David Bach, the author of "Go Green, Live Rich", first coined "The Latte Factor" a few years ago. It applies to all of the small items we buy on a daily basis. Things like coffee in single-use cups, designer bottled water, soda, cigarettes, etc. He said that while these are small purchases, they add up in the long-term. On a similar vein, "The Litter Factor" allows you take a look at your trash. Take a look at your office trash, your home trash and each time you stop on the street to throw away something. What is most common in that trash? Is it really something that you need? Is it something that you can avoid? Is it something that you can replace with something more sustainable?
I worked in New York City for 7+ years and typically on a normal day, I consumed coffee in a disposable container, a bagel wrapped in wax paper, then foil. For lunch, I would grab a salad or a meal in plastic or Styrofoam, plus a bottled water all in a plastic bag. All of this went to my regular trash. Sometimes you could tell how my day went based on the contents of that trash can. More sugar meant a more stressful day. All in all, not a good indicator of my health, my spending habits and the environment.
Know your "Latte Factor" and your "Litter Factor." This is fairly easy to do and straight forward. You can look at your trash or you can look at your bank account. What common items do you see there? Open up old trusty Excel and do some quick calculations. I know a lot of personal finance experts will balk at all of this small stuff, but it adds up. Calculate how much you are spending on bottled water? Can you put that money somewhere else? Think about the money you are saving, but also the impact you are making by reducing 5 plastic bottles each week from having to manufacture, transport and recycle bottles. Think about the amount of time you order take out and all of the packaging that comes with it. And you know you can cook that Chinese food better, healthier and at a lower cost.
The campaign "Plastic Free July" begins today. The idea and goal is to reduce your use of plastics. The easiest are for single-use items such as coffee cups, bottled water, straws and plastic bags. By understanding your "Latte Factor" and your "Litter Factor," you can be more prepared to refuse and reduce your use of plastic. Check out plasticfreejuly.org to register and sign-up for this month's challenge. This challenge will question your consumption habits. It will make you think twice about the items you buy. It will make you search for alternatives.