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BYOB — Disposing of Single-Serve Habits

Adding to the mix of good Sustainability topics posted right here on SCN…hopefully this blog compels you to ponder your own sustainable habits at home, work, and while somewhere in-between.

Do any of the following scenarios apply to you? 

• Getting ‘take aways’ with non-biodegradable packaging and disposables like utensils/containers is part of your weekly routine.

• Your hotel room is usually strewn with cups, lids, and other single serve items by the end of your stay, all of which is left for housekeeping to conveniently whisk away to the dumpsters.

• You contribute to various hotels’ daily waste production by adding your ‘disposable’ eating ware to all the other styrofoam & plastic contributitions overflowing from the garbage bins every day (either at complementary breakfasts or evening ‘manager’s receptions’).


If you humbly would admit that you can relate to any of the above statements, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of the majority of travelers who could probably be more conscious of and opposed to ‘single-serve‘ methods of consumerism.

It’s time to start a BYOB movement, such as Bringing Your Own Bowl (ie. reusable container, cup, or the like) around with you. Because being habitually green at home is not enough anymore — we’ve got to establish environmentally sustainable practices while traveling too.


The same applies to shifting houses as well. I have seen first-hand how easy (and tempting) it can be to dispose of unwanted belongings during a recent personal relocation.

Having moved to the Bay area several weeks back from DC, I’ve observed that the frequent need for convenience and decluttering which often accompanies a move can easily put green habits temporarily on hold. And moving is one of the most wasteful activities in terms of packing materials and having to ‘shed some weight’ of our accumulation of belongings to be transported.

From Convenience to Conscience — the need to Waste Less

Despite the numerous efforts made by communities and businesses to reduce their constant waste production, it’s still remarkable how much gets thrown away and added to a landfill. According to the CSR-focused company Accor, “On average 11.6 pounds (5.3 kg) of waste is produced per person per day in OECD countries” and “Waste recycling worldwide is below 10%.” Check out the their Environment Charter about some interesting initiatives to increase awareness and address this reality. 


Just take an example of a large hotel (400+ rooms) that contributes ~24 tons of waste per month to a landfill (without recycling). That’s almost 300 tons of garbage a year from just 1 hotel ! (pulled from a Hotel Waste Reduction Recommendation Report by Solana Recyclers, Inc.)


Below are some suggestions on ways we can do our part combat the ‘use & throw’ mentality in our society. Interspersed are some personal examples of how I faced the waste by implementing some simple yet firm guidelines for myself when moving, and also while traveling for work. Feel free to replicate or integrate into your own green practices as you see fit.

Green Move

Sorted everything. Whatever got left behind was sorted into piles that either got recycled, sold second-hand, or donated to friends, Goodwill and charities.

Shipped the car instead of driving. Although a hefty expense, shipping the car via truck/transporter gave the satisfaction of not having to put another car on the road to pollute across 11 US states. Being tax-deductible didn’t hurt either.

• On a lighter note, even our moving company encouraged carpooling & using re-usable/recycled padding materials. Old Baymeadows Moving (a great Jacksonville, FL-based company BTW) brought their companion and live security system — “Sparky” the pitbull — along for the ride (a state champion, apparently).

Here’s Sparky taking a break from ‘guard duty’ during the move:





Green Travels

Moving luckily doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s harder to make lifestyle changes that affect the day to day routine. Try to establish some green rules of the road (some examples/ recommendations offered below).

1. Make a commitment to something specific by pledging to yourself “I’m going to…”
…go through just 1 set of ‘use & throw’ utensils/dishes per day or two
…bring a set of containers/utensils to use in place of disposables at hotel eating areas, airports, etc.
…always hang towels for re-use instead of getting daily replacements by housekeeping
…not accept plastic bags (either for carry-out food or at grocery stores).
…and so on. Pledge –> Then Implement –> Demonstrate to others


2. Favor hotels that support ecotourism & waste reduction. When frequenting a particular hotel, ask the manager what they recycle, and if they don’t have a response — tell them to start recycling.


3. Be aware of what you take/use on a daily basis, and encourage children to be mindful too (who are pretty eager to learn from the behaviors/actions of adults)


4. Create a customized Eco-Packing Check-List:
•  Travel size (>3oz.) container of dish soap.
•  1 set of real utensils (not plastic) from home — no fork & knife if traveling with just carry-ons though…
•  1-2 plastic (microwave safe) containers — 20 oz/600 ml is a good size.
•  Napkins (saved up from previous to-go orders, etc).
•  Re-usable shampoo/conditioner bottles containing your own stuff (to reduce the number of hotel bottles that get thrown).
•  1 small bowl or plate made by Correll (the most sturdy, unbreakable dinnerware there is) — can be found a la carte at Walmart.
•  Microwave safe coffee mug (non-glass).
•  Re-usable water bottle (ie. stainless steel variety like what was provided at SAP TechEd or a hard & durable plastic).
•  Re-usable grocery bags for sundries / shopping.

(feel free to expand or simlify as per your individual preferences/needs)


Some final thoughts for the road…

We all have the opportunity to lead by example (whether good example or bad). The younger generations are also watching us closely and in many ways, their quality of life tomorrow depends on the environmental practices & choices we make today. Choose wisely.

If each person was to implement a small step or two to kick the habit of wastefulness or otherwise, it could go a long way in reducing the wear & tear we put on this earth.

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  • Hi Ranjan,

    thanks for this nice blog! Having been a SAP consultant engaged in heavy travelling in the past, i know exactly what your are talking about. I always tried to bring my own coffee mug to whatever office i was working. Apart from saving some styrofaom cups it also gives you this nice feeling of having a personal item just as the permanents do have 🙂

    Nowadays i don’t have to travel all that much anymore, but still i’m always surprised how different the standards are in the different countries….. in our office here, you can’t even get any disposable cups, but still take out food containers are quite common and you’ll get weird looks coming by with your own Tupperware…

    Best regards

    • Thanks for sharing Christine. Sounds like the folks running things in your office are pretty environmentally conscious – hats off to them. Hope this trend catches on more…

      I also agree that bringing your own containers in public eating areas like restaurants & other retail food establishments is still considered a ‘faux pas’ (likely due to Food Safety regulations). However, at hotels where they use disposable items it would be considered more acceptable.

  • In the U.S. it is actually quite easy to not use the throw away stuff and one does not have to lug one’s own stuff around.  When I get assigned to a project the first week one of my actions is to go to the local “Goodwill” store and purchase what I need.  The items are very cheap and when I am done w/the project I donate the items back to the “Goodwill” store.

    For those not in the U.S. “Goodwill” stores are stores that re-sell donated goods and w/the proceeds help people who do not function well in our society, but are trying.  They are in most conurbation areas of the U.S. and if for some reasons there are other similar stores, e.g. “Salvation Army” that perform like functions.  In a pinch I have also purchased clothing there when my bags went missing.

    • What a great idea! Utilizing/contributing to Goodwill is probably one of the best forms of recycling there is — and also would come in quite handy in the situations you mentioned.

      So there’s actually two benefits to this — first, the proceeds from items purchased from Goodwill go towards programs to help people in local communities. Second, the items donated eventually find a new ‘home’ rather than ending up in a landfill.

      Thanks C.