COFFEE TO GO? BRING YOUR OWN CUP!

What a crazy time. A few weeks ago, we were working at the office, meeting our friends, going out and playing football. These days, most of us are (working) at home. Schools are closed. The streets are empty. Due to the coronavirus, all cafés, bars and restaurants in the Netherlands are closed, with the exception of take-away. And that’s what we want to talk about today: how to eliminate single-use plastics for take-away food and drinks. Coffee to go? Bring your own cup! Pita-falafel? Bring your beeswax wrap!

cofee to go restaurant

WHAT TO BRING?

Reusable cup/bottle for your coffee to go

The choice is endless! Personally, we’d like to keep a separate reusable bottle we call them your BBF) for water refills and a smaller reusable mug/cup for coffee to go. Not all cups/mugs/bottles are suitable for hot drinks, so check beforehand when buying one. Secondly, pay attention to the washing instructions, as some are not suitable for dishwashers. Last but not least, choose for something that lasts long and does not leak.

Food storage containers

Again, there are many good options here. Zero-waste sisters Jessie and Nicky always carry a mason jar with them. If you prefer something lightweight, you can choose for example recycled plastic (look for BPA-free). Steel is very long-lasting, but not suitable for microwaves. For sandwiches/pitas, you can bring reusable beeswax wraps. Eating in the park or on the train? Bring your own cutlery!

HOW TO ESCAPE PLASTIC BOXES/PAPER CUPS?

  1. Be prepared: bring your reusable items when going out for the food hunt. You can always stack a foldable reusable bag under your bicycle seat or as a key hanger.
  2. Feel proud: never be embarrassed about you bringing your own packaging. Feel proud instead!
  3. Be quick: when ordering, immediately ask the staff to pack it in your containers. Make sure to show it to them (people tend to have a bad short-term memory when hearing things, but this improves when seeing things). When ordering a cold drink, say no to the straw.
  4. Pay the right price: use a waterproof marker to write the weight & volume on your containers. So in case you buy food per kg, they can easily deduct the container weight from the total. Furthermore, look out for discounts. Some places offer €0,25 discount when you bring your own cup for instance.

DO YOU HAVE MORE TIPS?

We would love to hear more stories how you can avoid single-use plastics. Please share your experience below. For the coming weeks: good luck, keep your distance and stay healthy! And a big applause to the medical staff worldwide.

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RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU: MORE THAN JUST A TOUR OPERATOR  

Today we focus on RESPONSible Travel Peru, a community-based tour operator (HQ in Cusco). While tourism contributes 10% of global GDP and accounts for one in 10 jobs worldwide, the industry’s use of key resources is growing equitably. Think about its generation of solid waste, including marine plastic pollution, loss of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. Tourists, tour operators, tourist accommodations and (local) governments are all responsible for this. And capable to change the industry.

That’s exactly what RESPONSible Travel Peru has been doing. During the past months, they organised several sustainability workshops throughout Peru. Including tips about how to become a refill station. We got curious and asked Daniel Muñoz all about it.

INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL MUÑOZ (D), EDITOR AT RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU

Single-use plastics are still widely used in Peru. What are the biggest challenges?

D: There is a big culture around the use of disposable items. They are cheap, practical and available all over. Although the law against the use of plastic bags/cups, straws, styrofoam cups/boxes was approved last year, its enforcement is slow, and it is also being internalized in the minds of people at a very slow pace. There is still a hard-to-believe lack of consciousness among citizens and companies as well, but neither municipal government offices are doing their part (very few exceptions only). 

That is a shame. Some habits are not easily changed. Governmental rules and bans are a great help but not sufficient. Luckily, tourists and tourism facilities can make a change too. For the latter you organised several workshops. How did that go?

D: The workshops were held in various cities: Cusco, Urubamba, Puno city, Arequipa Coporaque, Nasca, Paracas, Lima, Huaraz and Chiclayo. We started months ago preparing ourselves via our own internal workshop (2 weeks) where, as a team, prepared the sustainability criteria and useful information to share with providers (transportation companies and drivers; agencies and guides; hotels and homestays; and communities that provide Community Based Tourism (CBT)). We contacted all the participants one by one, and asked them for collaboration in terms of conference rooms, snacks and lodging. 

So you managed to reach quite a lot of people. What kind of information did you share? How did your audience respond to the workshops?

