ReUsing vs. Single-Use
The question of reusing vs. single usage arises in the context of our collective awakening to address environmental concerns.
Single-usage is a luxury that we have become extremely accustomed to, but are now questioning as we try to do less harm and more good for the planet, especially considering our very serious plastic pollution of the oceans.
It is really heartening to see creative ways people are reusing and hence reducing their trash footprints. Take a look at a few ideas:
Need a new fence, but have some old skis? great!
Used-clothing shopping is the best way to find unique clothes that don't contribute to textile pollution and are cheap!
Wow, look at this beautiful garden and the pathway made from a tree that had to be cut down!
Throughout history, there was never a time, before the 1940’s, where the notion of using something only once made any sense. The judicious use of one’s resources was to use and reuse, repurpose, and restore everything as much as possible.
The idea of single-usage, or otherwise known as “disposables” was introduced as a public health safety measure to allow each person to have their own cup and not have to share from a common metal cup at a water bowl as was common place.
In response to this, the famous “Dixie Cup” was born and was used most often in train cars to help prevent the spread of disease when people drank water.
In 1948, McDonalds was the first restaurant to replace all their reusable table settings with disposables. The disposable trend has remained one primarily for public eating and drinking at fast food joints, “to-go” operations, and grocery stores. "Disposables" became a way to save money, without thinking about the cost to the environment. The use of disposables and the corporate backing for them introduced the culture of convenience. This was the perception that we would be provided for at stores and groceries so we would no longer have to take responsibility for bringing our own bags etc… Fast food chains have a bad reputation for decimating precious and finite land and trees to supply, not only their animal products, but also their take-out paper products.
As responsible citizens, we need to let these companies know, through our consistent actions, that we don't need their convenience/destruction and in fact prefer to bring our own reusable gear.
The Truth about Reusables vs. Disposables:
In case there is any question about if reusables are more eco-friendly than disposables, we have referenced a study which compares reusable mugs to disposable cups. The results parallel findings from more recent studies comparing reusable bags vs. “disposable” ones which find that when you reuse your reusable items, they are more eco-friendly than single-use items.
In the study below, a reusable mug is found more eco-friendly than single-use cups once it is used 25 times or more. If you get a cup of coffee every day, after the first month of reusing your coffee mug, you’ll be having no further eco-impacts from your cup. If you use that mug for say 20 years, you’d reuse that mug over 7,000 times and eliminate about 240 disposable cups.
If only one person in the world used disposable cups, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but Starbucks alone uses 4 Billion cups/year, which could all be replaced by reusing our own mugs or jars.
Ask Pablo. Disposable Cups vs. Reusable Mugs. December 17th, 2007. http://www.triplepundit.com/2007/12/askpablo-disposable-cups-vs-reusable-mugs/
Americans use around 16 billion disposable hot cups a year.
The true cost of this is
- 6.5 million trees (“disposable” hot cups must be at least 90% virgin material)
- 253,000 tons of waste in landfills and oceans
- 4 billion gallons of water
- 2.5 million mtCO2 of green house gases, the equivalent of 450,000 passenger cars.
This is only for hot cups – 130 billion disposable cups of all kinds are used by Americans in one year.
Remember the WHOLE picture though:
To make any act truly sustainable, you need to think like an engineer about all the parts involved – so for a truly sustainable cup of coffee, you’d need your own mug,
organic and fair trade coffee and
Non GMO soy milk
(or some other milk alternative to factory farm cow milk).
REUSABLE = LOVE:
Today, plastic and paper bags, utensils, plates, napkins, cups, straws, and bottles are now part of our “to-go” culture and can EASILY be replaced by individuals bringing their own reusable food and drink containers from home.
Luckily our disposable craze is starting to be replaced with common sense by many.
- Many cities are creating bag bans or taxes
- Lots of wedding and event planners rent table settings vs. using disposables
- Some movie sets don’t allow plastic water bottles and instead provide a reusable bottle to each crew member and
- 100% natural/zero processed disposable options like banana leaf plates are rare, but SO cool and bring us back to nature!
What is happening now, is the beginning of a worldwide change of consciousness that understands our survival (and happiness) is dependent on the health and welfare of our fellow humans, plants, animals, and ecosystems. We’re moving away from a linear way of thinking and embracing a more loving and understanding approach that takes all impacts into consideration.