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Liz Cute is our Community Engagement Program Manager and runs a variety of projects to connect with Western New Yorkers and improve our local waterways. She coordinates our volunteer citizen science program Riverwatch, ensures our high school Young Environmental Leaders Program runs smoothly, and she oversees our staff’s single-use plastic intake.

Liz has invested a lot of time in finding ways to protect our waterways. Everyone has the right to enjoy clean, fresh water. However, many of our urban waterways are being choked with trash, most of it single-use items. If we each do our part to reduce plastic waste, our waterways will benefit.

Here are 5 of her tips to reduce plastic use!

1. Say no to plastic bags. While the plastic bags is banned in NYS for most stores, try to say no to plastic bags if you get takeout or switch to reusable bags for produce at the grocery store! Plastic bags are not recyclable at your curb, making them more challenging and less accessible to all to really recycle. If they make their way to the environment they never fully go away, they just break up into smaller and smaller pieces, continuing to cause harm. Did you forget your reusable bag? See how much you can carry with just your hands!

2. Bring your own reusable mug. Liz loves coffee! When she takes a stroll down Main Street with, she brings her own reusable mug to eliminate the single-use waste. While coffee cups are made of plastic and cardboard, they are not recyclable (in most cases). It takes energy and resources to continually make those single-use cups. Why not use your own mug that can be used again and again? Your coffee will stay warmer too!

3. Be aware of takeout containers. Do you eat out a lot? Most people do with their super busy schedules. If you aren’t able to cook at home and bring your own leftovers for lunch, try and select restaurants that utilize reusable containers or have limited packaging for their to-go food. Don’t be afraid to suggest an alternative or ask if they could put the food in your own container. If a restaurant is still using Styrofoam in NYS – they shouldn’t be! It was banned in January 2022.

4. Carry a reusable straw and utensils with you for takeout. We’ve all been there. Life gets busy and you didn’t get to the grocery store. Or you’re craving someone’s cooking beside your own. Cut down on waste by bringing your own straw and utensils to lunch. Keep them in your lunch bag, purse, desk, or car because you never know when you’re going to need them.

5. Be mindful of what your clothes are made of. Fast fashion is no longer in style. Before you get a new clothing item, look at what it’s made of. Many items are made of plastics and when those items go through the washing machine, they leak microplastics into our waterways. By purchasing more sustainable materials, like cotton, it benefits the environment.

Being an environmental steward doesn’t mean you do everything perfectly. Don’t try to go zero waste overnight! It means you’re making an effort to reduce your footprint by taking practical steps in everyday life to create new habits.

Liz Cute

Community Engagement Manager