D: The public was very participative. Also because we promoted participation within special segments of the workshop where we asked to mention problems faced in the area, as well as possible solutions. 

We started with an overview of global problems faced by the planet (global warming, SDGs, etc.). This was followed by a local overview and sustainable tourism approach. We explained who we are and our way to do stuff. Furthermore we looked at sustainability and tourism certifications (mostly Travelife). We gave a resume of sustainability criteria by sectors (as named above), and sustainability strategies. And then in detail about becoming refill stations.

CREATING NEW REFILL STATIONS IN PERU

That’s very good. In Peru refill stations are hard to find (and this increased our motivation to start Refill Ambassadors). For example in Cusco, there are so many hotels, bars, shops, restaurants and museums. The potential for new refill stations is huge! Let’s talk a bit more about your effort to create new water refill stations, since that is our main focus too. What worked well and what did not? Did you just ask your partners to become a refill station?

D: Yes, we started encouraging partners to implement refill stations at their businesses, first by means of the word through our workshops. That didn’t work out that well, only a couple did it right away, others only because we provided the water filters. But 25 other participants of the workshops filled out forms where they were requesting more information on how to become a refill station. So that was our next step.

We can imagine the concept of ‘becoming a refill station’ needs some more explanation before facilities actually join. Can you tell us in depth about this ‘next step’, how did you follow-up?

D: We implemented our own sustainability team, and already sent-out our first three newsletters sharing tips and relevant information, and a special one (with all the information related to refill stations) was launched as well. You can check this last one here (in Spanish). So far, about 30 new refill stations are on the way to be established.  

Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink. That means refill stations have to be equiped with some kind of water filter. Or they can be a large water tank (e.g. 20 L with deposit). Could you tell a bit more about the water filters you provided for some homestays? What type of filter is used?

This is the HUATTA family at their homestay in Taquile island, Titicaca lake (Nazava brand). A similar filter was provided to another homestay (coffee farmers) in Cusco, along our Coffee Route to Machu Picchu; and a third to a local restaurant in Cusco city with which we collaborate largely (they provide cooking lessons as part of our Meet-the-local activities).

It’s really great that you organised these workshops. And to see the effort is paying off. You at RESPONSible Travel Peru have become true experts while still continuously looking for improvements. Can you share some other sustainable travel tips?

Sure! Here are some tips we promote among our customers (we also posted about being environmentally responsible during a trip):

  • Travel light (and to use that space to bring donations).
  • Embrace the slow-travel philosophy. Really get to know the destination and meet the locals
  • Use ground transportation as much as possible (and to fly the least);
  • Bring reusable bottles and zero-waste kits
  • Eat local and slow food.

Daniel, thank you so much for your time and keep up the good work.

LEARN MORE

RESPONSible Travel Peru is a community based tour operator since 2009. Its founders wanted to tackle ‘the problem of welfare projects and defined periods specific to non-profit organizations, which seek to train small entrepreneurs and rural communities, but that at the end of the management fail to achieve self-sufficiency’ (read more). Over the years, RESPONSible Travel Peru has become much more than a just a tour operator: they are a great source of inspiration for travellers, tourist facilities and other tour operators in the world.

All images provided by RESPONSible Travel Peru

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BEST PRACTICES: ZERO WASTE SOFIA

Restoring the public fountains in Bulgaria. That’s one of the main goals of Zero Waste Sofia. Their founder, corporate communications professional Simona Stiliyanova wants to create a movement and help everyone in Bulgaria to reduce their waste, from packaging to wardrobe. And she pays special attention to public fountains. We were really curious about this initiative, so we picked up the phone. 

INTERVIEW WITH SIMONA STILIYANOVA (S)

Why did you start Zero Waste Sofia?

S: Adopting a ‘zero waste lifestyle’ is something many of us dream about, but struggle to actually do it. Where do you even start? I managed to reduce my waste by about 60% and I wanted to document my successful and unsuccessful attempts to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, and that’s how Zero Waste Sofia was born. I want to show that living a little more “green” does not necessarily mean mixing up recipes with 400 exotic ingredients all day long. On the contrary – by implementing various small changes you can simplify your life and even save money and earn more time for yourself and your loved ones.

Can you tell us more about the specific ‘fountain project’?

