How am I doing? Hm. Well. I wouldn’t go as far to say this challenge is impossible, but certainly I have found it pretty much impossible to do without spending a lot of time and money (that I don’t have) and making sacrifices far more difficult than those I made to go vegan.
I did fairly well the first couple of days. The choice of snacks from the local supermarket were basically limited to apples, bananas or a plain bap. But then my order of new work uniform arrived, and it was all wrapped in plastic. So much plastic. There was no hint to whether is was recyclable. Should you put it in the recycle bin anyway and hope for the best or is that contaminating the recycle bin? I’m trying to not use things in the first place rather than recycling them, because I’ve read that only half of what goes in recycle bins actually gets recycled (the rest is contaminated, unsuitable or just goes unsold) and also more selfishly it’s a monumental PITA washing things, carrying litter around until you see a suitable bin and trying to work out what is recyclable and what isn’t.
It was at the end of the third day that I caved. I wanted a pot run pot of houmous and some pita breads. I tried to think of a suitable alternative, but everything in the shop was row upon row of plastic packaging. The lack of choice was just too much. It reminded me of when I went vegan for the first time in the early 2000s – I lasted six weeks because I was sick of eating the same thing all the time, or having nothing at all to eat.
So I went back to the drawing board and set myself a more achievable target:
- Cut out the “big four” identified on the plastic free website entirely – single use bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups.
- Cut down on plastic food packaging opting for plastic free options where I can.
- Examine habits and see where I can find plastic free alternatives.
In practice this has meant things like:
- Remembering to take my reusable water bottle everywhere with me.
- Cutting down on soft drinks and having them in cans instead of bottles. (Cans are still not great but better than plastic bottles).
- Ordering some metal straws, paper bags (for loose fruit and veg as shops like to provide you with plastic ones), a bamboo toothbrush, soap bars instead of shampoo/shower gel, biodegradable bin bags.
- Toying the idea of buying something called a “safety razor” which doesn’t look at all safe to me.
- Saying “no I don’t need a bag” in the corner shop. Sometimes having to say it three times in an elevated voice because it seems shopkeepers put all your stuff in a bag on autopilot and are selectively deaf to this phrase.
- Buying food that comes in paper boxes or foil wrappers instead of plastic.
And I have considered doing some other things but not quite sure how practical they are:
- Buying from zero-waste shops (I have at least got as far as looking at their websites and seeing how far away they are)
- Taking my reusable bottle to races and stashing it somewhere on the course instead of taking a single use bottle. (Obvious only works for lapped races).
It’s taking a while for the new habits to sink in – I still pick up plastic based things without thinking, rather like the way I kept picking up animal tested cosmetics and crisps with lactose in when I first became vegan. It’s getting there, though. I am much more conscious of what I’m using, recycling or throwing away. Until packaging manufacturers get on board I’m afraid that going completely plastic free will beyond all but the most dedicated environmentalists.
PS. If anyone has any more suggestions as to how I can cut down the amount of plastic in my life or embrace the art of recycling please do post them as a comment!