I forget my own bags. When I do I use my backpack if I have it, or opt for paper bags instead.
4) Ditch the Cutlery
If you’re ordering take-out and taking your food home anyways, ask them to keep the plastic knife and fork. Restaurants are keen to save money wherever possible. Also, if your favorite restaurant uses plastic bags and containers you can ask them why they do. If they hear a simple question from enough customers, it could nudge them to use more sustainable paper-based products instead.
5) Keep it Fresh
Opt for fresh vs. frozen food. Trader Joe's makes this very difficult for me personally, but I began to realize that the majority of frozen food packaging is microwaveable plastics which are hard or impossible to recycle. Plus you get the added benefit of eating less processed foods.
In addition to individual actions working to eliminate single-use plastic through local and state policy is extremely effective and important. Some people will shift their own behavior but we also need strong incentives through policy to work towards systemic change. Voice your concerns at city council meetings and to your elected officials, their jobs depend on listening to what you care about.