Refuse is so 2020.

Did you know there are 6 R’s in Sustainability? Well now you do! And these 6 R's are:

Refuse - Reduce - Reuse - Repair - Recycle - Rot

Woah, so many R’s! But what do these all mean? I'm here to break them down and build them up. Let's start with the first, and my favorite of them all, ‘Refuse’.

In terms of sustainability, ‘refuse’ is to kindly decline something that you know you truly do not need. If we kindly decline the item, it lowers the amount of times those items are put into circulation. Yes, the item is already created, and the damage has been done. However, refusing a straw every time you enjoy dinner at a restaurant once a week means that 52 fewer straws are sent to the landfill. Over the years this habit will make a huge difference! Small habits like this become second nature in no time, and the best part is when others are influenced to also refuse items they know they do not need. We have had great conversations with restaurant staff members who recognize and appreciate our sustainability efforts. A lot of waste comes from the dining industry, and to be part of the solution makes dining much more enjoyable!

Other examples include:

· Plastic dining utensils when picking up to-go items (refuse the bag too!)

· Samples from the dentist (unless it’s a bamboo toothbrush & sustainable toothpaste, then just decline the bag!) · Junk mail (a free service is www.catalogchoice.org)

· Promotional Items (when attending fairs/trade shows/etc.) · All plastic bags · Paper receipts (if a digital receipt is available)

· Straws for dining in or to-go orders · Coffee lids (when enjoying at the coffee shop) · Unnecessary samples that will create clutter in the house · Anything you know that will just end up in the trash

Funny story to share! As an avid coffee fan, I was intrigued with a promotion that a coffee shop was offering around the holiday season. The deal was simple, if I buy a holiday specialty drink, I receive a free reusable to-go coffee cup. Just that easy! And since the cup was normally $2, it was like getting an overpriced specialty drink at the same price as my regular order. Why not! Welp… let me share with you this semi-embarrassing, yet damn good moment in my life:

Young (and new) barista: Hello! What can I get for you today?

Me: Hi! Can I have a peppermint latte with soy milk please

Barista: Yes, your total is $5.67, and here’s the holiday cup for the promotion (with an empty cup in hand trying to hand it to me).

Me: Oh, can I have my coffee in the cup?

Barista: (Confused by my answer and a bit tense with the long line behind me) Uhh… I don’t know. I don’t think they’re clean. (and stretches out his arm to hand me the cup again.)

Me: Oh, has it been used?

Barista: No, it’s a new cup it just hasn’t been cleaned yet.

Me: That’s ok! Is there a sink it could have a quick rinse?

Barista: (Getting red in the face because he has not been asked this question and knows the line is getting any longer): uhh (about to speak but doesn’t know what to say)

Me (Noticing his frustration I blurb out at 100MPH): I’m-sorry-to-ask-its- just-I-dont-have-a-trash-can-at-home-and-I-wouldn't-have-any-where-to- throw-that-cup-way. (inhale)

Barista: (Long awkward pause registering what a weird thing I just said and went to the sink to rinse it out.)

Me: Thank youuuuu!!!!! (walking away awkwardly)

This situation really struck a nerve. Why promote this ‘re-usable cup concept’ if they are not truly promoting the concept of reusing? After this frustrating situation I created a poll on Instagram asking my coffee-loving friends if they received their coffee in the reusable cup, or a regular cup. The verdict was 50/50… half received their coffee in the cup without asking, and half was simply handed this cup.

I truly hope I didn’t upset the new barista, but I also hope he told his co-workers in hoping a behavior shift was created to truly promote sustainability, and not just fake it.

From my homemade cup of coffee to yours, cheers!