I’m still in Hawaii with my family. The following is a guest post from Fake Plastic Fish reader Kayla Bonczek, who is working to reduce the amount of disposable plastic in her life as she starts college. I wish I had been this aware as a teenager!
Hello, Fake Plastic Fishes! My name is Kayla and I am nineteen years old. My interest in environmental sustainability began with a trip to Vermont and an AP environmental science (APES) class taught by my favorite teacher, where I was exposed in both instances to a wide array of environmental issues. I could go on all day about these issues, but for this post, I will try my best to stick to plastics because this is Fake Plastic Fish.
This past summer has been my first one spent in Texas for some time (I went to high school up north, but grew up down here). I was very fortunate to find a job right away at an amazing family-owned business. When I first started working, I was told that employees were allotted two drinks from the fridge per day. The drinks included sodas and Snapples —- all in glass bottles, but all full of sugar -— and plastic water bottles. I thought, “Hey, I’ll just bring water from home every day to counteract this situation.” But after bringing my Klean Kanteen, and eventually a plastic 7-11 mug (it violates health code to drink out of a container without a lid and straw at a food-related business…nice huh?) I was still thirsty every day. Some days I ended up drinking two plastic bottles of water, sometimes one, even though I was fully aware of the effects not only of the plastic but also the untested water inside. It is probably my biggest shame of the summer. On the bright(er) side, after a week of bringing my bottles home after work to recycle myself, I convinced my work to start making use of that recycling bin out back. One of my fellow employees even began recycling in his own home. As I see it, if you cannot completely nix the waste, recycling goes a long way.
Now, I am about to head to New York City for my second year of college. I spent my first year abroad in Italy and was lucky enough to live in a furnished apartment with, ahem, seven other girls. This year I am taking about ten steps backward (I will miss cooking and having plenty of personal space) and living in a typical college dorm room with one roommate. As I started to think of what I needed for the room, I knew one thing that I did not want a lot of plastic. To me, plastic = college dorm room; from the plastic storage boxes under your bed, to the plastic storage boxes in your closet, to the plastic trash can, to the cheap plastic lamp…the list goes on. I cringe at the sight of Target’s dorm room aisles. Different neon color plastics as far as the eye can see!
Here is what I did to cut down my consumption (on the cheap!) while preparing for college:
1. Garage sales
I started mapping out and going to garage sales in my area every Saturday morning in July. I found, among other things, an under-the-bed storage container ($3), lamp ($5), picture frames ($1), storage bin ($4), and antique flower prints ($1) to decorate my walls. A few of these items needed a good cleaning, but really they were prices I could not beat.
2. Reusing what I have at home
Did I really need to go out and buy another power strip when there are five lying around the house? Or two new pillows when I have four already on my bed? It saves more than just money when you use what you already own.
I wanted to start this year off right when it came to products I used on my body, and Etsy was the first place I looked. Not only do you support small businesses when you buy from Etsy, you also do not support big conglomerations whose practices you may not agree with. I found vegan deodorant, a lotion bar (that comes in a metal container…no plastic involved!), a face wash bar, and shaving bars that I feel good about putting on my body.
4. Less is More
I use to be a huge believer in glopping on a ton of lotion, toothpaste, body wash, whatever. But since I started spending more money on the good stuff (and would prefer it to last longer) I have taken on the “less is more” approach. Not that I am skimping on anything, I assure you. A little will go a long way!
5. Reusable razor
I took a cue from FPF and asked my Poppi if he had an extra safety razor I could use. He did, and he sent me 10 razors, too! I ordered some really amazing shaving bars from Etsy seller, GudonyaToo and the rest is history. A safety razor is a great investment that means less plastic waste, and less money spent overall. Plus, can also vouch for a closer shave!
Quality, Not Quantity
Although my budget was tight, I tried as much as possible to buy quality items for my dorm room that will last me a while. These included wooden hangers, a good iron and ironing board, organic cotton bedding, real dishes and utensils, and various bowls and cups for everything that goes on my desk. I am already building a collection of home goods for my future apartment.
If you have any other suggestions for my college years, please let me know; I would love to hear any tips! Also, please check out my blog, My Polychrome Life, for an eye-opening update on how much waste my parents and I generate on our three day, three hotel drive up to NYC from Texas.