A Month Without Plastic-Week 1 Wrap-up
It’s been a week since we began our plastic free challenge and living without has proven itself to be more difficult than initially anticipated. There were some easy changes we were able to make such as packing plastic-free and zero waste lunches and refusing items like plastic straws or produce bags. As we got further into our challenge it became very clear that avoiding disposable plastics was going to be more difficult than we ever anticipated.
We prepared for our challenge by collecting mason jars and reusable containers to replace our baggies and plastic wrap; we had our thermal mugs and water bottles at the ready; we had even scoped out the local farmers market to ensure there was easy access to plastic free produce. We thought ‘Piece of cake! Adios plastic.’
Boy were we wrong.
It wasn’t even 24 hours before the first complications began to crop up. I tried to cook some meat and immediately realized between the plastic wrapping, the styrofoam tray and the absorbent pad, the meat was literally engulfed in plastic. I chalked that up as a loss and made a mental note to do better next time. I tried to season my meat with some salt and pepper. Again, both were in plastic containers. Yes, I would use these containers multiples time over the course of their life, but as soon as the salt and pepper were gone, I would be tossing those containers in my recycling bin and buying replacements. I added a second reminder to my mental notes.
I managed to avoid any more plastics over dinner and into the evening until it was time for bed. My toothbrush and toothpaste were both full of hard to recycle plastic parts. Two more bullets for my mental notes. My list of everyday plastics was becoming increasingly long and alternatives harder to identify.
Yet another challenge presented itself in hard plastic bottles the next morning; my shower caddy. The entire caddy was filled with single use plastic. Similar to the salt and pepper issue, my shampoo, conditioner and soaps and cleansers were all in hard plastic. All of these products would be used multiple times but once empty, tossed in the bin and replaced with more plastic. It was easy enough to switch to bar soap, but replacing the other products posed a more difficult challenge. Bulk beauty products are hard to find and alternatives few and far between.
By the time I styled my hair and put on my makeup, I had a list of plastic products longer than my arm and many with no obvious substitute.
After only a couple of days, it was shockingly clear that plastic was omnipresent. Many products don’t have easily accessible alternatives. It was discouraging to see so few options without plastic (over 30 different types of shampoo in the store and not one without plastic?!), however seeing this imbalance in our choices made this plastic free challenge even more important. Plastic had made its way into every step of my daily routine without me even realizing! While it was a rude awakening to be brought face to face with my own excessive consumption, it was eye opening to see how thoughtless I had become with my purchases, although, I’m beginning to wonder, is beautification without plastic possible?
With a whole new set of challenges identified we are ready to roll into week two of our challenge. Read about the successes and failures of our challengers first week below!
I thought I was on top of things when I went to the grocery store last weekend. I took my reusable Sobey’s bags with me and I didn’t put my tomatoes in a plastic bag. Although my hamburg was packaged with styrofoam and plastic, I didn’t have the checkout attendant put it in a plastic bag like I normally would (although this was kind of icky and I will bring a reusable plastic bag with me next time). I was feeling pretty good until I got home and realized I had bought the single serving yogurt instead of the bigger tub. I also bought a salad in a bag and a taco kit that had a number of small plastic bags in the kit. This week I am going to be even more aware of what I am buying. This challenge has made me more aware of not only plastic recycling but all types of recycling and waste.
I had some successes and challenges this week, I’ll start with what I found difficult. During the first week I took my reusable coffee cup to McDonalds and they would not put my iced coffee directly into the cup – they had to make it and give it to me in a plastic cup and I could dump it into my reusable one; completely missing the point of not wanting to use more plastic. Since then I have had to refrain from the iced coffees that are only $1.
(I have heard Tim’s will put the iced coffee in your cup so I will have to try there next. In terms of chain restaurants, Starbucks has been the most reusable cup friendly and will even give you money off when you use your reusable cup.)
Another great option is to use local coffee shops because they are usually much more open to putting your beverage in reusable cups and often give discounts as well!
I wanted to buy grapes but the only option is in a bag. I did, however, choose to buy lettuce that was not bagged and only had a rubber band which will be reused around my house in the future.
I went out to eat with my family and they gave us water with a straw even before I could ask for no straw! 🙁 Also the delicious mints at the end of the meal are in plastic!!! Thankfully we all ate our entire meals and did not need to use plastic take out dishes.
I had pizza with my friends and they had the little plastic tables on it.
My friends bought us wall hanging tacks and they came in plastic.
