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Beth Terry, in her book ‘Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and You Can Too’ (great book, by the way!) , says that she added an R to the 3 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. (If you’re interested, you can see Beth Terry give a wonderful TED talk on the subject that was very inspiring to me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JXWRVrFiKsRefuse! As in, don’t buy it or accept it in the first place. Say no!

One of the first and easiest changes Aaron and I have made to try to reduce our waste, is carrying our own bags with us, as well as investing in good stainless steel water bottles (we like Kleen Kanteen) to avoid ever having to buy a drink in a plastic bottle or cup. Single use plastic bags, cups, bottles, and straws are by far the easiest things to avoid, and are the biggest contributors to the problem of plastic waste in our landfills and oceans.

So when we decided we were going to make some changes last August, cutting out these single use, disposable items was the first thing on our list. In Taiwan, the bigger stores like the Carrefour or other supermarkets ask you if you need a bag and if you do, they charge you a small fee for it. I would usually remember my own bags when I shopped at these stores, but after I became all plastic conscious, I started noticing other things. Things, like when I would buy my fruits or vegetables at the larger supermarkets, I would have to put them in smaller plastic bags to be weighed and stickered. And what about when I went to buy lunches or drinks, or even a snack like sweet potato fries? These things are always automatically put into plastic bags. And everything I was buying usually came in its own plastic bag or wrapper as well. These always ended up in the trash. But did I even need them? Could I really say no when I went to buy this kind of thing?

So I started some thinking. I had a stash of reusable shopping bags already. I ordered some cotton drawstring and mesh bags for things like vegetables and bread (I ordered these from www.iHerb.com, which is a post for another day!) and I changed the way I shopped. We are now able to completely avoid plastic and even paper bags, cups, bottles, straws, and disposable chopsticks, simply by REFUSING them everywhere we go and bringing our own instead. This does require some planning and remembering to bring everything, but now that it’s a habit, it’s super easy! Here are some photos of what an everyday sort of shopping walk looks like for us:

The inside of the bag I bring on all my walks. Bottle, in case I want tea! Bigger folded bag, in case we buy stuff! Smaller cloth bag, in case we want to stop into a bakery! And cell phone! Completely prepared to refuse all garbage and still buy any food/drink we want! :D

The inside of the bag I bring on all my walks. Bottle, in case I want tea! Bigger folded bag, in case we buy stuff! Smaller cloth bag, in case we want to stop into a bakery! And cell phone! Completely prepared to refuse all garbage and still buy any food/drink we want! :

Part of our stash of shopping bags, ready to grab anytime.

Part of our stash of shopping bags, ready to grab anytime.

The two bags I always have with me in my purse. Cloth one, for bread/bakery items (never know when I'm going to super crave a doughnut!)

The two bags I always have with me in my purse. Cloth one, for bread/bakery items (never know when I’m going to super crave a doughnut!)

The kind of bread we buy regularly. It's really quite delicious. We make sandwiches with it for lunches.

The kind of bread we buy regularly. It’s really quite delicious. We make sandwiches with it for lunches.

Storage of cloth and mesh bags. I keep this basket on our fridge, grab and throw some into a larger shopping bag, when I do my weekly shopping. Pretty easy.

Storage of cloth and mesh bags. I keep this basket on our fridge, grab and throw some into a larger shopping bag, when I do my weekly shopping. Pretty easy.

Some mesh bags in our fridge holding green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Some mesh bags in our fridge holding green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Reusable chopsticks/spoon/fork I always carry in my purse for takeout or restaurants that use disposable ones.

Reusable chopsticks/spoon/fork I always carry in my purse for takeout or restaurants that use disposable ones.

 

Here's Aaron at the local fruit market round the corner from our house. He buys bananas there every day. Everything is out in the open, so it's wonderfully easy to use our own bags! In fact, Aaron just sticks the whole bunch in his backpack.

Here’s Aaron at the local fruit market round the corner from our house. He buys bananas there every day. Everything is out in the open, so it’s wonderfully easy to use our own bags! In fact, Aaron just sticks the whole bunch in his backpack.

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Here is the local market where I buy all my vegetables. It was a little tricky to get them used to my mesh vegetable bags (everybody else puts their vegetables into the plastic bags provided all over the market), but now they don't bat an eye at me. Things are cheaper here, too!

Here is the local market where I buy all my vegetables. It was a little tricky to get them used to my mesh vegetable bags (everybody else puts their vegetables into the plastic bags provided all over the market), but now they don’t bat an eye at me. Things are cheaper here, too!

Here's the bakery right by my house where I buy bread. I like it here, because they don't prepackage it, so I can just put it in my own cloth bag. They thought I was sooo weird the first few times I did this, but now they know me as the "foreigner who doesn't like bags."

Here’s the bakery right by my house where I buy bread. I like it here, because they don’t prepackage it, so I can just put it in my own cloth bag. They thought I was sooo weird the first few times I did this, but now they know me as the “foreigner who doesn’t like bags.”

We don't buy tea at the tea shops often anymore. They usually come in a plastic cup, with a plastic seal and a straw. If we do buy tea on our walks, we bring our Kleen Kanteens. We get a discount too!

We don’t buy tea at the tea shops often anymore. They usually come in a plastic cup, with a plastic seal and a straw. If we do buy tea on our walks, we bring our Kleen Kanteens. We get a discount too!

It looks pretty easy, and it is! The hardest part for me is actually not remembering to carry the bags. I’m good at that. The hardest part, is dealing with the strange looks. The “are you sure you don’t want a bag?” Having to explain in my broken Chinese that I don’t like plastic bags. Aaron and I each have a few funny stories of times we tried out our own bags at a new place, and just had so much trouble communicating. At the bakery the other day, Aaron wanted bread and didn’t even have a cloth bag. He finally convinced the lady that he really, truly, was sure he didn’t want a plastic bag, and just wanted to carry the (sliced!) bread home in his hands. When he turned around after paying with the loaf of bread in his bare hands, the woman behind him started clapping! Whether for his refusal of a plastic bag, or his determination to communicate to the store owner, we don’t know! But that’s why it’s an adventure!

So, that is the very first way we started changing the way we do things! It’s by far the easiest change we’ve made. In a few days, I will be posting about my plastic tally for January! Starting January 1st, I started collecting all my plastic trash in a box instead of disposing it with the regular trash (I cleaned it, of course!). It should be interesting to see what came in and what I can avoid in the future.

Thanks for reading! Until next time! 😀

 

 

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