Our Month Without Plastic: Half-Way Reflections
As part of Plastic Free July, Virginia and I have both pledged to avoid purchasing single-use plastics this month. It's actually been a lot easier than we were expecting. Strangely, it's fun - almost a game where we high 5 each other whenever we find a new alternative to a plastic-wrapped product we would have used before.
Why on earth would we want to do this plastic free challenge?
Our society has created a huge problem for ourselves, with the now plastic-dominated world we live in. The stuff seems to be everywhere. (Think about it - it's on our food, our cosmetics, in our gadgets, our cars, planes... it goes on).
But the trouble is, the stuff doesn't go away. Plastics 'break up', rather than breaking down; making them permanent pollution.
Every piece of plastic ever created still exists. How crazy is that?!
And a huge amount of it ends up in our waterways and oceans, where it causes harm to our beautiful sea life. Apparently by 2050, it's predicted that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish!
You can learn more about the Plastic Free July initiative, how you can get involved, and some of our tips for making it simple in this earlier feature we wrote.
Today though, we want to share our experiences of the month so far with you. What have we found quite challenging, and what has been relatively simple?
Firstly too, I'll note what we have and haven't been avoiding, as the Plastic Free July initiative allows you to set your own guidelines on this one.
We've definitely been avoiding:
- Plastic shopping bags
- Plastic take away containers / cups
- Food and drinks wrapped in plastic (including bread, wraps, crackers, tofu, noodles, frozen vegetables, processed foods etc)
But we have been using //things we haven't quite succeeded at avoiding:
- Make up, contained in plastic containers
- Some beauty products contained in plastic containers, or are in glass containers but have plastic pumps/lids.
- Food items packaged in plastics, which we already had from last month (including some pasta, rice crackers, vegan milk in containers with plastic lids, spice mixes & more)
So What's Been Easy?
Luckily, a lot!
With just a little extra thought and planning, it's actually been quite simple to cut down on most things.
How do we go shopping?
Vegetables & Fruit
These have been pretty easy to keep plastic free. We generally head to our local organic store or a market for these, which have minimal plastic packaging anyway.
Instead of reaching for a single-use plastic bag to store items in, we've been bringing in our own reusable produce bags (from ONYA, made from recycled plastic bottles), or using paper bags if we run out or forget to bring our bags.
This allows us to get by at supermarkets too, BUT the frustrating thing is that their loose produce is often more expensive than when the exact same thing is wrapped in plastic.. grrr.
(Like these carrots, which cost an extra 60 cents to get plastic-free!)
This one is definitely trickier than fruit and veg! Usually, we buy the reduced really good, artisan sourdough breads that are half price for being a day or so old. (Hey, don't judge us 😅).
None of that for us this month though! All of these half-price breads (at least in stores we go to) are wrapped in plastic. Supermarket brand breads all come in plastic too, so these are also off the cards.
Our solution has been to get ourselves some cloth bags (made from organic cotton, from our beloved The Enviro Shop in Northcote, Melbourne), and to take these along to bakeries and markets.
All of our experiences with this so far have been quite positive, and shop assistants are more than happy to use our cloth bags (or a paper bag if we don't have them on hand).
The only downsides are that:
a) We need to specifically seek out places with loose bread (bakeries, markets, or gourmet stores).
b) It generally costs more than 'supermarket' brands, or artisan brands' reduced loaves.
c) Some of favourite artisan brands only sell in plastic, so we have to miss out on them.
Still, in the greater scheme of things, it's not too bad. I'm sure we will discover more and more fantastic artisan bakeries too.
Grains, legumes, tofu, nuts/seeds, oils etc
We hit up the bulk / package-free produce stores! It's actually such a fun way to shop, and it's often cheaper too!
We even found package-free / self-serve tofu!!
We found this at Friends of The Earth, which is a volunteer run food co-op & vegetarian cafe, in Collingwood, Melbourne.
Oh and they happen to have an entire cabinet full of vegan savoury and sweet foods! We're talking croissants filled with marinated tofu, pizza, filled rolls, pies, cakes, slices, danishes and even donuts. (Which we felt we had to stock up on as they were plastic-free and could go in our cloth bags!! I mean, we totally had to right?)
Seriously, this place is the best ♥️
Bulk stores to the rescue again! We've been visiting Friends of The Earth for these, as it has a fantastic (and large) selection of cleaning products, both for your house and for yourself.
Some of Our Favourite Places in Melbourne to Shop Bulk, Plastic-Free & Environmentally Friendly products
- Apples & Sage, Balwyn
- Friends of The Earth, Collingwood
- Source Bulk Foods, Several locations
- Terre Madre, Northcote
- The Enviro Shop, Northcote
(Also, we love online store Flora & Fauna for vegan + eco-friendly beauty and cleaning products).