The cocktail napkin has been the birthing place of some of the most successful businesses, beloved stories, and brilliant ideas but it’s about time we ditched it. When I walk into a restaurant and I order a glass of wine the cocktail napkin is the first thing I refuse. If I’m getting a drink then “no straw”, if I’m getting food then it better be on a plate with silverware and a cloth napkin or I’m refusing that too.
I’m the living, breathing embodiment of this emoji...
And we all should be. Saying no isn’t easy but it’s an important first step towards a waste-free world. It can be intimidating to defy social norms and rock the boat by doing something different...but this boat really needs to be rocked and by boldly taking charge of the changes we can make in our own lives we pave the way for others to follow more freely in our footsteps and we let businesses know what matters to their customers, influencing change on a much broader scale.
Here are some tips on saying no and influencing change:
Break the cycle by sharing your intentions. When trying to dine out zero waste instead of asking to be served “for here” take the time to explain why and you won’t run the risk of accidentally being served disposables. I have found time and time again that if I say “I’m watching my waste and trying not to use any disposable products” the servers get it right every time. Have your elevator pitch ready to go!
Be intentional and thoughtful. There is a fine line between expressing a need and being rude and the last thing you want to do is alienate people from the zero waste movement by creating guilt or shame. Remember that a lot of trash is created from well-intentioned actions, many disposables exist purely for the sake of convenience or to make you feel taken care of. Share with friends and family what you’re trying to do, set clear boundaries for yourself, and be patient when people slip up or forget.
"Planes are a great place to refuse single-use disposables. Make sure to think ahead and bring your own snacks with your own utensils, I always have a handkerchief on hand so I don't need any napkins or tissues, and I carry on my own beverage in my own container."
"If the a business won't put your food to-go in your own container then order it for here and then put it in your own containers yourself. Easy way to work around it and while it's not ideal that those dishes have to be washed there is significantly more water wasted when you use a plastic container once and then throw it away than washing a couple extra plates in a dishwasher."
But you can’t just get comfortable with saying no...you also need to accept people saying no to you. I’m constantly fending off single-use disposables but I’m also regularly making requests to use alternative reusable products and sometimes I get turned down. One week I went into my local grocery store and asked if they could sell me fish in my own pyrex and the fishmonger was more than happy to oblige. Later that week I walked into the same grocery store to get some ground turkey and made the same request and was given a firm no. Sometimes you lose the zero waste battle but it never hurts to ask.
I’m sure you’ve seen this video of the solo dancer at Sasquatch who started a movement (if not, go watch it now). I love this video because it reminds me that it only takes one person to start doing something differently to effect change. We can all be this guy dancing our way through life a little differently than the rest, defying norms and opting for zero waste. It won’t take long before others catch on that dancing is so much better than sitting
Pledge to waste less this month...be the change in this world that we so desperately need...but most of all...will you dance with me ?