We didn’t take enough reusable bags to the store and were given a plastic bag. I did however give back a bag later that day and just carried the items instead.
Now on to the (much shorter) list of what was easy
I’m getting lots of use of my reusable coffee cups and water bottle – An added bonus was saving money by making my coffee at home and not purchasing a coffee every morning.
I am using my solid shampoo bar and we didn’t use any plastic bags for our fruits and veggies while we were shopping, we just placed them in our reusable shopping bag!
I actually encouraged my mom to start using less plastic and she purchased reusable straws! She was disappointed that they came in plastic, which is crazy that reusable straws still come in plastic. We still have a long way to go but I’m proud that she recognized the extra plastic was unnecessary.
On to next week!! I’m excited to learn from my mistakes and try out new options that will reduce the plastic waste I create!
Week 1 of the plastic challenge is nearly over, and already I learned a few things:
1) you need to go to a butcher if you want meat wrapped in paper instead of styrofoam, and I will either need to give up cucumbers or grow them myself if I’m going to get them without plastic wrap, and 2) why do we have to put our vegetables in disposable plastic bags instead of just dumping them in the cart, when I’m going to wash them at home anyway? My “fail” box contains a styrofoam meat tray, plastic fork, candy bar wrapper and a couple vegetable bags.
The end of week 1 is already here. It’s been challenging to eliminate plastics from my routine. There were a couple easy substitutions like carrying a water bottle with me and making sure I always had a couple reusable bags in my car. I even found some beeswax and cloth reusable food wraps, made locally that have been a real lifesaver. However, like Jillian I am missing my $1 iced coffees.
What I found difficult was how insidious and pervasive single use plastic has become. I eliminated the obvious plastics from my day; water bottles, take out cups etc. but what I noticed is everyday I discovered something else in my life covered in plastic! My pepper mill is single use, my tooth paste and toothbrush are both single use, and don’t even get me started on my beauty products! I called around to every store I could think of trying to find shampoo and conditioner I could buy in bulk. There were no options available around Truro. I finally found some solid hair products at a store in Halifax that I picked up while I was in the city. It felt silly having to drive over 100km just to avoid plastic packaging.
Its been an eye opening week, I knew plastic was everywhere, but I didn’t realize just how much of it I use everyday and the hoops I would have to jump through just to avoid it.
What I have found difficult is completely eliminating plastics from my daily routine. It seems almost everything bought from grocery stores has some sort of plastic packaging. What I have found easy is eliminating single use plastics while packing my lunch, in the past I have always used plastic wrap but now I just use a reusable sandwich container. I have not started shopping anywhere new because the only other option would be the farmers markets, which uses minimal plastic for packaging but the price for the products is twice as much. One of the behaviours I have changed is that I now avoid ordering take out from restaurants. The amount of plastic packaging used is crazy so an easy alternative is to just eat in. So far I have not been surprised by anything, I have been quite aware of societies over dependency of single use plastics for some time now.
Last week our CEO and Operations Manager were on the road in France, they are joining in the plastics challenge this week, meet Desiree!
Plastics harm the environment that we live in and will be passed down to the next generation. Plastics are not compostable and remain in our ecosystem for a very long time. Some of these longterm effects are just coming to light i.e. plastic gyres in the Pacific Ocean, marine mammals dying because their stomach are full of plastics. It is something that is preventable as their are alternatives.Plastics harm the environment that we live in and will be passed down to the next generation. Plastics are not compostable and remain in our ecosystem for a very long time. Some of these longterm effects are just coming to light i.e. plastic gyres in the Pacific Ocean, marine mammals dying because their stomach are full of plastics. It’s something that is preventable as there are alternatives.
I’ve been reducing waste for over 50 years. My mother instilled this ethic in me as a child starting with tin cans and newspaper. I recycle and return for refund, everything I can from plastics, paper, cardboard, tin cans, bottles, electronics, batteries, old used clothing. I take my own bags to the grocery store and other stores too. I do not use single use plastic produce bags at the grocery store when shopping for fruit and vegetables. I shop at farmers markets and bring my own bags.
During this challenge I want to learn about new things that we can recycle through our local recycling facility.
There is a lot of emphasis on individuals reducing plastics but I think industry needs to do its share too. As a business owner, I think my challenge will be to extend the plastic challenge to our vendors and customers and to get other companies to look at their recycling and purchasing habits when it comes to plastics and especially bags.