Because #Minimising-your-single-use-plastic-usage-as-much-as-possible-June doesn’t quite have the same ring to it
I’m on a mission to reduce my impact on others and our world in a sustainable way. 30 day challenges can be a great non-intimidating way to introduce or cut out habits, as the timeframe isn’t totally overwhelming but you can really get into the lifestyle change. Having said that, I’m feeling pretty nervous about this one, so I thought I’d document it.
The challenge, put forward by the Marine Conservation Society, sounds simple enough: cut out single-use plastic for the month of June. You get to pick your own parameters…which become a bit complicated after some consideration, but more on that later.
My interest in my personal impact on my environment began when I became vegan in June 2016. Shortly before, I was an Infrequent But Avid Meat Eater, Cheese Lover, Seldom Recycler and Excessive Plastic User. I’d cut out milk a few months before as it was making me feel ill, then it was mainly Instagram that showed me how possible and tasty vegan food could be so I thought I’d give it a crack. I started to educate myself on the hows and whys of veganism (for the animals, for the environment, for my health), which brought me to find out more about the Zero Waste ethos.
‘Zero waste’ can sound completely unattainable and terrifying. As a newcomer to the movement, I think about it in terms of reducing my impact, which has certainly been a gradual change until now. My eyes have been opened to the sheer amount of STUFF that we throw away without a second thought, particularly plastic. Whether it’s recycled or not, every plastic item that you’ve ever seen still exists somewhere. By some estimates, by 2050 there’ll be more plastic than fish in the sea. In 2006 it was estimated that we’ll have no fish at all by then.
There’s all sorts of terrifying stuff in the news these days. Trump, terrorism, animal cruelty, racism, environmental disasters… We all have to live with this in some manner, and of course we can’t do everything. I’m choosing what I’m passionate about, and what I see as possible, which right now is changing my personal habits.
“I used to think that if I cared about anything, I would have to care about everything, and I’ll go stark raving mad. But, now I have found a purpose… And I feel the most wonderful freedom.” Prince Henry, Ever After
When I first thought of single-use plastics, I thought of straws, water bottles, coffee cups, takeaway containers. Seems avoidable enough; not living in a city, I generally make my own whatever-it-is as I’ve historically been a “why buy it when you can make it at home for nothing” kinda gal. I can cope without a month of buying packaged tat. But then I started going through what I eat, and I realised it’s all. Covered. In. Damn. Plastic. Pasta, dried beans, lentils, couscous, biscuits, spinach, soya milk (tetrapak lid), chocolate, garlic bread, ice cream, tomatoes, berries… It’s a long list. I’m not going in under any illusions that it’s going to be easy… so I’ve done some prep, and noted down some predictions. I’m actually really looking forward to this, so fingers crossed it works out!
Things I’ve already done:
Registered for a local veg box
Bought a 25kg sack of oats (I love oats)
Found recipes for oat mylk, granola and gnocchi
Scoped out local shops to find biodegradable packaging (thanks Saker!)
Collected many many cloth bags over the years
Invested in a set of cloth sanitary towels
Got my Jar of Shame ready
Checked out MCS’s Tip Swap page
Limited carb options – oats, potatoes, rice, flour and variations thereof. This is what I’m most worried about! I usually have a looot of pasta in my diet so I’ll be perfecting my gnocchi recipe and attempting bread for the first time in years.
Keeping my jar empty of little things – I’ll have some sort of labels or wrappers or teabags that were unavoidable or too tempting.
Keeping costs down – products in glass or package-free are usually more expensive than plastic-covered ones.
Bending the rules – e.g. I stocked up on compost before the challenge as I don’t have a compost heap…cheating?!
Where the line is drawn at home, as my partner is not taking part in the challenge and we usually share the cooking… although he has very kindly offered to have his own jar and serve as a control!
Not online shopping – I’ve got used to the convenience of one-clicking, but the likelihood of vast amounts of plastic is high.
I’m looking forward to:
Feeling healthier – no processed, packaged sweets and treats for me (although I have checked out the plastic-free chocolate options already!)
Cooking with slightly different ingredients…I’m currently seeing it like Ready, Steady, Cook! with potatoes!
Not being able to buy things I don’t need, like clothes or gadgets
Learning more about how our food is packaged and what happens to various materials when we get rid of them, whether to recycling or landfill.
Reusing more stuff.
Spreading the word and talking about what I’m doing. I certainly didn’t think twice about using loads of plastic just a couple of months ago, so I’m hoping to plant a few seeds.
What can you do?
Follow my journey, using me as a test subject… helpful tips and suggestions welcome!
Think about it – see if you can reduce your plastic usage during June
Join me in taking part in the challenge – I’ll be collecting any plastic I do use, so let’s compare at the end of the month!