It’s time. I’ve put off this blog for a few days as I was hoping I’d have some sort of epiphany as to what exactly the Plastic Challenge means to me, and how to move forward…but of course it’s more complicated and messier than that.
Becoming vegan opened my eyes to my impact on the world, and, inspired by Rehana Sara, Zero Waste Guy (via this podcast) and numerous others online (check out Lauren Singer and Kate Arnell), I began to learn more about the Zero Waste movement. Looking more closely at one of the materials I use was an ideal gateway into this lifestyle, and the past month will definitely have an influence on my future purchases.
So here’s some notes that I’ve jotted down over the last few days about how I’ve found the Plastic Challenge.
“Last day. Thought I bought plastic-free weetabix… Lidl stuff has plastic, not paper, dammit! Should’ve checked!! I’ve run out of milk and time to make it too… banana milk, anyone?!”
Because it’s just for a month, there’s plenty of stuff I’ve just made do without. Incense sticks, new clothes, pasta, cherry tomatoes, spinach, crumpets, crisps, tea, soya milk, butter, tofu, stock, mushrooms, bread, crackers… There are definitely plastic-free of options for these (either homemade or found in the right shop) but I’ve kind of enjoyed the simple restrictions of just not having it, and I’ve not wanted to devote allll of my spare time to fruitlessly trawling through shops. I did a lot of homemade stuff actually, like oat mylk, granola, rock cakes, cake, gnocchi, tea, truffles, flapjack, cordial, pesto, houmous…all of which took time, but I’ve found new recipes and new ideas.
I’ve eaten a lotttt more dark chocolate, and found some new favourites (Heidi pistachio mmm). I’m pretty sure I’ve been healthier – eating less processed stuff, and snacking less, quite simply because I couldn’t be bothered making loads of replacements. Laziness can be healthy sometimes, kids! Plastic-free snacks have mainly consisted of mushy peas, roasted cauliflower, dark chocolate, peanut butter and fruit… A bit challenging when I normally eat a fair amount of crisps and crackers. I’m pretty sure I’ve had more vegetables… I’ve certainly had more potatoes, but I expected that!
It’s definitely been frustrating, as I’ve seen so so many products which really don’t need plastic. Hardly anything needs plastic (well, I’ve done pretty much without it for a month and I haven’t keeled over), but of course it’s cheap and increases shelf life therefore optimising profit. It’s all about the profit, folks.
I have cheated a bit, with little things, like toiletries (didn’t get round to buying solid shampoo), spices, nuts n seeds (I have a pretty varied diet and had an already had a packed larder, so it seemed crazy to buy more), biscuits and crisps (if someone offered me one from a packet I didn’t refuse. Or two…), but the level of restriction I gave myself was, for a first attempt, challenge enough.
One of the things I underestimated was starting a blog at the same time as doing the Plastic Challenge! It’s not a habit I’ve eased into at all, as can probably be seen by the infrequency of these posts!
Over the last year or so, probably since becoming vegan, my partner and I have got into bulk buying – oats, noodles, dried beans, peanut butter, maple syrup, chia seeds. It’s a luxury of being settled and having a routine, and saves money. Banning myself from plastic meant trying to shun these things, opting instead for compostable packaging or more tins, which felt like a bit of a step backwards, as I’d been using fewer tins since reading about the Zero Waste lifestyle. I didn’t find any peanut butter without some plastic, but since we reuse the kilo tubs (yup, we buy 6 x 1kg at a time), I decided they “didn’t count” as SUP…barring the fact that we usually buy them online.
Speaking of which, I’ve probably saved money on online purchasing – there are a few things that I wanted to buy, but didn’t for fear of how they would be packaged! A lot of my partner’s plastic was from eBay purchases.
A general journey I’m going on in life at the moment is learning to not feel guilty. At the beginning it was all quite frustrating, but after a few days I got into swing of it…and didn’t beat myself up too much about that damn straw!
Something I wasn’t prepared for was turning into a bit of a martyr whilst doing this. Friends would ask how it was going, I’d complain that it was difficult! Of course I knew it was going to be, so this was some sort of validation, but it probably came across as a bit sanctimonious as it was completely self-inflicted. This is definitely something I’ll bear in mind moving forward!
Speaking of prepared, I am more now. I never (touch wood) forget my reusable shopping bags, and I frequently have a reusable straw, spork and a Tupperware container in my bag. I think I’m at the stage where if I don’t have suitable equipment, say, a reusable coffee cup, I’ll go without. This does of course depend on the situation, as Hell hath no fury like me without coffee.
In this blog I’ve mainly focused on the how, rather than the why, of the challenge. Most people seem to ‘get’ why I’m doing it – and most people are noticing how much plastic surrounds us these days. Is noticing it the first step to change?
There’s so much more to say, but I’m really interested to see how my life is influenced by this in the coming months etc. If you have questions, tips or comments, feel free to get in touch, especially if you’re trying something like this yourself. Plastic-free July has just kicked off if you fancy a go of it, or why not see if you can do one plastic-free shop, or try a recipe from this blog. Good luck!
PS: our first veg box arrived – see featured image – could not believe how happy and excited we were… more detailed pic here