Last Thursday, on the final morning of June, I indulged one final time and bought an iced latte on my way to work. As it sat on my desk, sweating in its single-use plastic vessel, I mourned the absence of these little treats in my month to come.

Here in the Sustainability Office, we have committed to (try to) cut out all single-use plastics for the entire month of July, observing the areas of our life in which it is easy to cut out disposable plastic goods and areas that seem impossible. While single-use plastics are a part of almost everyone’s daily routine, there are definitely areas that are easier than others when it comes to ditching disposables.

This week’s Sentry column is dedicated to cutting out your convenient plastics: coffee cups, takeout containers, plastic bags and more.

Convenient plastics are the single-use items that we consume because, well, it’s easy to. Running late on our way to work is saved by a trip to a near-by drive-through, catching up with an old friend pairs nicely with grabbing a coffee to-go or stopping at the store on your way home is a lot easier, and faster, than stopping at home to grab your reusable bags first. It is rare that single-use plastics are deemed necessary in these areas of life. They’re just extremely convenient.

Here is what we are doing to cut out our convenient plastics this July:

Be prepared


Single-use plastic consumption is a symptom of unpreparedness. Combat your convenient plastic intake by always having reusables on hand. Keep reusable bags, mugs and containers in your car or at the bottom of your backpack.

Paper, please

Picking up a coffee is fun, but so is spending time in a coffee shop and wrapping your hands around a warm ceramic mug. Dan King photo

Sometimes disposables seem unavoidable. In these moments, try to opt for a disposable item that is made with material that is easier to recycle or is compatible with at-home compost. Paper goods, for example. A paper bag at the grocery store or paper coffee cup (lidless, of course) is a lot better option than plastic.

Shift your single-use mindset

Shifting away from a single-use mindset is an important step in cutting out your convenient plastics. Reimagine what little joys – such as takeout and to-go coffees – mean to you. Picking up a coffee is fun, but so is spending time in a coffee shop and wrapping your hands around a warm ceramic mug. It is all about your mindset.

Don’t be afraid to ask


Sometimes the hardest part of cutting out your single-use plastics is finding the courage to ask for a product plastic free. If you’re visiting a coffee shop but unsure if they have mugs for sit-down dining or will fill your reusable container – whether it be because of COVID regulations, or if you’re unsure of the business’ policies – just ask. There is no shame in being unsure.

Sign up for Plastic Free July

It is not too late to sign up for Plastic Free July. Our office is approaching Plastic Free July with humility, and using it as an opportunity to recognize this difficulty, find what areas of our lives are dependent on single use plastics and learn best practices from each other.

Reach out to to sign up. We will be sending out weekly emails sharing our plastic free progress and prompts to get you thinking about your plastic free journey, as well as seeking input from you at the end of July about your experience and takeaways.

If you send us your story at the end, you will be included in a raffle for a gift card to some of your favorite local South Portland eateries. Let’s share our goals, successes, and (inevitable mishaps) together. In addition, be sure to stay up to date with us on Instagram @soposustainability.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram and Facebook @soposustainability.

Mia Ambroiggio is a Greater Portland Council of Governments Resilience Corps Fellow serving in the Sustainability Office. She can be reached at

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