Last week, as I was looking around in our fridge and pantry I was starting to feel a bit defeated. I felt so great in July when we started our first plastic free challenge, then as it turned into August I felt we lost our momentum. It felt like plastic was taking over my life once again – aaaah 😮 .
I had to wrap my homemade burger buns in plastic wrap to be able to freeze them properly. We used disposable cups and plates for the birthday party (I know, big no-no in the zero waste community but I already had them from previous parties so I figured they shouldn’t go to waste…) I even caved and bought Q his teething cookies which come in a plastic bag, when I was able to avoid them all of last month. Not saying he didn’t get anything else – he made do just fine with fruit, homemade cookies and other food.
But now all of a sudden I felt like I was failing. I tend to be a perfectionist, I know that. For me it’s all or nothing sometimes. I have to be good at something right away or I consider myself a failure. I know that’s not true and I’m trying to work on it but sometimes it’s hard not to give in to those feelings. I’m just starting out on this journey and I still have lots to learn, but the most important thing is that I’m making progress, not that I’m perfect right away.
And sometimes it’s really hard to avoid plastic. It’s everywhere! It doesn’t seem cost-effective. I was out of coffee filters and went to the store to get another pack. There it was – a green box of coffee filters! Eco-friendly and everything! Awesome! Then I noticed that box had less than half the amount of the pack that came in a plastic bag and was almost double the price. How is this right?
If we want more people to be environmentally conscientious of their actions, shouldn’t the eco-friendly filters be cheaper?
In the end, I’m sad to say I had to get the ones in the plastic bag. But they will last me more than half a year, so I will have to buy them less often. I read somewhere that if you can’t avoid plastic then get the biggest amount you can, so you can avoid buying it as frequently.
The next day, I was in line at a different store waiting to pay for my items. When it was my turn, the cashier asked me if I needed a plastic bag. I said no thank you, as I had brought my own reusable cloth bag. The cashier proceeded to thank me for doing that and said that this simple action is so important and keeps so many plastic bags out of the landfills and oceans. The customer in front of me, who was still paying, also thanked me and said she is grateful for people like me because she always forgets her bags in the car. I was so happy to hear these words of encouragement. I really needed them that day.
It doesn’t always seem like we are making much difference. But one little change can affect so many things and lead to other, bigger changes. Here’s the changes I’ve made so far to reduce our waste and that you can make too:
Bring reusable bags
Instead of paying 0.05 cents for plastic bags, bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping. I always leave mine by the door so I can remember them when I head out and I have some in the car as well.
Refuse plastic produce bags
You know those annoying little plastic bags you find in every aisle of fruit and veggies? The ones you can hardly open in the winter when you hands are super dry and then when you finally get it open it breaks?
Well, instead of using those for every piece of fruit you get, try bringing reusable ones or forgo them altogether. I used to put my bananas in them! Why? What was I thinking?? I honestly don’t know what I thought would happen to them if I didn’t use a bag.
Bring your own containers
I’ve been trying to buy as many things in bulk as I can. Bulk Barn is awesome because they let you bring your own containers. You just have them weighed when you get there. then you go shopping, and at the end they subtract the weight of your containers so you don’t pay for that. I even brought my little cloth bag there last time and filled it with hickory sticks for a snack instead of buying a bag of chips.
Use beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap
I found these beeswax wraps from Zip Zero Waste at the farmer’s market and they are awesome! You just use them as you would plastic wrap, then wash them with cold water, let dry and reuse. I use them for our cheese and cucumbers after we cut them.
Refuse plastic packaging if you can
I was at Langley Farm Market one day and I wanted to get lettuce. But it was July, I was set on not buying plastic wrapped produce. (I now buy field cucumbers instead of the English ones, because those are wrapped in plastic.) The lettuce there had this plastic film around it, I don’t know why. I was thinking I might have to buy it like that, but then another thought occurred to me. I could just not get lettuce there. So I didn’t and the world didn’t end.
You can simply refuse to buy something if you can’t get it without plastic. You may find that you can live without it just fine.
Bring your own mug/water bottle
I bring my travel mug with coffee and my water bottle whenever I go out. That way, even if I want to get coffee when I’m out, I don’t have to use a one time plastic cup, lid or straw.
Slow down on fast food
Try not to buy fast food for a month and see if you can! It will save you money as well as the waste. Or if you do go out for coffee, bring your own travel mug.
I haven’t gotten any drinks out unless I had my travel mug with me and I don’t miss it. I can make my own coffee or iced coffee at home and it’s cheaper this way! At first I started focusing on this to save money, but now I’m also paying attention to waste.
Buy less packaged products
When you go grocery shopping, try to get raw ingredients as much as possible and cook your meals at home. I try to buy fruit and veggies, and we make a meal plan for the week ahead. We come up with a few simple meals and try to use what we already have in the house as well (rice, pasta, etc.)
Bake your own bread
All the bread at the store seems to come in a plastic bag or you have to go to a fancy, expensive store to get one in a paper bag. So, seeing how we’re trying to save money as well, I started baking bread. I love doing it and the bread tastes awesome! Plus it’s more cost-effective to bake your own bread than buy the one in the plastic bag.
Be an example
I think the best thing that’s happened so far from this zero waste journey is being able to teach my kids about it as well. I can show them how to be mindful consumers and teach them to take care of our planet.
Just the other day T was playing in her room. She had her little bucket on the floor and she put toys in it and said that was her “garage bin”. So I asked her, “What about your recycling and compost bins?”
Then I told her why we should recycle and how a lot of the plastic we use ends up in the oceans hurting the animals and fish there. At this she gasped and said “Oh no!!” with a concerned look on her face. “It’s ok” I told her. “By recycling, composting and using less, we can have less waste. And it won’t end up in the ocean!”
Just imagine if our future generations grow up with this mind as they go about their lives.