A Month Without Plastic Challenge-Final Wrap-up

 

Ocean Sonics is a B Corp company. This means that we employ a triple bottom line policy; people, planet and profit. To help unpack that statement, Ocean Sonics believes that profit isn’t the only purpose for a business; we should be enriching our communities, employees and environment. That’s why we chose to take on this plastic free challenge. Working in our oceans we see first hand the kind of environmental devastation issues such as pollution and climate change can cause. We wanted to do our part to see if we could reduce our plastic pollution and divert at least some plastics away from our oceans.

Just because the 30 day challenge is complete doesn’t mean we are finished with our promise to the environment. Ocean Sonics as a team is looking for ways that we can further reduce our plastic and waste in general. Over the next month we will be rolling out initiatives to reduce waste, improve recycling and lessen our negative environmental impact.

Now on to what you have been waiting for: results!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since we began our plastic free challenge. The participants started their challenge on June 8th, World Oceans Day, in an effort to raise some awareness about the glut of single use plastics that find their way into our oceans at an alarming rate (approx. 8 million tonnes every year, that’s roughly a garbage truck full of plastic every minute!)

The challengers chose to reduce, reuse and refuse as much plastic as possible over the course of 30 days. The purpose of the challenge was to eliminate whatever plastic we could and reduce and reuse what we couldn’t refuse.

We know that waste is a major issue. We as Canadians produce 720kgs of waste per capita annually. That’s 7% more than our American Counterparts, often heralded as the world leaders in excessive consumption.

Of the 720kg of waste we produce annually, about 7% of that is plastic, by weight. That works out to be 3.88kg per month of just plastic. Our goal was to see how much we could reduce our consumption of plastic over the course of 30 days. Each challenger was encouraged to refuse as much plastic as possible, find alternatives to plastic use and buy/use products without plastic packaging. Plastics that were unavoidable were set aside to be weighed and tallied at the end of the month.

 

Results:

Jay- 118 grams

Rose- 200 grams

Jillian- 306grams

Sharon- 431 grams

Jake- 523 grams

 

Grand total:1.598 kg

 

That’s less than half the monthly output of ONE Canadian!

 

What a great effort by all the challengers! This month, the changes we made prevented 17.8kg of unessesary plastic from entering landfills or being shipped to recycling facilities.

 

 

Let’s check in with our challengers

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon

431 grams of plastic

It was easy to not use plastic grocery bags. I use Sobey’s recyclable bags instead.  I changed from individual yogurt containers to larger containers. It was difficult to buy meat that was not wrapped in plastic, however it was near impossible to have a party without chip bags

I enjoyed telling people about the plastic challenge but I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. I am more conscious of adding extra plastic at the grocery store. I still shopped at the same stores, I just chose different products.  I didn’t think it made sense to drive a longer distance to save plastic.

This challenge has shown me how much we mindlessly consume. I want to consume less overall, not just plastic. There are some behaviours I want to continue to implement in my day-to-day I want to reduce waste of all kinds.

Some sneaky packaging I found was convenience foods, they were all individually wrapped inside their outer packaging. It’s summer time so I bought individually wrapped ice cream bars. Could not help myself.

I thought I could do better at eliminating plastic but I am going to keep trying.

This challenge made me look at all types of waste.  I think plastic in itself is not a bad thing.  It is cheap, easy to make, and seems to use less of our natural resources than other types of packaging (ie paper).  I’m not sure we should stop using plastic,but I do think we need to use less and figure out better ways to recycle it so that it does not pollute our environment. Managing consumption and creating less waste overall is the direction we should be moving in.

 

Jay:

118 grams of plastic (the lowest plastic waste by weight of the challengers!)

​Things that were easy for me were avoiding plastic drink cups, for the most part, since I’m old-fashioned and always prefer to eat in, even at fast food restaurants.  All of them but McDonalds could accommodate with a china mug or lidless cup.​ ​Buying meat without a Styrofoam tray was difficult and buying cucumbers without wrappers was almost impossible.

​​A high point of the challenge was realizing that A&W is way ahead of the class in using recycled paper instead of plastic.

A real low point was the utter hopelessness of buying meat and produce without plastic​

Throughout the challenge ​I stopped going to McD’s for breakfast since they couldn’t (wouldn’t) accommodate the challenge.  Breakfast at Tim’s and Masstown Market was business as usual.  I went back to buying most veg without the gratuitous plastic bags they expect you to wrap everything in.​

​I’m going to keep with eating in and avoiding plastic bags where possible.​

Sneaky or unnecessary packaging? Stupid cucumbers.​..

