#plasticfreejuly – part II

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My tray of plastic shame

So, I’m a little over a week into Plastic Free July. It hasn’t been as difficult as I expected, although I have had a couple of accidental lapses, and have also found some things difficult to find. On the second day I realised that I’d forgotten to cancel my yogurt order from the milkman, which comes in plastic. That said, the brand they deliver (Tim’s Dairy), is slightly better than the stuff from the supermarket, because it has a foil lid instead of a non-recyclable plastic one.

Dairy items are probably the hardest to get around. The milk is one thing, but cheese, cream, yogurt, all usually come in plastic, and this is difficult when you’re baking a lot, which I am. I did find out that you can make yogurt in a slow cooker though, but it will take about 12 hours to make, which is massive dedication, and I don’t know if the time it takes is actually worth it for the lack of plastic. My lovely friends bought me some cheddar in wax, which is great! Now I just need to find non-plastic wrapped halloumi…

The other items that have been difficult for me, and my friend Holly who is also doing this, are cartons and cereal. For me, not having fruit juice hasn’t been so good, but all apart from super expensive juice comes in cartons that have plastic tops. Holly is having the same problem except with coconut milk. I’d thought before I started that this would be a way easier challenge as a vegan, but all nut/soy milk comes in cartons with plastic tops. Not so easy! Although, if you’re based in London, you can always get this guy to deliver you some nut milk in glass bottles. Cereal is another pain in the arse, because it all comes in cardboard boxes…lined with a plastic bag. Holly visited three different shops before finally finding some muesli that just came in a paper bag.

My biggest lifesaver was that Oscar and I went to Bamboo Turtle, a zero waste shop in Letchworth Garden City, at the end of June. We picked up a few things, including some pasta, sugar, soap, and a scouring pad made from coconut skin. This was the closest zero waste place I could find to us, 30 miles away, but totally worth visiting. I’ll be going back there next weekend to stock up again, with bigger containers this time! It’s the only way around I’ve found for buying dried goods that usually come in plastic. It’s a beautiful shop though, and has a lot to offer, from loose tea to washing up brushes.

Finally, my slip-ups. A couple of times I bought plastic-wrapped stuff without thinking. I bought a birthday card for someone, which was wrapped in cellophane. I didn’t even think about it until I got home and unwrapped the card. I then had to use sellotape to wrap their present up, again, more plastic. I bought some new shoes from the internet, foolishly assumed they’d come in a cardboard box, only to find them encased in a plastic bag. The most unintentional one was that I bought a deck of Uno, and when I opened it, all the cards were wrapped in plastic. Whyyyyyy!!! Also, one thing I really can’t get around is medicine – at this time of year, I’m having to take hayfever tablets most days, and they all come in plastic!

However successful I am at cutting out plastic this month, it’s very much an exercise in awareness, how many things we own and buy are made from or wrapped in plastic, use it as some sort of component. It makes me think twice about buying things, and where I can shop. It has ruled out buying a lot of snacks, because they all come in plastic or foil-based plastics. Maybe I’ll be healthier at the end of the month?! (I won’t, I’m eating so much cake at the moment…)

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Becoming More Sustainable

One of my goals for 2017 is to find more sustainable alternatives to the least sustainable things that I use on a regular basis. This generally means things that create waste where it could be avoided. I already buy most of my fruit and vegetables from the market, avoiding plastic there. In the absence of a place where I can bulk buy dried foods in Cambridge (most of what goes in our landfill bin is plastic wrap), I started to think about other ways to reduce waste around our house, and when I’m out and about.

Over the last 6 months or so, I have made four notable purchases which I feel have not only lessened my impact on the earth, but are either more cost-effective or practical (or both) than the previous alternatives.

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  1. KeepCup
    KeepCups, or reusable coffee cups are becoming much more common – most coffee chains offer reusable cups, and some give discounted prices for using a reusable one instead of a paper cup. For the longest time I didn’t realise that paper coffee cups weren’t recyclable, and I would always throw them in the recycling bin. After watching Hugh’s War on Waste and being told that in fact they weren’t recyclable, I decided to get a KeepCup to avoid creating unnecessary waste. I don’t buy coffee to take away that frequently, but my colleagues regularly buy coffee from the shop next to our office and when I got one it seemed ridiculous to be getting coffee in a paper cup when the shop was about 15ft from our office.

    KeepCups start from about £7.00 (the regular size starts from £10.00), and you can design your own, allowing you to choose from a wide range of colours to mix and match the different elements of your cup. They’re also currently doing a Star Wars series of themed cups, y’know, if you’re into that.

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  2. Chillys Bottle
    This has been my favourite and most useful purchase by far. I take it with me everywhere. It keeps cold water cold for 24 hours, and hot liquid warm for 12 hours. Great on a hot day when you want some cold water, or keeping your coffee hot for later. They’re not cheap, but the amount I’ve used it over the last few months, it’s definitely paid for itself. Mine cost £30 – I would guess the average person would manage to buy 30+ bottles of water in a year, so it is saving me money. I bought one for my boyfriend as well with his initials on it (because, custom).

    Continue reading “Becoming More Sustainable”

On Trying, part II

For the last few years I have made January a full-vegetarian month. This year is no different, and it’s usually about this time that I write something about it. Last year I wrote about how much I hate labelling myself as something based on the food that I choose to eat. And now I feel that enough time has been dedicated to wondering if I’m making good food choices (although, realistically, I will continue to think about it frequently) – I’m going to widen my view a little.

Not eating meat is one of the most straightforward ways of cutting your carbon footprint. But what about the other stuff? Waste is a huge problem, but much more challenging to tackle because it’s pervasive – most things are packaged in non-recyclable plastic, things are single-use, disposable, made for ultimate convenience. Whilst I think we’re pretty good at recycling and reducing waste in our house, I know there are ways we can do better. So this is what I’m going to be looking at this year. By no means am I going to end up with a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle – I know others advocate this, but for me, in the same way that I don’t think I’m capable of being vegan, I don’t think I’m capable of living zero waste. So instead, I am going to start where I am and look for the changes that can be made. Finding sustainable alternatives to the least sustainable products that I use, finding better companies to purchase from who align more happily with my values. I’m hoping that small steps like this will make for more lasting change. I’ll still be writing about baking, but I’ll be writing about this too.