To combat the ubiquity of single-use plastics (a new study by Ecolab research group found microplastics are even blowing in the wind), Angelenos are hiring consultation services like Sustain L.A. ($150 for an at-home session) and some stars, including Anne Hathaway, are adopting “Zero Waste” tactics to dramatically reduce how much trash they produce in the first place. “If you start becoming mindful of your impact, you start to notice every time you waste something,” says Michael Kaliski, founder of Good Planet Innovation, which works with film and TV productions to create green sets. With plastic so omnipresent in our lives, every day can feel like a sort of obstacle course. Thankfully, there are plenty of solutions and alternatives — beyond the obvious one of carrying your own reusable water bottle and never using single-use plastic ones — that can help you dramatically reduce the amount of waste your household creates every week.
“I always try to minimize the presence of plastic in our lives,” says Suzy Amis Cameron, the author of the new book OMD: The Simple, Plant-Based Program to Save Your Health, Save Your Waistline, and Save the Planet. She says that she and her husband, director James Cameron, “never take plastic, or even paper, bags from any store. Disposable bags are a major source of waste and pollution, and their negative impact on the environment is enormous.” Adds actress Famke Janssen, who’s starring in the new Lionsgate film The Poison Rose, “I have been obsessed with reducing the use of plastic for a long time. Not only is plastic terrible for the environment, it can also be detrimental to our health. And it’s an oil product. There really isn’t an upside to using it.” Read below for more top Hollywood tactics to reduce plastic waste:
FOOD Forgo individually wrapped cucumbers and apples at the grocery store. Instead, hit farmers markets and local bakeries, and buy grains, spices and other staples at places like Sprouts or Co+Opportunity (in Santa Monica and Culver City). Most of these types of stores will let you fill your own cloth bags and nonplastic containers and pay by weight. Make items like almond milk from scratch (all you need is a blender and a cheesecloth bag). “At home, we make our own hummus and never purchase it. This helps to cut back on food and plastic waste — and it tastes better, too,” says Amis Cameron. To avoid buying plastic baggies, seal kids’ sandwiches in LunchSkins (pictured above) and cover bowls with Abeego or Bee’s Wax wrap. One final thing to steer clear of at the grocery store: any packaging that combines paper and plastic, as that’s one of the hardest things to recycle. Adds Amis Cameron, “When our family travels, we use mason jars and reusable chopsticks for veggies and other snacks on the go. Jim and I only use glass or stainless-steel storage containers for prepared food and leftovers, and everyone in the family uses reusable shopping bags for groceries and other purchases.”
SELF-CARE OK, so you may not go all out and make your own deodorant (the way zero-waste lifestyle guru Lauren Singer does from shea butter, arrow root powder, baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils) or brush your teeth with baking soda. But some easy plastic-free replacements to use in your daily regimen can be found at PackageFreeShop.com and ZeroWasteHome.com, which sell items like dental floss made from silk, all-metal reusable razors (actress Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, is a fan of Leaf Shavers) and bamboo toothbrushes. For both grooming and housecleaning products, bring your own bottles to refill spots like Otherwild in Los Feliz, No Tox Life in Glassell Park or BYO Long Beach. Wright visits The Refillery LA at the Mar Vista farmers market. “They are a really good local business to support, since cleaning products are very challenging to find outside the kind of normal plastic world,” says the actress, adding, “I get all my toilet rolls from a company called Who Gives a Crap that’s all recycled paper and sold without plastic and fifty percent of their profits goes to build toilets for communities without proper sanitation.” Also, replace hand soap dispensers with bar soap; many great brands now sell bar soap package-free.HOUSEKEEPING Waste adherents swear by simple white vinegar to tackle almost all household cleaning needs (it can be purchased in glass bottles at Smart & Final). You can help preserve forests by no longer buying paper towels and instead using washable, reusable towels in bamboo (check out Bambooee) or fabric (like UNpaper towels from Marley’s Monsters.) For washing clothes, Wright is a fan of Dropps laundry detergent, which is sold without plastic packaging.
CLOTHING Washing clothes made from nylon, polyester and acrylic drops tiny fibers into the environment. Whenever possible, buy all-natural fabrics.
GARBAGE Compost most food waste — without it mixing in with other garbage, plastic trash bags are unnecessary. To be assured of responsible recycling (only 9 percent of all plastics have been recycled), try TerraCycle’s paid program with dedicated recycling boxes for everything from party supplies and food wrappers to plastic toys and electronic cigarettes.
AT THE OFFICE Discovery and Bad Robot are among the entertainment companies taking a lead in reducing waste. At Discovery, soda is available only in cans, not in plastic bottles; water refill stations have been installed; water pitchers are set out at meetings; some of the company’s offices now have bamboo or metal flatware instead of plastic; and free snack offerings put a focus on fresh fruit. “If you look at the tons of plastic in our oceans,” says Discovery executive vp facilities and real estate Larry Laque, “it’s not debatable — it’s a big problem that we can help with both individually and as a corporation. We need to lead in that area.” That’s especially important for the company given how much of their programming spotlights the environment and wildlife. When you’re meeting with someone who works in environmental causes, says Laque, “you don’t want to bring a [single-use] water bottle. It sets a negative tone.”
Meanwhile, at director-producer J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot offices, the kitchen is stocked with reusable flatware and plates, glass bottles for H20 (they make their own sparkling water), linen napkins and snacks bought in bulk. Most of the office furniture is vintage, rather than new. And the company also composts its food waste, a program in conjunction with the city of Santa Monica. “We do a big composting effort,” says Sam Chapin, Bad Robot’s head of operations. “We all take our plates back and scrape them and help them get prepped and loaded into the dishwasher. All of our trash cans are labeled compost, recycling or landfill — to be honest about where everything is headed.” The company has reduced so much of its waste production that “we had the city swap out our landfill container. It was way too big for what we needed it for,” says Chapin. To get more information — and inspiration — on reducing trash, join FaceBook’s Zero Waste L.A. group for helpful posts, read Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home or author Kathryn Kellogg’s new 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, and watch Singer’s how-to videos on YouTube. “It can be such an overwhelming issue, and I do think the only way we can shift on a large scale is if the corporations we’re buying our products from — and our lawmakers as well — put in place changes to protect us,” says Wright. “The sad reality is that most things are packaged in plastic. So when I talk to people, I say choose just one thing to start with eradicating. My trash has become minimal in comparison to what it used to be.”
A version of this story first appeared in the May 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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