​I was surprised at how little plastic (about 100 grams) I did have to keep.  To be fair, I don’t do most of the shopping but I still figured it would be more.​

Grocery shopping was a real challenge. ​I feel like I should be able to buy meat in butcher paper instead of Styrofoam.  Why can’t I?

 

Jillian:

306 grams of plastic

Some easy changes for me to make this month included using reusable shopping bags or just carrying single items from the store. Also using reusable coffee cups.

The most difficult thing for me was avoiding plastic while grocery shopping! Is it just me or does all packaged food has some sort of plastic?? All the frozen foods I bought had some sort of plastic hidden beneath all that cardboard packaging. It is great to be able to buy all fresh fruit and veggies but sometimes they are not in season and they are usually more expensive and harder to keep for longer periods of time.

Another difficulty I had was at restaurants. They would automatically put straws in drinks and give mints with plastic at the end of the meal. Some take out containers were plastic, although most were cardboard. The cups that come with take-out meals are necessary when you are going through a drive-thru, so eliminating drinks from meals was difficult. Especially when McDonalds has dollar drink days with iced coffees!!!!

When you are busy and on the go it is sometimes difficult to find the time to bring food or buy food without plastic. There must be a conscious effort made to avoid plastic and plan ahead for meals, snack and drinks.

I made sure that I was not using plastic baggies to store food, small items, etc. and not using large garbage bags to transfers clothes, bedding, etc.

Buying any makeup, toothpaste, toothbrushes, nail polish without plastic is difficult especially when purchasing items from a store and not online. There are limited items to buy in stores to become more environmentally friendly such as bamboo straws, stainless steel straws, etc. You must purchase them online. Greater accessibility to more environmentally friendly products is important!

Just by participating in this challenge it encouraged my family to all think about their plastic use! They purchased paper straws and increased their use of their reusable water bottles. They are continuing to make an effort to reduce their plastic use.

I have finally got into the habit of taking reusable bags into the store.  I was commended a few times on refusing a plastic bag and carrying my items out of the store. I also enjoyed the challenge of making dinners without any food packaged in plastic or any plastic waste.

Some low points included forgetting my reusable bags and not having any coffee because there were only one-use plastic options. Also, forgetting a lunch and having to purchase items with plastic and not being able to find any chip options without plastic.

 Some behaviours I changed include eating fewer chips, less coffee and less condiments. I bought more reusable coffee mugs, so I would have a larger selection and it helps remind me to take one with me on my way to work in the morning. Less plastic products were purchased in stores. I reused zip lock bags and plastic bags that I had to use in stores. I also refused plastic bags when I only had a few items. I will continue to use my reusable bags and not use any plastic bags in the future! I will continue to use my reusable coffee mugs. Refused to buy plastic water bottles. I believe that the sale of plastic water bottles should be replaced with water fountains that allow people to obtain water for free.

 Some sneaky and unnecessary packaging I encountered were Coffee pods that claimed to be 100% compostable. The pod itself was compostable but they were all individually packaged in plastic. Paper straws were packaged in plastic! Individually plastic packaged items of frozen food in a cardboard box. Also, just a new discovery over the past few years is that every single child toy is unnecessarily packaged with so many small plastic parts, this is not only dangerous for kids but extremely unnecessary.

I thought I would have had much more plastic since I had only made small changes in my purchases. I knew that restaurants would be the hardest part but thankfully making sure I ordered items that had little to no plastic. Fast food is definitely the worst for items that contain plastic when you take away food.

I feel like anything an individual can do to reduce their plastic use is a step into the right direction. Being conscientious of what we are consuming and the amount of plastics that are involved is important. A simple reduction of plastic is a great start.

Our society is extremely reliant on plastic, not only as individuals but large organizations use unnecessary amounts of plastics and other materials that negatively affect the environment and especially our oceans. We must ask as customers and consumers of products for these practices to change. If we refuse to buy products that contain plastics or unnecessary amounts of plastic we send a message to these businesses that change is needed. It is not as simple as recycling the plastic (although extremely important) –we must change the way the products are made so there will be less harm to the environment in the future.

Living in Canada we are not always seeing the direct impact that plastic production and plastic pollution has on the environment, we must educate ourselves and others on the harm our overuse of plastic has all over the world. By reducing our plastic here in Canada, we can help reduce the need for plastic production! If we all continue to refuse plastic and create more environmentally sustainable products we will be working towards a better future globally. I am privileged to be able to help the environment and change my own habits to help reduce plastic use

 

Rose:

200 grams of plastic

Before the challenge began I was working towards reducing my consumption. I already carried reusable bags and packed my own lunch and snacks when I was on the go. A change I was able to integrate into my life fairly easily was carrying my reusable coffee mug. The changes I had started to make had only scratched the surface, things became incredibly difficult once the challenge progressed.