S: Fountains of Bulgaria enables active people to stop using disposable plastic bottles and save money by giving them a map of all sources of free tap water near them. I am working to embed information about its quality, feedback for broken fountains and other initiatives too.

CAN YOU DRINK TAP WATER IN BULGARIA?

So we assume, tap water in Bulgaria is potable?

S: Yes, we are fortunate to live close to thousands of free sources of high quality drinking water. In Bulgaria, there is an old tradition for people to build drinking fountains. As a result of it, there are nearly 7,000 of them all over the country. However, nowadays our modern society is rapidly adopting the “throwaway” culture, putting the tradition on the shelf and sending nearly 5 million disposable plastic bottles to the landfill every day.

 I conducted a national research among 600 respondents, and found out why people use or do not use public fountains. The 3 main reasons for not using them were:

  • 89,4% of all interviewees consider that they do not have enough information about the quality of water
  • 64% do not use public fountains, because they are broken or dirty.
  • 54% do not know where to find them

That’s why I decided to go further in addition to the mapping. I partner with local civic organizations, contact municipalities to report broken fountains and encourage my readers to do so. And together with some other volunteers, we started to clean the fountains ourselves.

Oh yes, we read about that on Zero Waste Sofia. On September 14th, you joined with the Let’s clean Bulgaria together” event. Can you tell us more about this?

S: I am really happy that even it started small, it grew so quickly and was supported by many volunteers from all over the country, even two whole municipalities and bTV national television. For the clean-up we used only natural products as vinegar and baking soda. 

You already have 960 refill stations on your map. How do you add new fountains? Can bars and restaurants also sign up as a refill station?

S: I started to add fountains to the map myself. Nowadays hundreds of volunteers are helping me out by adding new fountains through the website form. Venues that provide tap/filtered water and welcome people to fill their water bottle for free can also join. You can already find some restaurants on the map.

FUNDING & SUPPORT FOR THE PROJECT

Do you get any financial support to do all this work?

S: No. Currently the project is ran without funding by volunteering efforts in our spare time. The project is working without a budget as a Google map since 2018 and it has already gained ambassadors, volunteers and public support, including national TV and other media features. To achieve higher impact and scale our solution we need to invest in a fully functional digital platform, water sampling and analysis and a strong awareness campaign. This year “Fountains of Bulgaria” even was ranked among 30 semi-finalists from over 500 projects across Europe challenging plastic waste in the European social innovation competition. As a part of it we visited a Social Innovation Academy in Turin where I attended many really useful workshops and met amazing people from all over Europe. Integral part of the team were my partner, who is also supporting me a lot with the project and my (then 2 months old) baby, who travels everywhere with me. :)) Thanks to the competition we also met our amazing coach, who is still supporting me with the project.

Last question: what is your ultimate goal? 

S: I want to start a national movement of tap water users and ambassadors – bringing tap water its credibility and public fountains back to life. A change in consumers’ mindsets and behaviour towards purchasing bottled water (in regions where water is drinkable). Hopefully we will achieve a system change – municipalities investing in the development of a strong public fountains infrastructure, instead of encouraging the usage of more single-use plastic bottles and looking for ways to recycle them. And of course the ultimate – legislation change – plastic bottles bans at key public places. 

READ MORE

The website Zero Waste Sofia is in Bulgarian (yes with a Cyrillic alphabet!), but that doesn’t stop us from being big fans (thank you Google Translate!). In our opinion, Simona is a true hero, and a talented photographer too. Check out the Zero Waste Sofia Instagram, and get inspired!

Do you have tips for Simona how she can grow the refill network in Bulgaria? Or do you want to become a volunteer or project partner? Please contact Simona at Simona@zerowastesofia.com.

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6X PLASTIC FREE GUIDES

This month marks the 5th edition of the Plastic Diet Challenge in the Netherlands. Each week, we reveive tips and tricks how to avoid and reduce single-use plastics. Refilling your water bottle is one step, but there are many other products to tackle. Just look at your fridge or cosmetics. We love plastic-free tips & tricks. In today’s blog, we highlight a couple of interesting platforms and guides. 

