So here we are. The end of week 1 of Plastic Free July 2018 – also known as my and Steve’s second foray into Plastic Free July. You can read about our 2017 journey here, here and here, as well as a round up of how we continued on the path here, and my interview with Erin Rhoads aka The Rogue Ginger here.
Heading into our second Plastic Free July we were feeling prepared to a degree bordering on smug. I knew then that we’d probably be in for a nasty wake up call. Last year we resolved to avoid disposable coffee cups, straws, plastic bags, plastic crockery and take-away containers. This year we amped it up and decided to sign off on avoiding all single use plastic. Cue immediate wake up call.
Throughout the past 12 months we have fairly successfully maintained the lessons we learned in our first challenge. We learned to pack produce bags, pyrex containers and shopping bags alongside our shopping lists when headed to the markets or grocery store. We learned to always throw a bottle of water, keep cups or a flask of coffee and some prepared snacks into our bags when heading out. We finished our cling wrap and didn’t replace it, instead reaching for beeswax wraps or lidded containers. We learned to meal plan religiously each week so as to not only minimise food waste but to also make sure we were able to grab everything we needed plastic free whether that was loose, in bulk or in recyclable packaging. We learned to simplify the way we eat while also making a lot of our food from scratch. Our health, energy levels, and household budget have all benefitted.
Then we upped the game, after I became increasingly inspired by zero wasters such as Lauren Singer, Erin Rhoads, Bea Johnson and Anita Vandyke. We started composting and growing food and herbs, and sourced as much as we could second hand after seriously questioning if we even needed it, and began to make much of our own household cleaning and toiletry products. These efforts in addition to the reduction in single use plastics saw our rubbish production reduced to about half a bag of rubbish per week – predominantly made up of disposable nappies thanks to an opinionated two-year-old actively rebelling against cloth nappies.
This brings us to now. Smug yet on the edge of a swift wake up call. Most plastic-free peeps advocate doing a rubbish audit so as to work out what you’re actually throwing out. “Not much!” I thought, before actually opening my eyes and looking around. Sure, next to nothing goes into the rubbish bin, but our soft plastics bin that I return to the REDcycle bin at Woolworths is rather… large. As is our recycling bin. Not to mention the container I put our toothbrushes, toothpaste, emptied bottles of shampoo and make up containers into so I can return them to Terracycle at Biome. It seems we have been ticking off not sending to plastic to landfill, but not really cutting it out of our lives.
This is where you imagine hearing glass shattering as I became aware of how we’d… modified… our habits rather than changing them.
Now, while I may personally have aspirations to go zero waste one day, that’s not where our family as a whole is headed. So I need to remember that, and also be proud of how far we’ve come.
In the spirit of honesty, I should also mention this week alone we’ve been stung by surprise plastic cutlery and a styrofoam container when we unwrapped fish and chips, a plastic bag when a market stall holder bagged some tarragon while we were distracted by a toddler meltdown, and a dearth of plastic-free options when we walked into a store for some essentials. Sure, we could have walked out and gone to another store, but when you’re lugging around a toddler that’s not a practical option. We also should have flagged no plastic in our lunch order, but it honestly didn’t occur to us that those items would be included. Ah well, live and learn.
While mulling over what to write in this first round up, Steve and I got into some animated discussions. I have aspirations about where I’d like us to be, whereas Steve is conscious about where we have come from. We both agreed we also had to find a way forward that fit in with our rather full lives. We have a toddler who will only eat frozen peas over fresh peas, so that is something we have to work with. We both work, have side projects that fill up our time, and prioritise family time over slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end, which is where the packets of crackers and cruskits come in.
So that leaves us here at the end of week 1. Somewhere in between plastic free and incredibly loaded in plastic.
Are you doing Plastic Free July? How are you finding it?