Finding meat without styrofoam and plastic wrap was near impossible. I greatly reduced my meat consumption for the month, choosing eggs more often because of the paper carton. I could only find paper wrapped meat at small local stores and farmers markets. None of these options were particularly easy to access with my current schedule as they tend to have shorter opening hours as do butchers counters at big box grocers. Cheese was basically a no go, and I miss the variety of vegetables available to me. I’m a supporter of eating locally and seasonably, however, even local seasonal produce came shrink wrapped or in a clam shell.

Then there were the beauty products. I switched to solid shampoos and conditioners, I bought toothpowder in a jar from a health store, I ordered bamboo toothbrushes online and I reduced the amount of makeup I wear daily (I didn’t eliminate it, you can wrestle my plastic mascara wand out of my cold dead hands, try me). The variety of products available to indulge my vanity are incredibly limited, and honestly, not that great. It’s like companies put all their effort into products with a ton of packaging and marketing behind them…

Some highs for me included finding plastic free meats at a local shop that stayed open past five and expanding my recipe collection. While avoiding plastics I noticed that most condiments come in plastic jars, so if I wanted mustard or mayo on anything I had to be prepared to make my own.

Some lows included the state of my hair, it was flatter than day old Coca Cola and all of my styling products were contained in plastic so I avoided them for the sake of the challenge. My other major issue also involves hair. The past month was a hot one and I wanted to enjoy the sun and sand in a pair of shorts. The plastic free razors available were not only terrifying but also only available online. Having something like that shipped to me would certainly land me on some sort of heightened security surveillance list. So I chose to try an epilator. Oh. My. Sweet. God. Having summer ready shins should not involve a leather strap to bite down on and a bottle of tequila.

I am going to continue to explore the world of plastic free beauty, I’m sure there are products out there, or maybe some I can make myself, that will allow me to be kind to the environment but also allow me to be my brightly painted, big-haired self at the same time.

I will continue to carry my shopping bags and coffee mug and make my own food (lunches, condiments etc.). I have found new places to shop that have made shopping (and eating!) more fun so I will continue to frequent farmers markets.

Plastic is so pervasive. I didn’t even realize how much I used in the run of a day, even as a person who was actively trying to reduce plastic consumption pre-challenge. Things that looked to be packed without plastic had hidden or sneaky plastics; store clerks would put things in bags unprompted; alternatives to plastics were often few and far between. Even products that claimed to be environmentally friendly often had plastic attached somewhere (hello eco-toothbrush box with a plastic window, I’m looking at you!)

I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by my results. I had to introduce a number of changes, many of them were inconvenient to say the least. It should not be so difficult to avoid excess packaging. It’s frustrating that even with so many products available through so many avenues, that we as consumers have so few options.

 

Jake:

523 grams of plastic

Some things this month were pretty easy like saying no to plastic bags at grocery stores and bringing my own with me. I also switched from single use coffee pods to reusable K-cups.

Something I noticed that was quickly inconvenient, I really like using pre-mixed salad kits but finding a salad that wasn’t over packaged was difficult. I could make my own but I like the convenience of buying an already assembled one.

Salads aside, it seemed almost impossible to leave the grocery store without at least one piece of plastic.

It was great this month seeing that Sobeys is making new plastic bags that are more environmentally friendly and introducing an in-store bag recycling program. I also noticing local restaurants like the Nook and Cranny are no longer offering plastic straws.

This month I became more aware of our plastic consumption as a problem. I was reading news articles about animals being found with plastic embedded into their skin from being entangled in it at an early stage in their life. It was a real low.

I started using reusable bags and reusable k-cups everyday. Saying no to bags at convenience and grocery stores was an easy change.

Still going to buy Randsland Super Salad Kits; they are delicious, healthy and convenient. Like Jay, I will continue to eat in to avoid the excess garbage that comes with take out meals.

I’ve been aware of our over use of plastic for some time but and also guilty of using it a lot out of convenience. We are reliant on plastic and can only do so much as an individual to avoid using it. The only real solution would be for corporations to look for an alternative solution to plastics, or to at least cut back on the amount of packaging and single use plastics they incorporate into their products.

Canadians throw away ½ kilogram of packaging everyday. This makes up one third, by weight, of our total waste and that feels excessive.

 

Thanks for following along with us during our plastic free challenge! We hope you have been inspired to change some of you own consumption behaviours. Big shout out to everyone who took on the challenge themselves, we hope it was eye-opening and at least a little fun!

We will be doing another challenge in the fall to see if we can build on our success. Check back in September for more details!