What Cutting Out Plastic Waste Is Like For Someone Trying It For The First Time

Written by Hannah Miller

Image by Boxed Water / Contributor

No matter how many adorable water bottles, Mason jars, and other reusable bottle options come out into this world, I've always found it a personal struggle to completely cut out plastic from my life.

Aside from the fact that it's not a hugely talked-about topic among my peers, my day-to-day makes committing to a zero-plastic lifestyle no easy feat. I work as a photo producer for a magazine publisher, and coincidentally a crucial part of my job is to ensure the crew is staying hydrated throughout our usually long and strenuous shoot days. Asking everyone to bring their own reusable water bottle to set is a little unrealistic—so the easiest solution is disposable water bottles.

There's no denying the terrible and detrimental effects plastic bottle use has on our Earth, and unless you live under a rock, you've seen the disturbing videos of plastic remnants flooding our oceans or have heard facts like Americans buy 50 billion plastic bottles each year, enough to circle the planet 350 times, and most of it ends up in landfills. It's a scary truth that I fully know the immediate importance of, yet I've (shamefully so) never really tried to be more cognizant of my plastic use. 

However, when I stumbled upon the 30-Day Zero Plastic Bottle Challenge by Boxed Water Is Better during my nightly feed-scrolling sesh, I had to admit I was intrigued. I think mainly because 1) The "challenge" aspect made it sound exciting and like I was doing this great thing with people also like me, and 2) 30 days seemed like a manageable amount of time to test out this new kind of lifestyle. I signed up for free pledge gear on their website and got started.

Spoiler alert: I'm currently on day 35.

The first step.

With any challenge, it's important to pick one first tiny step toward your goal. In this case, switching out the cup I use at my desk. In my pre-challenge days, I would use a new plastic cup every single day from the kitchen in our office. I decided this bad habit was a great first opportunity for change. I said goodbye to my once beloved plastic kitchen cup and headed straight to our prop closet. I picked up a clear glass with yellow stripes, cleaned it off, and haven't looked back since. I'd say it was a pretty successful first day.

The habits that changed.

In the cafeteria in my office building, there's the option to choose reusable and non-reusable cups for drinks. Out of habit, I would always automatically grab a plastic cup without even thinking. Now, I'll only use the reusable cups that the kitchen generously cleans out every day for reuse. I'm not pointing fingers or anything, but perhaps they should only offer the reusable or something more sustainable… Food for thought. 

Honestly, I've always found carrying around a reusable water bottle a pain because of the extra weight (I'm usually working off-site half of the week, which requires carrying around a heavy laptop all over the city.) Investing in a mini water bottle made carrying something reusable convenient and light—my shoulders will thank me later. Always remembering to grab it before heading out the door is still a work in progress.

Asking everyone to bring their own reusable water bottle to set is a little unrealistic.

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How I altered my work life.

Image by Boxed Water / Contributor

As I mentioned before, plastic bottle use is standard on our photo shoots. When I started doing this challenge and had a shoot coming up, I started thinking: There has to be some other type of grab-and-go water bottle that's not 100% plastic. I suggested using Boxed Water instead on our sets to the other producers on my team, and they were super supportive. It's paper-based, recyclable, and—I have to admit—looks great on set. The reaction to this switch on set was received really well by our co-workers and freelancers—it made me realize that way more people than I thought were cautious about their plastic use. 

For the future...

Nobody's perfect, and I will admit I slipped up a couple of times when plastic may have been a more convenient option at the time. But I'd say overall I kind of kicked butt at the plastic bottle challenge.

Time will tell, but the fact that it's been more than 30 days and I'm still continuing to be more cautious about my plastic use says something. As with any lifestyle change, however, there's bound to be room for improvement. I hope for the coming weeks (OK, that's a little ambitious, perhaps months) to transition this new lifestyle into other aspects of my plastic use than just bottles—things like cutlery, bags, and so on. I think the fact that this challenge has made me interested in a new lifestyle is a huge step for me.

But again, baby steps...

Think you can take the pledge too? Sign up for your free kit from Boxed Water for an "I took the pledge" badge and take 20% off your first order at boxedwater.com with code MINDBODYGREEN.

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