Zero Waste Week – oops moments

Ok – zero waste today was a little harder.

First of all I got on the train WITHOUT my coffee.  Usually I walk, but today Steve dropped me off and I left my coffee in the car.  Luckily, Au Bon Pain has reusable cups ($2.99 for the cup and ‘refills’ are $1.29 – bargain considering a small coffee is about $2.00).

With day 3 zero waste crisis #1 averted, I went to my first meeting. That’s where the second oops happened.  I was on my way out of the ladies when I realized I just threw away a paper towel after drying my hands!  Then after the meeting I did it AGAIN.

Since I had back to back meetings I wanted to grab lunch before my afternoon got too busy.  As I headed to a nearby deli to pick-up some soup, I stopped.  They had only disposable food containers and utensils.

I got to thinking – where can I grab a quick bite with zero waste?  A sit down place was out of the question – no time and I wanted to keep it under $10. So, I headed to Pret a Manger.  Any salad or soup was a no-no.  Even the sandwiches in the little boxes were out because of the plastic ‘window’.  Then I saw the ‘toasties’, which were wrapped nicely in a brown paper packaging.  After I was done I folded up the wrapper and tucked it in my purse to bring home for composting.

After lunch, I crossed the street to Bryant Park (lovely day in NYC today).  It was packed with people, and park staff were dutifully emptying all the trash cans.  I wanted to recycle the water bottle I got at Pret, but all of the bottle/can recycling bins were black lined, which is a pretty good indicator that the bottle wouldn’t be recycled.  That also went in my purse to bring home.

Later, I met a colleague at Starbucks before yet another meeting.  I still had my Au Bon Pain cup with me and wanted to get more coffee.  I challenged the four Starbucks employees to put two espresso shots and some ice into my cup WITHOUT using a paper or plastic cup first.  You would have thought I asked them to build a spaceship to the moon, but they got it figured out and I was able to avert another zero waste crisis.

I had another bathroom-paper-towel-oops moment at a break during an evening class, but FINALLY learned my lesson on my way home.  The super fantastic xlerator hand dryers at Penn Station were not operational so I went the air dry method.  (Someone pointed out to me on twitter that jeans or jacket work well for drying hands.  I completely agree.  My clothes today weren’t too absorbent.)

So the lessons for today are:  coffee isn’t really a necessity, but can wreak havoc on your zero waste intentions.   Sometimes it takes three oops moments and wet hands before you can turn off auto-pilot.


About Amy Marpman

Director of Recycling Services at Great Forest, Inc. in NYC. Continually finding the balance of idealism with the practical realities that make or break recycling programs.
This entry was posted in The Rubbish Diet and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Zero Waste Week – oops moments

  1. Pingback: Zero Waste – workweek update | Beyond the Blue Bin

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