A Week Without Plastic for Earth Day

As brewers, we know that we have a commitment to make sure our impact on the environment is as minimal as possible. It’s why during the drought we took steps to monitor our water consumption and eliminate waste wherever possible. And it’s why we feed our rooftop garden with compost made from spent brewing grain and recycled water.

But this year, we’re taking it a step further and partnering with the Surfrider Foundation to help them realize their mission of protecting the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches through education and activation. Starting this May, we’ll be joining them at 6 different beaches around Southern California – and one river – to help get rid of as much plastic as possible.

That got us thinking about how much plastic we use on a day-to-day basis, so we decided to open up a challenge to our staff: try to go a week without using any single-use plastic, all leading up to Earth Day. To make it a little easier, we even bought everyone who participated a shiny new stainless steel straw. Of course, even they arrived individually wrapped in plastic.

This was going to be difficult.

Below you’ll find the journal entries for the 5 team members who tried (and mostly failed) to limit their consumption.

Day 1, Sunday:

Taylor Durham, Barback: I started not-plasticking a day early and was super successful on Saturday, followed by an epic fail on Sunday. On my Saturday warm-up I actually had to pass up a coffee after my barista shift because I forgot my mug at home. Sunday night I was tired… maybe I stayed up too late watching #Beychella on YouTube. I went for a Big Gulp-sized smoothie across the street from my coffee shop and didn’t think twice until she handed me the cup and I realized I had failed the no-plastic challenge on Day 1.

Lupe Saldana, Retail Receiving Specialist: I was good about it yesterday but, that was probably because I didn’t go anywhere. I did notice that the tide pods we use are plastic but, I’m not sure how that fits into the scheme of things…I promise I didn’t eat them! I also use plastic trash bags but, I keep all the bags that I buy from the grocery store and use them in the bathroom trash bin, so they at least get a second use.

Adela Elizarrez, Tour Guide: Day 1 of No Plastic Challenge started out on a good start. I woke up, did my daily morning routines and then went straight to the kitchen for some breakfast before work. Immediately after I opened the fridge, I realized how my entire fridge held a stockpile of single-use plastic items and I then began to stare in horror. I could not have a single item without it being within a single-use plastic container.

As the day progressed, I found myself slightly dehydrated from the previous night’s shenanigans. My hydroflask filled with water did not quench my thirst, so I remembered that Gatorade was readily available in the break room. Before my single-use plastic radar kicked in, I had already finished half the bottle before looking at it with disappointment. I knew I had to be much better at this, so I become very aware of anything else I would consume for the rest of the day.

When lunch/dinner came around, I headed to the nearby food vendors and was delighted to find paper plates and utensil free foods. However, as night time had settled in, so did my munchies and I headed to the vending machine once again for some snacks. I bought my plastic bag of hot cheetos and decided that it’ll be the last time i’ll have them for a solid week. Not so successful my first day in, but looking forward to seeing myself change eating habits without single-use plastics for the week.

Christina Blaker, Bartender: We changed out using water bottles for a water dispenser so today i filled up my reusable water bottle! That was probably the biggest change! I also subbed out plastic to-go silverware in my husband’s lunches with real silverware that I can wash. And I asked the server to not include a straw in my beverage!

Eden Carriedo, Barback: “The straws are here,” my email read. I ironically received this whilst drinking Starbucks via the trademark green straw. Embarrassed, I finished that coffee before going into the building. Satisfied with my self-awareness, also suffering mild brain freeze, I excitedly ask for my straw. Shining stainless steel, clean, reusable, and beautifully wrapped in plastic. This will be more difficult than expected.

Day 2, Monday

Lupe: I brought my lunch today and I have a spoon in my desk so I don’t use any plastic utensils this week. I also forgot my coffee mug at work over the weekend so I had to wait until I got to work to have my caffeine fix. That wasn’t fun. Other than that, since snacks are wrapped in plastic I think this week is going to be hard. I want some chips. I also caved and got chips immediately after I sent my Sunday recap.

Adela: Day 2 went a little more smoothly than the 1st, but still ran into single-use plastic objects that I use daily. As I showered I noticed my shampoo, conditioner, and body wash were all in plastic. And what I didn’t notice the day before is my toothpaste and mouthwash were also in plastic. One neat thing I had learned was that my tea packets at work, although plastic, are recycled back to the distributor, and they go about reusing them multiple ways. Not too bad of a second day, but I’m becoming more away of how mostly everything is in plastic containers.

