Plastic Free July ends today. I will admit that I wasn’t as committed towards the end, but nevertheless this month has taught me a lot, has encouraged me to make changes, and has made me think more about all the plastic that surrounds me. It has also made me want to take some action to stop single use plastic being as ubiquitous as it is.
So first, my learnings:
Plastic free/zero waste living is not possible where I live (I don’t know about other places) if you don’t have disposable income. I’m lucky enough to be able to spend more money on food if I choose to, but many people are not in that position. I think buying vegetables from the market is cheaper than the supermarket, but for everything else (dried goods, dairy, meat, etc) having to shop in other places has meant more expense. I don’t know if this means supermarkets will be slower to change than if there was a price-competitive alternative, but it has certainly made me want to shout louder as a person who can vote with their feet/wallet. At the moment I don’t really want to shop in Sainsburys (the nearest supermarket to me), but some things are difficult to get elsewhere without a lot more expense (there are limits). So I’m currently collecting together all the single use plastic I buy from them, and when there’s enough, I’m going to send it back to them, because why should I have to dispose of the waste they choose to continue to create?
Also, there is a time/environment/cost trade off. As I wrote in my last post, buying whole almonds to blanch and grind them vs. buying a bag of ground almonds = definitely buying the ground almonds. We have learned to live with ultimate convenience, and so I’m trying to be conscious of what actually saves me time (i.e. ground almonds), and what is marketed to make me think it will save me time (i.e. pre-chopped vegetables). This trade off works differently for different people, but I’ve found it valuable to have to consider it. If I’m buying a snack, I can buy a chocolate bar (plastic) or I can buy a banana (no plastic), which leads me to my next point…
I have eaten significantly better over the last month. I don’t think we eat that badly on the whole, but there’s certainly been a lot more vegetables in our house, and many fewer crisps and other snacks. I feel better knowing I’m eating better, and that avoiding plastic has the power to do that (although there are paper/foil wrapped chocolate bars that I have continued to consume, because I can’t be totally unhealthy-snack-free).
On the changes front, I’m going to be taking lunch to work with me much more frequently than I used to (let’s say an increase from once a month to a prospective 2-3 times per week). We’re also going to keep going to our nearest zero waste shop once a month to stock up on dried goods and household items. The most significant change though is that of outlook. I’m so much more aware of all the plastic packaging that surrounds me now – whenever I go to the supermarket, where I would have seen food, now I just see row upon row of plastic packaging. So I’m trying to choose wisely, avoid the things I can, find alternatives for others, and make the trade off for those I can’t do either for. It requires adapting, and this month has certainly been a lesson in adapting, but it has spurred me on to add my voice more frequently to the all the people who are speaking up about plastic pollution. Things need to change.
On a final, pleasing note, the best thing I found is that coconut oil works better than any make-up remover I have ever owned, and it has other purposes, and it comes in huge glass jars which when they’re empty I can take to the zero waste store and fill them with some other excellent foodstuff. Close that loop.