Three plastic-free ways to start your day

A stream of water pours into a metal tea strainer on the lips of a torquoise teacup.

(Matt Seymour/Unsplash

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We all know breakfast is the “most important meal of the day”— do you really want to start it off with the guilt of single-use plastic?

It takes an estimated 450 years for a simple object, like a plastic water bottle, to decompose. Now imagine all the plastic in your Starbucks cup, lid, takeout box from your local cafe, and the utensils. Uh oh. 

In place of that, here’s three ways to enjoy breaking-your-fast while being environmentally friendly.

1. Bring Your Coffee Cup with You

An estimated 16 billion single-use coffee cups go to waste every year, but there’s no need to keep contributing to that. Although stores like Starbucks and Whole Foods stopped allowing the use of personal cups for pandemic sanitation reasons, Peet’s Coffee has reinstated the practice. 

Stylish cups are more fun… but be sure to pick a durable one that isn’t also made of plastic. The typical reusable cup must be re-used an estimated 20-100 times to be worth the energy used to make it in the place of a disposable cup, so be sure to get one that you will love for years to come! Options like the Frank Green cup ($29.95 for the 12 oz) that is made of recycled material and can be recycled (and only needs to be used 15 times according to the brand’s website). You can also try a Huskee cup ($22 for travel cup) that is made from “coffee husks” (a waste material produced in coffee production) and has a nice minimalist aesthetic.

2. Make Tea at Home

Not a fan of lugging around a reusable cup? Not a coffee-lover? If you want to try a tea that’s good for you and the planet, swap out those staples and extra material-using tea bags for loose tea! When you buy big-brand tea bags you’re throwing away the pointless bags and potentially ingesting microplastics. A recent study by researchers at McGill University found that steeping a single plastic tea bag at brewing temperature releases about 11.6 billion minuscule particles known as “microplastics” and 3.1 billion even smaller “nanoplastics” into each cup. Microplastics are each around as thick as a human hair, and each nanoplastic is about 1,000 times smaller, so you cannot see them even as you gulp them down.

There are microplastic-free options, though! Arbor Tea is a brand that sells loose-leaf tea enclosed in compostable packaging. So, you can compost the tea leaves and package with no waste and not have to swallow the microplastics that come from a tea bag! Arbor Teas also has a solar-powered packaging facility and transports packages by truck and sea freight to avoid shipping by plane to lower carbon emissions.

Suspicious of greenwashing? The Arbor Teas backyard compostable packaging was awarded the Gold Award in Sustainability by the Flexible Packaging Association in March of 2021. If you want to try other brands, make sure to check out the Ethical Consumer Rating site which ranks companies that you should order from and others that you should really stop buying from, like Lipton and Twinings. 

3. Make a Plastic-Free Meal from Home

There’s something so fulfilling about a breakfast that you get to make yourself (an accomplishment before noon?). According to a recent study by Science Advances, over 40% of all demand for plastic is generated by single-use plastic products, which often end up in toxic landfills. If you don’t want to add to that, stop opening little plastic packages of Pop-Tarts  and go for that classic veggie omelet! Not only is it healthier for you, but you can avoid creating waste by choosing cardboard cartons for eggs and bringing your own mesh bag to your grocery store or farmer’s market for the vegetables, instead of using a plastic produce bag. The cotton bags from Package Free Shop are a nice choice.

If you’re more rushed and feeling some toast, you can bring your own bag to a local bakery, even chain ones like Tatte, and buy a loaf there. Stores like Whole Foods also offer a “bulk section” that includes an option to bring your own jar for some delicious nut butter as your topping. More sustainable, natural, and delicious!


It’s fun and simple to cut back on plastic early in the day; it could inspire you to spend the rest of your day waste-avoidant, too. Shopping with ethical brands and encouraging Earth-friendly business practices can be a great way to use your consumer power. How about that as a morning burst of energy?

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