Danielle Richardet is one of my personal plastic-free heroes. Visiting her home in North Carolina this past Spring was inspiring.
Witness her pantry…
As a mom of three kids, Danielle is not content to simply make personal lifestyle choices. She teaches her kids about caring for the planet by taking them on regular beach cleanups.
And she helped get smoking banned on her local beach to cut down cigarette butt litter.
Danielle comes across as soft-spoken, but she’s enthusiastic about speaking up to ask for what she wants. A while ago, one of the readers of this blog left a comment asking for advice on how to ask stores and farmers market vendors to use her own containers instead of disposable plastic. So I asked Danielle to write a guest post for me, since she is the queen of speaking up. Here she is, in her own words.
Hi, my name is Danielle and when it comes to living with less plastic I’ve learned some valuable valuable lessons that have helped me reduce the amount of plastics I’m throwing away or “recycling” and make new friends in the process!
In the fall of 2010, I made the decision to do a plastic-free food week. My first step was to plan ahead and make my own. Making my own was all fine and dandy for some things, but I knew that some things were beyond my abilities or desire to make. I thought that I was going to have to learn to live without, but then I had an idea. What if I could avoid plastic-packaged products by bringing my own reusable containers?
My first stop to try out this idea was at my farmers market. I went to the farmers market with a plan to ask for what I wanted— local foods packaged without plastic. Talking to Nature’s Way Farm and Seafood about my plans for living without plastic for a week, I mentioned how we would miss their goat cheeses and then the words came out “I was wondering if I brought my own containers for goat cheese and for crab cakes… if you could fill them for me and I pick them up the following week?” Not only did he say “yes”, he thought it was a great idea and he hoped more people would do the same.
Now my asking for what I wanted didn’t end with connecting with the farmers at my farmers market. Knowing that small, local businesses would be more likely to help me succeed in using less plastic, I started there. I went to my local co-op and started asking them to help me use less plastic. Can I get cheese wrapped in paper instead of plastic? Absolutely.
I began looking for solutions to disposable plastics everywhere I went. At my favorite place to eat—Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn—they have a salsa bar with little plastic cups. They also have reusable bowls for queso. Seeing a solution to my plastic problem, I explained how I’m trying to not use disposable plastics and politely asked if I could have a reusable queso cup for my salsa. Plastic problem solved!
[Danielle also brings a glass jar in case there's leftover salsa.]
Now having done this for a few years now, I feel super comfortable asking for what I want. Sure, sometimes, people tell me “sorry, can’t do that”, but it’s ok. Because for the handful of times that I’ve been disappointed, there are so many more instances when I have been blown away by the generosity to help support me living a life with less plastic.
Success stories: Change is happening because I asked!
My co-op is fairly small and doesn’t have enough space for all the bulk products, so they prepackage some bulk items in plastic bags. Back in 2010, I hesitantly asked, “Could I leave some jars labeled with what I want and you fill them for me when you fill the plastic bags?” YES!
After giving a Plastic-Free Living Presentation with Beth (yes, the plastic-free one) and Bonnie Monteleone at UNCW in March 2013… other people started asking if they could do the same thing and started asking my co-op to “get rid” of prepackage bulk. My co-op listened and they are now in the process of moving more items into the bulk bins!!!
Recently at my farmers market, a local Italian bakery that had always packaged their breads in paper switched to plastic. I nearly cried. (no joke) I asked about the switch, reminded them of my commitment to not using plastics and left without a purchase. Then the following week, as I was walking up to the farmers market … a vendor that I’ve never purchased anything from yelled out to me with a huge smile, “She’s using paper again!”
And back to goat cheese, I used to be the lone person bringing my jars. But this year, Nature’s Way Goat Farm got their wish: more people are bringing reusable jars for goat cheese!
Oh, but wait! The success isn’t always about using less plastic! Surprising, I know. There have been some added side-bonuses to stepping out of my comfort zone and asking for what I want… err… need. Throughout these past few years, I’ve had to start many conversations about my “plastic-diet” and in the process have made loads of new friends. Because I’m asking for something that is out of the ordinary, it helps people remember who I am. It’s nice to be remembered ;)
Anytime I feel nervous about asking for something out of the ordinary, I remind myself that I will only get what I want by asking. And hey, I might get lucky and make a new friend.