Plastic Free July: Week 1

The Ehlers household has officially completed our first week plastic free (well… almost). It has been an eye-opening week and there have been revelations, personal doubts and – I won’t lie – some pregnant-lady tears. In my mind I have always been extremely conscientious in terms of my plastic consumption but it wasn’t until this challenge that I realised how much has been sneaking past the gates. But really, when the average person creates 726kg of plastic waste every year should I be so surprised?

Week 1 Summary

Since moving away from the very green suburb of Fremantle my households biggest failing has definitely been food shopping. Well… the coordination of it anyway. Probably 50% of the time, my husband and I find that after socialising, renovating, gardening, studying, cleaning, blogging and pure relaxation duties we have completely run out of time to do our weekly shop! Come Monday we found ourselves unprepared with one very anti-green, non-organic, highly packaged option: the supermarket.

Monday

On Monday the reality of our society’s plastic addiction hit me. Literally everything is wrapped in plastic! I tried to escape it in the fruit and vegetable section but even there it found me. Herbs, cauliflowers, berries – all wrapped in unnecessary plastic packaging. I grabbed some veggies and headed home knowing full well that we still had some plastic wrapped stock from the week before – by next week I am in trouble!

Tuesday

My gorgeous hubby had a win today. At first he was embarrassed about taking his own container to the butcher to get his meat supply but he soldiered on. The local butcher was more than happy to weigh the container, fill it with chicken and then deduct the weight from the end measurement. Not only was the guy really friendly but also took an interest in Plastic Free July. Who knows what type of mental seeds that may have planted?

Wednesday

Despair. As I mentioned in my last post about being positive this was the day that I… well… completely lost my shit. Looking down the end of each aisle all I could see were endless shelves of plastic. Trawling through them was even more disheartening. Even beautiful reusable glass jars were wrapped in plastic – why? It just breaks my heart. All I could think was that this is just one aisle, in one supermarket, in one suburb, in one state, in one very sparsely populated country on one globe. The true scale of this problem is terrifying. It was too much for this hormonal little lady to bear. I spoke to a shop assistant who told me Borax was being discontinued… I left in floods of tears. I gave up that night. My husband and I ended up at the pub where we shared a pizza made from ingredients which probably came wrapped in plastic. White flag is officially hoisted.

Every 15 seconds this amount of plastic garbage gets released into the sea. (From Out to Sea – The Plastic Garbage Project just opened in the Zurich Museum of Design / Switzerland)

Thursday

I was accosted by some co-workers today. I couldn’t buy some charity merchandise (wrapped in a plastic sleeve) and the lady could not understand why. She offered to remove the plastic and bin it and just give me the goods within. I explained that this was not the point and all of a sudden I was the anti-Christ – which is very bad when you work in the finance department of a religious organisation. I was accused of adding further stress to the poverty-stricken women of India, forcing Australians out of employment and being completely delusional. I tried to concentrate on all the people that have been so lovely and helpful on this short journey and also turned to my OOB Facebook friends for some boosting. We all decided that people who react so irrationally are doing so out of guilt, laziness and narrow-mindedness. And another bonus – it strengthened my resolve.

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere”

~ Frank A. Clark.  

One thing that raised my spirits beyond belief was a surprise package (absolutely plastic free) from the Western Earth Carers, the very environmental warriors that created Plastic Free July. Not only was there a gorgeous PFJ badge – which I have decided to now wear every time I go to any shop – but also an autographed copy of Jude Blereau’s book Wholefood for Children as a thank you for my relentless Plastic Free blogging (see all Jude’s books here!). Thank you Earth Carers for yet again picking me up and inspiring me!

Friday

Life is looking up! I found some goats cheese in a glass jar from Meredith Dairy. A quick google showed me that their website had a section dedicated to their environmental philosophy (always a great sign) and provided stacks of information about the animal welfare and how they approach sustainable farming. Have a look here. It was slightly expensive ($11) but this represented the quality as well as the true embodied cost – we also found we savored it more. I managed to enjoy the hell out of one cube before my husband dropped the jar and smashed it on our kitchen tiles. He actually had to wrestle me while I tried to rinse the glass off and continue gorging. Glass is probably not good for a baby. It has not been a great week.

Weekend = Time for Action

It seems our big challenge is our diet. My husband is a gluten-intolerant omnivore (gluten free things seem to always come in plastic) and I am fiercely attempting to be vegetarian while pregnant (even though I am getting some unsolicited advice on the subject). I have read a few books and do not believe – for me – that I could healthily manage a vegan pregnancy. So with this in mind, the hardest items for us to go plastic free are; speciality flours, pasta, nuts, seeds, spices, herbs and berries.

Solution #1 – Pantry Store

So on Saturday with all my own containers in tow I wandered down to the Pantry Kitchen in Rockingham City. I asked the woman very nicely if she could weigh my containers prior to filling and then deduct the weight from the total. Unfortunately she said it would be ‘a bit of an effort’ and while she could do it she would rather not. Breathe. All fairness to her, at the very moment I approached her 20 other customers materialised from nowhere and so she may have felt some heat from the crowd. I didn’t need too much and I wasn’t buying anything like saffron or pine-nuts so I took the 20gram tax in my stride. For now.

But hear this lazy store-person (readers, please imagine that I am Liam Neeson in Taken) I don’t know who you are but I will return, I will bring my own containers and I will kill you – no! I mean FILL THEM. I will fill them!

Lady, you have been warned.

I will fill them.

