Life, Low-waste Living, Plastic-Free Living, Random Thoughts

The Unadaptable “No bag/straw/utensils” Complex

Imagine my family just sitting down to eat at a restaurant.

Server: Hello – what can we get you for a drink.
Everyone provides their drink order.
Me: We don’t need straws for we have our own.
Server: Okay
Server returns with straws either in the drink or sits straws on the table

Scenarios like above seem to happen at least 3-4 times a month. It doesn’t just happen with straws – I have these awkward moments when I say “no bags” and/or “no utensils”.

These type of scenarios didn’t annoy me, when I first started my low-waste/plastic-free journey.  I mean I was still adapting to make a “No” request, so how could I be bothered by the cashier/server/host not adhering to my request.  BUT now the lack of understanding or adaptability to my request is slightly annoying.  (Note:  my daughters laugh when it happens for they know I am just a little irritated and like to see my facial reaction).   

At times I wonder the reason for the unadaptability – is it lack of knowledge regarding the climate crisis, lack of awareness of the plastic-free culture, or do I live in an area that hasn’t made the low-waste/plastic-free cultural shift?   No matter the cause we have a role in making sure retail and restaurant folk understand and adhere to our request.  The key aspect is we stay consistent and persistent with our requests.  It doesn’t just stop with one’s interaction with retail and restaurant folk.  We have to make efforts to encourage fellow community members to do the same – it takes more than one person to shift cultural mindsets. It takes other folks to courageous say “No bags”/”No utensils”/”No straws”.  It takes a collective of people demanding for retail and restaurant folks to adapt.

This will be needed now more than ever since my city (New York City) will be starting their No Plastic Bag ban in March.  I can vouch that it is rare to see folks at my local grocer using their own bag;  it is common to see people asking for a bag when the item can easily be carried by hand or fit in a bag they already have.  People will have to majorly adapt to not having the convenience aspect of the plastic bag – at least if they are at a retail establishment. (NOTE – I will do a future post on the policy and some of the negative consequences and victims of the ban).  This is why I’m starting now to remind people of the upcoming ban and coordinating a t-shirt bag making event.  I’m also hoping to kindly encourage my own local stores to start posting a sign to encourage people to start bringing their own bags.

I would be remiss if I let you think that I haven’t succeeded in getting places to accept my request – lol.

  • The workers/owners of a local bodega now automatically know not to give me a bag when they see me.  They smile and say no bag right 🙂
  • Two of the staff at our local butcher automatically wrap my order in butcher block paper, and if they aren’t working with me they tell their colleagues what to do.


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