Wow, this plastic-free adventure has been challenging and thrilling so far. So many people are asking me about my plan and taking their own small steps to reduce plastic consumption which makes me feel great. My parents are on board and my nieces have taken an interest. They are young activists in the making. This is the fun part. The not-so-fun part is the realization of just how much work there is to do, how far I still have to go and just how big the problem really is. Can one person really make a difference? I am still not sure, but I am going to keep trying anyways.
As a reminder, here was my January goal:
Eliminate all plastic grocery bags, sandwich baggies, freezer bags and plastic wrap for food storage.
I actually feel pretty good about meeting my goal for this month. We haven’t had any food storage baggies in the house now for months and I am beginning to forget about them as an option. I pack my daughter’s lunches in reusable containers. She is great about bringing everything home so I can decide what to do with it, including her food scraps. Although I do feel great about this, I am often daunted by what a tiny dent this is actually making. The zero-wasters out there can fit their garbage in a jar. I am still producing a tall kitchen garbage bag every 3-4 days (for 7 people), plus a whole lot more in diapers.
January success story: It can be time consuming and mentally draining, but I have started to research packaging on every item that I buy. This month, I needed orange juice for a recipe. I couldn’t find any sold in glass jars and learned that the paper cartons (Tetrapak) are lined with a layer of, you guessed it, plastic. The frozen juice also has plastic in it. I found a YouTube video about how to break down frozen cans by soaking overnight, removing the plastic film, and recycling each piece. Ugh….what a hassle. So instead I decided to simply skip the OJ entirely. The recipe called for 1 cup and I just skipped it! My pulled pork still turned out great and I had zero anxiety about bringing in another piece of plastic into the house!
January failure: I grocery shop online which adds a huge complication to being plastic free. My local grocery store is pretty good about not using bags but I have to go in on EVERY SINGLE produce item and make a note. It is time intensive to say the least. I am still trying to determine if the convenience is worth it or if I need to just suck it up and actually go to the store. The failure this month happened when someone missed my “no bags” note and still packed in plastic bags. They offered to unpack them for me but also told me that they couldn’t be re-used. I think the biggest fail here is actually on the store. Why isn’t there an option at checkout for bag preference? It would be SO much easier to just say at the end that I am bringing my own or allow me to choose paper!! It is so strange to me that the plastic bag ban where I live does not apply when you order online. Yes, I can make my own personal choices but what about every other customer?
Overall thoughts on going plastic free: I have so many things in use in my home that I have owned before I cared about plastic. My biggest challenge is to stick to only changing one thing a month. With every lifestyle change, there is a cost. And as much as I would love to, I can’t start buying cleaning supplies in jars, natural deodorant or locally made, fresh bread all at once. I have found that these products are out there but they are spendy which is why I have to stick to my plan. I tend to get lost online looking at amazing products only to complete my grocery order with the same old toothpaste in a plastic tube. At times, I long for the days that I cared only about natural ingredients and cost and didn’t consider the packaging. I am trying to give myself grace, take it one step at a time and get excited about each new step. I am super excited for February and what I have found to solve my milk dilemma. More on that to come.
A few more tidbits: I have made a couple of other changes as they have come up outside of my plan.
- Started buying Seventh Generation diapers again! A monthly supply costs me $10-$12 more a month.
- Replaced Pull-ups with a nifty product called Super Undies. These are perfect for my oldest who only needs a Pull-Up about once a week. I have to wash my 3 year olds every day but this is actually helping me stay up on laundry so I guess you could call it a win-win.
- Stopped buying anything individually wrapped like string cheese, squeeze packs, fruit leathers and packs of peanut butter crackers. The real win here is that the kids didn’t even notice!