Solution #2 – Farmers Market

On Sunday we braved Arctic conditions to visit the Peel Farmers Market. It was absolutely tiny but still very fruitful (and fruit full!). Here we found plastic free herbs, amazing homemade jams, lemon curd, organic sourdough loaves and lots of organic produce: leafy greens, capsicums, ginger and apples! Not only did we get some beautiful produce we also got to discover new things (Mustard greens – A party in my mouth!) and meet great new people who could tell me all about how and where the produce was grown.

I was a bit disappointed by one gentleman that had a stall at which everything was wrapped in plastic. While I would generally ignore this and move on there were some precious ruby’s catching my eye… STRAWBERRIES! I approached him and told him about my plastic free challenge and asked if he could give me the red jewels without the container and then (bonus) reuse it! He told me there was absolutely no point but said he would ‘probably’ reuse it. How’s that for a vote of confidence? He then started telling me that plastic was the way of the future before he started questioning if the car I came in was made of plastic. I attempted to explain single-use plastic to him but cut my losses and decided I didn’t want to give him any of my money’s anyway. I went back to Victor (from Victors Gourmet Delights) and tested out all his delicious sauces and preserves.

The Congruency Secret

A guest post by Rebecca Dettman on my favorite wellness blog (The Wellness Warrior) was incredibly timely this morning. It was called The Congruency Secret (see the whole article here) and it asks the very simple but ultimately puzzling question:

Do your behaviours match your intentions?

This week I realised that lately, mine haven’t. I hate the supermarket and this year vowed never to be in one – yet time (lack of) and convenience sucked me in and I found myself buying non-organic food and supporting a corporation that I despise. I have also proven that those ‘impossible to avoid’ plastics are possible to avoid. Before this challenge I was coasting along and letting very achievable goals slip past me rather than taking the bull by the horns and fighting harder for the environment.

So, this week I intend to make my own Rice milk and for the first time in my life attempt homemade pasta. I am living more creatively and learning new skills all the way. I have used the pain of my berry loss to kick my little procrastinating butt into action and we are finally getting the vegetable patch finished. My hubby and I are booking a week in August off work and are attacking our garden (I will blog about it of course). Then I will have miiiiillions of berries.

Lessons I Have Learnt

Taking into account that I must be proactive;

  • I will now order my food online from a local Organic business that delivers. If I am constantly running out of time to get to the shops then this is an easy solution that will avoid me missing out on my organic produce and giving my pennies to the supermarket.
  • I will book in a monthly trip to Fremantle to buy all of my ingredients in bulk… rather than buying bits here and there that last me a week at most.
  • I will strive to only support local business and inspiring individuals that really make a difference.

Any readers who are doing the Plastic Free July Challenge please let me know how you’ve been going in the comments! Any innovations, challenges, lovely reactions, not so lovely (I’m still looking at you Strawberry Man) or any make your own experiments. I would love to hear!

10 thoughts on “Plastic Free July: Week 1

  1. Since signing up for the challenge I am so much more aware of the amount of plastic that surrounds us – and equally frustrated when shopping. I was pleasantly surprised a couple of days ago when buying a paper-wrapped sandwich roll that the ‘Sandwich Artist’ said “You won’t need a plastic bag for that will you?” – my answer was deinitinely, ‘No, I won’t’. (My 10 year old son commented “Does everyone at the shops know that you have signed up for the Plastic-Free Challenge?”)

  2. I’ve joined the Plastic Free July challenge too. I’ve found when I just removed single-use plastic as an option, my entire shopping experience changed – as did my diet. I haven’t had time to pack containers to take to the butchers, so have gone mostly without meat – but I travel alot (typing this from Longreach) so eat meat when I’m away from home.

    My mum came to stay the other night and bought toilet paper while she was out, wrapped in plastic. At a cafe I ordered a fresh juice and it came in a disposable plastic cup! And I’m also pregnant and had a craving for bread and couldn’t find anything local that wasn’t wrapped in plastic. So I’m proud to say that’s the only thing I’ve actually consciously purchased that’s used single-use plastic.

    It is actually a little harder than I thought, as I’m also busy and don’t always have time to shop where I like. But I’ve managed so far.

    Three more weeks. But I think for me this is permanent.

  3. Brilliant idea. Never heard of this challenge but been without major plastic for nearly 6 months. Unfortunately being without plastic is seemingly impossible! I produce only a shopppig bag or two full a month now and majority of that is recycable!

    It’s amazing how people look at you strange for trying to save the planet and reduce your environmental foot print! I have been walking outside for sometime picking up bags full of ruubbish and it is quite concerning! So instead of focusing on my plastic usage i have began to reuse the plastic bags and making them into pencil cases, bags, and have a design ready for a raincoat to give to the homeless!

    I will continue to read your blog! Very interesting well done for supporting the Earth :)

  4. Hahahaha, Emily, you are a true shining beacon in the spoiled and wasted unconscious population of today. I love your blog because you make me laugh and inspire everyone and everything you touch. Thank you for sharing and don’t stop now, this path of obstacles is definitely taking us all somewhere :) and let’s catch up soon,

  5. I wont be buying anything with plastic during July but that is because we are having a *Buy No Food* month. Pity I didn’t know about this before hand, I would have done this and changed the NBF month. I think the less processed stuff you buy then the easier it would be but not sure I could not buy plastic full time. Will work on it so I’m ready for next year though.

    Barb.

  6. Pingback: Wellness and the Perfect Green Smoothie | Olive on Blonde

  7. Pingback: We Did It!!! Plastic Free July Is Over. | Olive on Blonde

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