1. TRAVEL WITHOUT PLASTIC

The Travel Without Plastic founder Jo Hendricx and her team created ‘Let’s Reduce Single-Use‘, a Toolkit to help hotels and accommodation providers reduce or eliminate single-use plastics and providing practical, affordable recommendations. Besides the toolkit, they offer a “Plastic Reduction Guide” (avaliable as free downloadable version, or €79,- for the complete guide), workshops and personalised support. Furthermore Travel Without Plastic has inspiring blogs and reports.

Travel Without Plastic

​ 2. HET ZERO WASTE PROJECT

Dutch Sisters Nicky and Jesse Kroon live a zero-waste lifestyle. Step by step they managed to eliminate their waste stream, using the 5R-principle: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. They wrote the practical book “Het Zero Waste Project” (in Dutch), opened their own sustainable lifestyle store called SMIR, maintain a blog, and keep an online overview of ‘bulk stores‘ in the Netherlands.

Het Zero Waste Project

3. SLO ACTIVE

This luxury swim wear brand recently updated their guide, titled Plastic Pollution: Single-Use Plastic Impact on our Oceans. It’s comprehensive, intensely detailing the facts and figures of plastic pollution, the impact on our oceans and marine life. The brand is inspired by the slow movement.

4. BETTER PLACES

Better Places is a sustainable travel agency. Practical tips and tricks how to avoid plastics, eat vegetarian and susainable hotels can be found on their website for each country in their portfolio (in Dutch).

Image: Better Places

5. MYPLASTICFREELIFE.COM

100 steps to a plastic-free life. Wow! This inspiring woman, Beth Terry, has been blogging for more than ten years and researching plastic-free alternatives (see her ongoing Plastic-Free Guide). She also enjoys reviewing alternative products from ethical companies. 

6. CUSTOM EARTH PROMOS

Blogger Erin Pearson writes about simple lifestyle changes. Those small impacts can start to add up and make a difference. “These changes can be as simple as swapping one product on your next trip to the supermarket, choosing a responsible eco-friendly company over an oil-guzzling conglomerate, or simply reusing that coffee cup.” On the website Custom Earth Promos you find tips and tricks and a wide range of eco-friendly (packaging) products.

What is your favourite plastic free source?

There are hundreds of cool plastic free tips & tricks guides and zero-waste guru’s. We picked these 5 platforms, because we like them (we don’t receive commissions!). Please note we did not try to make a complete overview. Do you have another favourite plastic-free guide or guru? Leave your comment below. 

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REFLECTION ON A PLASTIC DIET

During the month September I was on a plastic diet. One month without using single-use plastics. Or at least trying to do so. The plastic diet was organised by Opgemärkt and consisted of four weekly assignments. How did it go? Read about my struggles and victories.

WEEK 1: INSIGHT

The first assignment was to collect all plastics you’re throwing away and share your picture. I felt somewhat embarrassed but I put my picture on facebook (see below, and this is excluding plastic waste to-go). Furthermore I set myself the 1st goal: to cook plastic-free meals. This was though. I had friends over for dinner and wanted to make lasagne. I walked in the supermarket and ran out. Spinach, lasagne, butter, cheese. Everything wrapped in plastics. No lasagne tonight, and no more shopping at Albert Heijn this month.

WEEK 2: MAKE AN INVENTORY

This week’s assignment focused on tracking different categories of single-use plastics. Plastic bags, cups, bottles, straws, shampoo flasks etc. I already banned straws, bags and bottles, but realised that was about it. Ready for the next step! I took my tupperware to the roti-restaurant and my mug to my favourite coffee bar. As a sympathetic gesture they gave me 5 cent discount. Do you know you get €0,25 discount at train stations when you bring your reusable mug?!

WEEK 3: REPLACE

The past two weeks I avoided to buy things wrapped in plastics, like dairy products or cosmetics. But my stash was running out and I didn’t want to live on fruits, veggies, rice and bread forever. I switched to glass bottles (with €0,40 deposit) for yoghurt and milk (at EkoPlaza) and went to a bunch of speciality stores (e.g. cheese, nuts) with my own bags and jars. What a treat! It tastes amazing. I must admit the glass bottles are heavy and visiting all these stores is pretty time consuming. Luckily, you can find an overview of bulk stores in the Netherlands here.

Furthermore I experimented with cosmetics. I washed my hair with a soap bar. It took forever to rinse, so I’m not sure what’s actually better for the environment. My home-made deodorant (coconut oil, lavender oil and baking soda) was okay but got too fluid above 25°C. Making my own body-scrub (sea salt, olive oil and honey) turned out to be more successful, my skin felt super smooth and smelled great.

