This weekend I got to go to a conference in Chicago. I am a huge nerd, and I don’t get to go to many conferences,* so it was really exciting for me. But there’s one aspect of conferences I strongly dislike. They are so trash-y. I mean, have you ever seen a conference room at the end of an event without overflowing trash cans? Then again, the overflowing trash cans are a result of one of the best parts of conferences: talking over (free!) food and drinks with like-minded people.
I knew there would be free breakfast, lunch, and a small dinner at the conference I attended, and I thought that all the plates, cups, and utensils would most likely be disposable (I was right), but I didn’t want to miss out on the food or make a fuss. (My thinking is that there are times to make a big deal about our choices and setting an example, and there are times for blending in and talking about other things that you have in common with people. And honestly, the times to make a big deal are few and far between.)
So I tried to follow the advice hanging in my aunt Menry’s kitchen, which just says, “Try a Little Harder to Be a Little Better.”
Here’s what I came up with:
• a big bag to skip the free tote bags that are often given out at conferences. I try not to have such big bags because when I do, I fill them up with anything and everything (“just in case” and end up with a backache), so I rented this one from Rent the Runway.
• a thermos, which is easy to fill with tea, coffee, water, whatever. I just make sure to rinse it before filling it with something new, and I always, always, always make sure to empty it before putting it back in my bag (which is also a nice trick for making sure I’m drinking enough water). If you need one, there are tons of thermoses on eBay!
• a spoon and fork from home and a cloth napkin to wrap them in. I have no idea where all our cloth napkins came from, but they fill my house with color and make me so happy that I actually look forward to cleaning up all the food I spill on myself #MessyEater. Like I said, I have no idea where ours came from (I think they were gifts), but if you’re in the market, Etsy is the place to buy cloth napkins online.
…That’s it! Did I make “zero waste”? Definitely not.** But I made much less trash, and the people around me didn’t seem to notice I was using fewer disposables, so I don’t think my small changes detracted from the conversation or made me seem like a “weird, save-the-planet person.” ; )
* partly because I try not to fly in order to pollute less.
**For the curious: I used a paper cup to serve myself fruit in the morning, ate a sandwich box complete with an individually-wrapped cookie and a bag of chips, and used one plastic plate for dinner.