Domestic web orders over $250 ship for free (Some exclusions may apply)×

How To, Reduce Single Use Plastic

Jenny Cooper is the owner of IXV Coffee, a small-scale coffee shop located in a redefined garage space on Pacific Street in Boerum Hill. Jenny takes a thoughtful approach to her own waste footprint, opening IXV in order to promote and enable reusable coffee cups in the first place. Being well-versed in zero waste living, we thought to ask Jenny for some tips on how to cut down on single-use plastics and disposables in our everyday lives. Here, we ask her for ways to better various scenarios we tend to face throughout any given day. As Jenny says: “bring a bag, carry a cup, and be alert to unnecessary plastic wherever you go.”

The Primary Essentials: When you get ready in the morning, what are some of the ways you avoid plastic via personal care products and rituals?

Jenny Cooper: My mornings are either super rushed or spent lounging and reading the paper so either way, I don’t spend a lot of time with products. I rely on a lavender and body cream which comes in an aluminum tin; great for re- using or actual recycling when done. I use a bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste tabs. Face oils are great because they primarily come in glass bottles with glass droppers. I just skip the pumps and the darker-colored glass because neither of those are easily recyclable.

TPE: When you stop at a cafe in the morning, what are some of the ways you avoid using disposable items?

JC: A small pastry bag is one of the easiest things to dispose of, so I either have the pastry on a plate or just take the bag. It can go in composting if it’s greasy and paper recycling if it’s clean. Our paper recycling systems seem to work well, so I often lean on paper when I can. Our composting systems are fledgling, so if you have the chance to ask your building, your council member, or your mayor for composting: do it! For coffee, we are in charge of our habits and can form ones that don’t include plastic. We are just in that uncomfortable place right now where we are figuring out how to get plastic back out of our daily rituals. If a shop doesn’t take your reusable, the important thing is that you asked and registered to them that they have customers who are looking for that service. The best reusable is the one you love, will remember to bring, and the one that doens’t leak in your bag. I have a little pocket cup from GSI Outdoors that I carry in our shop that fits in every bag and has a little stopper to prevent leaking.

TPE: When getting take-out lunch, how do you avoid the onslaught of packaging that comes with?

JC: My fantasy is a community of kitchens that we could fill up our stainless steel to-go containers at, but barring that many restaurants are trying to be more careful about containers, and put their food in compostable boxes, the trick is then to get the container into a compost bin! If you’re in Brooklyn or Manhattan, you can also order from Deliver Zero, a reusable container takeout service. They have great restaurants and i keep a bag of containers to go back next to the door to hand them back to the next delivery person.

TPE: How to best get around the trappings of plastic containers in the grocery stores?

JC: A hard question! I do opt out of berries, cherry tomatoes, and grapes in plastic clamshells, mainly because they are also available in cardboard during some seasons so I get my fix then. Pretty much all produce does not need a bag, so I just throw it in my cart and try not to buy more than I can consume in a week or so. Oranges, bananas, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes—and even parsley and fennel—none of them need bags! But I do cheat on the pre-washed arugula, because it’s the easiest base for a salad and I love arugula so much that I can’t seem to get it out of my diet. I tell myself that the big clear containers are one of the simpler plastics to recycle, but I’m still looking for a good bulk salad greens source.

TPE: You come home to a package, or packages at your doorstep, complete with massive amounts of packaging. What are some efforts we can take to lessen this burden?

JC: Another tough question because we are so fortunate to have everything at our literal fingertips but also, it’s killing us on the whole. I think it comes down to rituals and communities. I started running, so my few-times-per-week run has turned into my errand time, stopping at local hardware and grocery stores. I draw the line at grocery delivery, because we are lucky to have several groceries nearby [in Brooklyn]. However, that doesn’t cover everything we need, so I avoid companies that send me things in too much packaging. I include packaging feedback whenever I can, usually when a store sends follow-up emails.

TPE: Is there anything else you do to lessen your own waste footprint or any other great tips or useful information to share?

JC: Yes! House cleaning is filled with unnecessary “new” inventions and bottles and sprays, sponges and silicone thingies that I can’t stand. I look for the simple powder in a box (all those pods and sheets are dissolvable plastic and where do you think that dissolves into?) and I use Mater dish soap for everything. I use laundry powder and a plastic-free stain stick because I’m a messy eater with two children.

I think it’s also important to start being aware of materials, because so many companies tell us things are “recyclable” but they aren’t, like silicone and Nalgene bottles which are made of something called Tritan. Because some of these companies are theoretically recycle-friendly, they feel they can tell us something is recyclable when, point of fact, no one is able to recycle them. California has passed regulation banning this type of consumer deceit and hopefully, New York will too, but in the meantime it’s good to know when we are being lied to!

I also think it’s important to not panic, and recognize that plastics have their uses. But if we can modify our habits to remove the useless plastic, then we don’t need to feel traumatized by the occasional and more necessary uses.