WEEK 4: SOCIAL SITUATIONS

Besides bringing my own cup, bags and jars, I started friendly chats with the waiters or other staff about single use-plastics and alternatives. This led to some interesting conversations and new insights. Two restaurants said they would eliminate plastic straws ASAP. Hurray!

WHAT DID I LEARN?

I thought I was doing pretty okay in plastic reduction, but during this month I realised I’m not even halfway there. When the plastic diet was finished, I felt relieved. And a bit sad. On one hand I had cravings to everything wrapped in plastic, on the other hand I did not feel like buying any plastics anymore. I feel I’m not ready for a complete zero waste lifestyle, like Jessie and Nicky Kroon (hetzerowasteproject) or Elisah Pals (ZeroWasteNederland). But I managed to change some aspects of my daily routines and that’s something to be proud of.

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I AM ON A PLASTIC DIET

This week I was one of the speakers at the “Plastic Dieet Kickoff” (Plastic diet) in Rotterdam. A great opportunity to present Refill Ambassadors and to share tips on where to refill your bottle. I also got inspired myself. How much plastic packaging do I use? And what can I do to reduce this?

WE ARE ADDICTED TO SINGLE-USE PLASTICS

Plastic bags, coffee cups to go, plastic straws. Plastic packaging is everywhere. The idea of the plastic diet is to avoid single-use plastics as much as possible for one month. By doing so, we raise awareness and hopefully change our addiction to plastics.

Some pioneers show it is possible. Nienke Binnendijk from BlueCity has been living almost entirely “plastic-free” for about two years, while Jesse and Nicky Kroon from Het Zero Waste Project adopted a zero waste lifestyle.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Time for some self-reflection… Some measures to avoid single-use plastics are already part of my daily routine. As refill ambassador I use my BBF (Best Bottle Forever) instead of buying plastic bottles. When shopping, I try to bring my own bags and jars. These are baby steps. The amount of plastic packaging still entering my house or used on the go is considerable. Some of the groceries I buy are pre-packed, magazines come in a plastic wrapper, and almost all caring and cleaning products come in plastics. Plastic is also inside some products I use on a daily base, like facial scrubs or toothpaste.

For the first time of my life, it’s time to go on a diet. This month I will try to avoid products involving single-use plastics. That’s going to be hard, but I’m really excited to join this challenge!

READY TO START YOUR PLASTIC-FREE MONTH?

It’s the first week of September and you can still sign up for the challenge. You will receive tips and exercises to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. All communication is in Dutch. Looking for another language? Find your free tips here:

Spanish: 30 Días Sin Plástico

English: Plastic Free July; MyZeroWaste

German: Stadtkind; Otto; Kein Plastik für die Tonne

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IN 450 YEARS FROM NOW…

We humans nowadays live up to around 80 – 90 years. This is peanuts for plastic bottles. They need around 450 years to decompose. 450 years? That means an empty bottle disposed today could still be alive until the year 2468.

PET FOR DUMMIES

Water bottles are made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is a thermoplastic polymer. PET belongs to the polyester family. Parts made from PET can be recognised by resin code number 1. The material can be found in different states: white (semi-crystalline), transparent (amorphous), or coloured (using additives). PET is very suitable for storing and conserving of beverages. Furthermore it is easy to process, widely available and cheap. It is possible to recycle PET, either by chemical or mechanical recycling.

So far, so good. What about the difficulties?

PET is a non-degradable polymer. It consists of relatively large molecules that decay very slowly. That’s why plastic bottles can survive up to 450 years. Presently, the majority of empty PET bottles is not recycled. One reason is that bottles are not properly disposed. For example, because consumers don’t properly seperate plastics from general waste. Secondly, the infrastructure for recycling is still limited. As a result most bottles end up in landfill or are being incinerated. Valuable material is wasted. Incineration also causes air pollution and contributes to acid rain.

YOUR DEED FOR THE DAY

Your mum may have told you not to pick up things from the street, but… Next time you see a roaming PET bottle, pick it up and dispose it in a proper place. So it won’t celebrate its 450th birthday in our nature. Believe me, it becomes quite entertaining and rewarding when you do so!

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