Disposable Coffee Cup

Hey friends! I started Honest + Simple to track my own baby-steps to greener living and to encourage you to join me along the way. If you don’t know – you’re my accountability partner. So thank you for being here!

In today’s post, I’m sharing some of my earth-friendly goals for 2022. Let me know in the comments which ones you’re on board with or if you have some of your own — I’d love to hear from you.

One note before we dive in: I hope you resist the urge to compare your progress to mine or anyone else’s. Give yourself credit for what you’ve achieved and use this info for inspiration if you need it and are ready for it.

Okay…here’s what I’m planning in the coming months:

1. Stop using disposable razors.

I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time and finally need to make it happen. I’m buying a safety razor with real blades in 2022! It might take a little bit of practice to use it without knicks and cuts – but I’m convinced it will be worth it.

Why?  Disposable plastic razors are generally not recyclable and end up in our landfills. By last count, Americans were discarding about 2 billion disposable razors each year. Aside from what happens in our landfills — we should consider all the unrenewable fossil fuels it takes to produce plastic razors in the first place. We can do better than this!

Do this instead: Buy a safety razor made of metal, bamboo or another sustainable material. There are many options besides plastic and they aren’t hard to find.

2. Stop using plastic toothbrushes.

I’ve resisted this idea for a while, because it seems like such a small thing. Does it really matter that I throw away 4 toothbrushes a year?  I’m convinced, however, that if each one of us did these small things, we could have a big impact. I think it’s fair to say when consumer demand for plastic toothbrushes goes down, manufacturers will jump on board with alternatives. We’re driving this bus!

Why? By one estimate, Americans discard approximately one billion plastic toothbrushes each year. National Geographic says if you laid out all those toothbrushes end to end, they would circle the globe four times. [Gulp…that’s one country for one year; if you do the global math, you’ll realize this is a huge issue.]

Plastic takes anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to decompose. Think about it…our grandparents’ plastic toothbrushes are still hanging out in a landfill somewhere — eew! [Note: Plastic toothbrushes came on the scene about 100 years ago; before that, they were made of sustainable materials. So this is simply going back to basics.]

Do this instead: Look for a bamboo toothbrush with a removable head. Bamboo is highly renewable and biodegrades hundreds of years quicker than plastic. If you want to take a deeper dive into this topic, here’s an article about bamboo and how to compost it.

Why do I recommend a removable head? If you keep the handle and just replace the nylon bristle head, you’ll be reducing waste and freeing up space in our landfills. Note that most bristles are made from nylon plastic and do not biodegrade quickly. For now, here are Toothbrushes With Replaceable Heads: 7 Choices To Reduce Waste.

3.) Ditch disposable coffee cups.

Even though I’m not on the road to work these days, I still get “coffee-to-go” about two or three times a month.  Some large coffee chains like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have made efforts to replace plastic Styrofoam and similar materials with paperboard.  

But the bottom line is even double-thick paperboard cups need a plastic liner of some type. If you’re drinking iced coffee, you’re not off the hook either – since many of those #5 plastic cups are not recyclable. You can learn a whole lot more about takeout coffee cups in this article: The Massive Impact of Your Takeout Coffee Cup.

Why? Even with the best attempts by coffee retailers for more earth-friendly solutions, there’s no such thing as fully recyclable coffee cups, lids, sleeves and stirrers. Some or all of what we’re using ends up in our landfills and in most cases, takes many years to break down.

Do this instead: Take your own cup and ask them to fill it up. I haven’t tested this out yet to see if it’s accepted in our area, but I plan to try it soon. I know there were restrictions on bringing your own cup when covid first came on the scene, but it seems most of those restrictions have been lifted.

In some parts of the country, you can even get a small discount for bringing your own cup. At the very least, I don’t think anyone behind the counter will raise an eyebrow today if you ask about using your own cup. Let’s try it!

4. Don’t toss everything in the clothes dryer.

Clothes washers have had big improvements in energy efficiency over the past 20 years, but the same can’t be said for clothes dryers, which continue to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and of course, add to our out-of-pocket energy costs. [Check out my post on how to reduce some of your drying time with dryer balls.]

Why? The typical clothes dryer can consume as much energy as a new refrigerator, dishwasher and clothes washer combined. (Source: Natural Resources Defense Council). And then there are those carbon dioxide emissions mentioned above, of course.

Do this instead: Look for ways to air dry your clothes – either by installing a clothesline (indoors or outdoors) or using indoor drying racks. This isn’t an “all or nothing” idea. I plan to get a couple of clothes racks and use them for heavier items that take longer to dry, like jeans and towels. It’s not a perfect solution, but it will still cut down on our dryer use.

5. Stop wish-cycling.

Wish-cycling is when we toss something in the recycle bin without really knowing if it’s recyclable or if we’ve chosen the right recycling method for that item. [I’m looking at you…grease-laden pizza box.]

Greasy pizza box
Cardboard is recyclable, but not if it’s greasy.

This habit is a bigger, broader one to tackle than the others and takes more time and thought. My suggestion is to aim for subtle shifts in thinking, which in turn will lead to changes in our behavior. I’m finally starting to realize that when we throw something away, it doesn’t really go “away.” Everything we toss goes somewhere and continues to have an impact on the planet and ultimately on our quality of life.

Why? Most of us are aware by now that only a small percentage of what we think is being recycled ever goes through the full process. Only about 9 percent of plastic, for example, ever gets recycled after we toss it in the recycle bin. You can read more about that here.

While recycling is a complicated and boring topic — at the very least, let’s acknowledge that one bad item in a batch can toss out the whole load. We don’t want to be the guilty party on this! [I talk about this a little in my post on recycling soft plastic film.]

Do This Instead: Start by educating yourself about your community’s recycling options. Most communities provide a printable reference for recycling on their city or town website. Print out that guide and keep it handy until it becomes second nature to you.

There are also a number of recycling apps and websites that invite you to enter your zip code and let you know about different recycling options. You can type in “toothpaste tube,” for example, and find the best option for your area.

I trialed a few of these apps and websites and found the results inconsistent. But I did find earth911.com somewhat helpful. (FYI…the desktop version was better than the app.) Start by selecting “Where to Recycle” at the top of the homepage and then type in the item you want to recycle and your zip code.

When I searched “cardboard,” for example, my city’s public works department came up and it correctly listed cardboard as “curbside.”  I also had the option to click on “35 more items,” in effect giving me all the items eligible for curbside recycling in my community.

One Final Resource: Many brands now offer their own recycling programs, especially for hard-to-recycle products. So far, the best website I’ve found to explore this is TerraCycle.com.

Be aware that Terracycle offers pricey paid options. But here’s a link to their FREE recycling programs. You can also sign up to be a collection site for your community.

Disposable coffee cup with red x through it

Now over to you. Please leave a comment to let us know which one of these ideas you’ve already embraced and which ones you plan to try. We need to encourage each other on this path!

I am not a licensed nutritionist, medical professional or cosmetics expert. The information provided on Honest + Simple is for general informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food + Drug Administration and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease. Before making decisions about your health or other concerns, please consult a qualified professional and do not rely on this website for medical advice.

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