Getting Rid of Plastic and Waste …one habit at a time

At the Novant (once called Thunder Road) Marathon cheering station at Local Loaf, I realized too late that I was using a plastic cup for my beverage of choice. It was certainly a small thing, but after learning about the great garbage patch in the Pacific and other difficulties around getting rid of waste, I’m trying to reduce my waste, particularly single-use plastics. I’ve found a few like-minded friends, and we decided to share our efforts, successful and not, for those also interested in trying a few new tricks. The goal for us is less waste, since zero waste is really impossible, according to those who’ve tried it.

We’re three NoDa residents at different stages of reducing waste:

Becca Bellamy is sharing her tips with relative newbies Susan Plante and Nicole Peterson. Last month, we wrote about the new recycling rules and what they mean for the disposing of plastic and other waste. But we also want to reduce the amount we buy or use in the first place.

This month, we’ll tackle the “to go” plastics: How to avoid buying single-use plastics and other materials for food, drink, shopping, etc. For us, these were about setting up new habits—some were easy, but some even our pro struggles with. We hope you’ll use some of these strategies and maybe build up to the more advanced tricks. Let us know what else you’ve tried!

The easiest ways to reduce plastic use for us have been using reusable grocery bags and bringing our own coffee cups and water bottles.

  • Cloth grocery and produce bags are now really easy to find. (Pro tip: avoid polyester and other plastic fabrics.) After a few months of keeping them in your trunk or tucking a folded one in your purse or pocket, we found that we remembered to use them more regularly. Occasionally, we do end up with plastic bags, but way fewer than before.

  • Reusable coffee cups and water bottles are also really easy to find and just need the same habit-building practice of keeping one in your bag. (Pro tip: avoid plastic lining or materials.) We’ve picked a few that we love to use, making it a treat to bring our own to coffee shops and work. They also tend to keep your coffee warmer or your water colder.

For those who’ve mastered the art of bringing your own reusable bags and cups, there are a few next steps you can take, like refusing plastic straws and receipts (which include plastic), buying aluminum or glass instead of plastic bottles for sodas, and bringing your own silverware and napkins with your bagged lunch. These take a bit more work, and can be a little awkward to do the first few times, but help keep from creating more waste.

Finally, a few advanced options for those dedicated to reducing waste: carry your own utensils and straws with you for eating at picnics or other places using single-use utensils, and bring your own to-go containers for extra food or when you’re ordering take-out. Since those clam-shells aren’t recyclable, they just go in the trash unless you’re reusing them.

There are a few places we’ve been buying portable utensils, straws, and containers. Rooted Rethinkery at Camp North End is the first shop in Charlotte dedicated to reducing waste, so it is a great place to start. Other shops, like Book Buyers in Plaza Midwood, have some nice selections of wood or metal options as well.

We still have a long way to go ourselves, and we hope you’ll let us know of any strategies you’ve tried that work for you. Email us at We also look forward to sharing more ideas over the next months as we talk about how to avoid unnecessary waste in the kitchen and bath, as well as in clothing.