Taylor: Another day of successful no-plastic! I realized that edible containers are going to be my friend. Ordered my ice cream in a cone = no dish, no plastic spoon! The most delicious way to be free of single-use 🙂

Day 3, Tuesday

Lupe: So far, today is going well! I had to stop by Target on my way into work for some baby stuff and I skipped the plastic bag. I just carried everything out. I also brought my own coffee, water bottle, and lunch to work again.

Taylor: I have been cooking lunch at home so far this week to avoid single-use plastic. It has made me so much more intentional about my choices and I feel like I’m eating more balanced meals because of the extra thought I’m putting in to my choices about waste! I also have become more appalled by the amount of waste the coffee shop I work for is generating. I went deep down the rabbit hole of the LA Sanitation websites looking for ways to start composting and recycling more…all because I’m thinking about plastic. This has been really cool!

Christina: Today I used reusable containers for my husband’s lunch instead of zip-lock plastic bags. Brought my coffee cup to put water in instead of getting a water from Starbucks. And I remembered to bring my own grocery bag for the clothes I bought at target!

Eden: With my amazon dog food subscription about to ship, I have spent the last 2 hours looking for a viable option to avoid the plastic coated bag most dog foods come in. The last blog I read suggested making an agreement with our local butcher to get meat scraps, spend a day at home making his food myself, then emptying the freezer to fit all of this food. I will now close my computer to seek out pet stores that sell by the pound (like cat litter at PetCo) or perhaps switch to canned food. Bracing myself for the bad breath that might come with that.

Day 4, Wednesday

Lupe: Today wasn’t bad either! No single use plastic but, I did have a candy bar. I totally needed it. Other than that, I ended up eating my lunch with my fingers because I did not feel like walking all the way to my desk. Gilbert was late picking up the baby from daycare sooooo I rushed home and I ended up forgetting my coffee mug!!! I’m going to have to plan my morning coffee better tomorrow! I can’t wait to see how that ends up. Here is a photo of my lunch set up for the week. My morning coffee, water bottle, lunch Tupperware, and morning English muffin.

Taylor: I made another mistake again today when I bought pasta at the corner store. I thought I was doing a good job by cooking at home, but I realized that the pasta had packaging. I would have needed to go somewhere that put their pasta in a paper box to stay committed, which might actually have made a bigger environmental footprint if I drove a car. Still thinking that one over.

Day 5, Thursday

Eden: My dog poops twice a day and uses a plastic bag every time (he, himself, uses this bag and it’s awful. Poop everywhere). Because I am trying to find way to cut plastic, I’ve walked Blue a half mile or so further each day to make it to the dog park where he can poop in the presence of metal scoops. Today, I took him to a new park where unbeknownst to me there are only plastic bags. My dog pooped not once, not twice, but 3 times. He’s out to destroy the planet.

“Sorry, Mom”

Taylor: Today a regular at my coffee shop actually came in with his own re-usable mug. He was inspired by a recent snorkeling trip where he realized how polluted our oceans are, haha! It was very preachy and weird, but he did teach me something really sad and interesting: single-use plastic is only used for an average of 11 minutes but then it takes 500 years to be broken down.

Day 6, Friday

Christina: I got to-go ramen and requested no plastic silverware or bag and to place the extra condiments in their little paper baggies instead of the plastic ramekins. They were excited to help when I told them about my challenge! This next one is TMI….. are you ready for this? I switched my female “personals” to the new reusable one. Sorry but it counts!

Taylor: Today was funny! I ordered my iced drink at a cafe for here and it came with single use cocktail straws (facepalm!). Then I went to buy new jeans because I ripped mine lifting all those kegs… and confused the cashier when I asked if she could just let me carry them out of the store. It worked!

Eden: Today, I told the barista no straw. She nodded. This was confirmed. When I received my drink, little green straw in place, the cashier jumped in and told the barista, “oh, she said no straw.” The barista then took the straw from my drink and threw it in the trash can below. I am shaken to my core.

Day 7, Saturday

Adela: I took a San Diego trip hoping there was going to be some environmentally friendly places. I did find a few but then it also showed where there needs improvement. I used:

  • plastic straws (accidentally forgetting I had a metal one)
  • plastic cups

Surprisingly that was all for 2 days. But when I came back home all plastic hell broke loose:

  • plastic salad containers
  • more plastic cups
  • plastic condiment holders
  • plastic bag of chips
  • plastic knifes
  • plastic plastic plastic

This challenge definitely has me reflecting on how much plastic I use, and I’m now trying to see where I can cut my uses!

So in the end, we may not have gotten rid of much plastic, but it’s certainly eye-opening to take a closer look at our consumption. Keep the Earth Day celebrations going and ask yourself what you can be doing to leave a better Earth for the future. One thing we suggest… a beach cleanup with your local Surfrider Chapter this spring! More info coming on that soon…