Plastic Free July Week 1: Gathering Speed…

I’ve only started this little project 7 months ago and now decided to go for the full challenge: Plastic Free July.

Plastic Free July is a challenge which originated in Australia in 2011. Some considerate minds, not unlike many others around the globe, were fed up with the amount of plastic in our daily lives, especially single-use items such as straws, plastic bags, coffee cups and water bottles. The whole thing was initially created to challenge people to refuse these four items for a month in order to stop the flood of single use plastic going into landfill. Since then it’s spread to other continents and countries where people apply their own rules to the scope of the challenge.

I’ve decided that the ‘big 4’ aren’t enough for me. Since trying to live more consciously and responsibly, which ended up in trying to adapt a zero waste lifestyle, I’m overly aware of the amounts of trash I’m still producing (it’s still more than plenty!). That’s why I (with the support of my boyfriend) have decided to try my best to not purchase any plastic or plastic-wrapped items (with special regards to short life plastics) in the month of July. Every week, I will keep you informed about the victories and defeats I encounter.

To take some points ahead, it looks like this challenge is going to be particularly difficult for us. Only a few weeks ago I have learned that our university coop, in which I buy most dry goods and my veg bag, is closed during the whole month. Moreover, this is probably the only shop in the whole greater area where you can buy anything in bulk. There is literally NO shops around that stock unpackaged goods, and this might turn out to be a real problem before long. Moreover, after hours of internet search and contacting various dairies, I can honestly say there is not one single supplier of dairy products in the area where we live that provides milk (or any dairly for that matter) in glass bottles. Like, literally, none. My boyfriend and me agreed to go largely dairy-free for this reason in July, making a plastic exception for milk, but missing out on cream and cheese (unless we get that unpackaged somewhere else). To balance all this, my boyfriend has committed to help me (which is a great support for my stamina in this challenge).

Well, roll it on then…

The first (half-)week has passed and it’s been going fairly okay. Tuesday, our last plastic-y day, I stocked up plenty of pasta, oats and sugar at uni, and headed off into this challenge of which I don’t even half know what it’s going to take.

Wednesday, we only needed to purchase some fish for dinner, and went out to the supermarket to find a fishmonger which will pack his produce in one of our reusable boxes (which are plastic, I confess, but reusable. If I have the money, I’ll invest into stainless steel.). Let the awkward explanations begin! Even though my boyfriend was a fishmonger at the same supermarket for several years and is familiar with the Health & Safety regulations, the guy serving us refused to pack the fish in our box. He finally settled for wrapping it in a thin plastic sheet before placing it in the box (I think he missed the point there). In the next shop we were offered indeed that we can use our own container, but by then it was obviously too late as we had already bought it… room for improvement here.

Thursday was a clothes shopping day, which was probably a few months overdue, and we went out to get a few necessities. Cutting a long story short, we pretty much managed to get as little extras (everything that ISN’T clothes) as possible, having to deal only with tags and receipts (in case of return). Gladly, most of them were actually cardboard, and none of the stuff was brought home in a plastic carrier bag.

Friday we decided to go out on a hike, and went to the local fruit shop. I was relieved that most things were offered without plastic wrap, so I know now where I will guaranteed find fruit and veg without worrying about my uni veg bag. The woman serving us was very helpful and offered to pack the strawberries and cherries in my cloth bags. When she returned, she just tipped the fruit from its original plastic tray packaging into my bags. Oops. I hope she reuses them.

We then packed plenty of food into reusable containers, but realised that we, because of the hot weather, would need more than our two 500ml bottles if we were to hike the hills for 4 hours. Silly though that we haven’t got any other drink bottles, as our last plastic bottle was purchased quite some time ago. We eventually found another 500ml PET bottle, but that still was hardly enough. In hindsight, we should have just bought another plastic bottle regardless of our reluctance, but hindsight is a beautiful thing as they say, and we did manage in the end. I now know to buy another 1l travel bottle asap.

Sunday, we had another day out visiting a castle and Farmer’s Market, which we headed off well prepared (for my standards at least). I brought enough bags/containers etc. to basically buy everything we wanted without unnecessary packaging. Apart from when it came to sausages, where we had previously debated whether to get some from our local butchers (pro: no plastic; con: they don’t really taste great) or from the Farmer’s Market (pro: they taste awesome; con: vacuum packed). Needless to say which option won (they do taste sooo good!). I also proved to be unprepared when it came to food on the go. I had prepared enough food for the first half of the day, but eventually it was time for another meal, and we couldn’t say no to some tasty Farmer’s Market Chinese street food. The container was aluminium, the drink in a can. Just the fork was plastic. Ouch. Going to add it to my list I guess. I took it home with me to use again, but this was not the first time I lacked essential cutlery, and I vowed to make sure we always take some from now on (in case we stumble over some random street food, which happens more often than I expect!).

If that wasn’t enough, Saturday we had a parcel arrive of our favourite and one-and-only chewing gums (you should check it out it’s really good stuff), which, to be honest, we ordered before July. Unfortunately for us, it was shipped in a plastic wrap (unlike the previous times we bought it). And each individual pack was, too. In the spirit of plastic free-ness, I messaged the company and told them that in all their awesomeness, this was the only thing that annoyed me. I got a nice reply, in which they told me they probably won’t change it, but the wrappers would be recycable. I don’t know whether to count that as a win or lose…

Looking back at the week, there is no day in which I have not purchased zero plastic. Why do I still consider it a good start then? Because of all the choices I could have made, I probably only purchased about less than 10% of all the plastic I COULD have purchased on a ‘normal’ day. Only thinking about all the bags and wrappers and packaging and cups and stuff that you get, I feel good with the amount I accomplished. Of course I want to go all the way and manage the whole month on the same level (or better), but so far we haven’t been in need of cheese, meat, ham, nuts, oil, toilet roll, or any of the other stuff which I don’t know where to buy yet! And dealing with all the people that tell you how ‘complicated’ it is what you are doing (even though I wonder what is less complicated: packing a piece of meat in a foil within a wrap within a bag – or just sticking it in a box??), it will probably be as annoying as it will be fun to look back at.

Have you done Plastic Free July yet or are you even doing it right now? Would you consider doing it? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments!

PS: I’m playing around with my blog design. Let me know what you think!

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2 thoughts on “Plastic Free July Week 1: Gathering Speed…

  1. thingio says:

    Wow! I envy you so much for making the switch! I’m going fairly ‘extreme’, compared to my previous efforts, and I already face so many obstacles! I do love handkerchiefs, too, and the nostalgic feel they give you when using them. I found they are handy for so many more things than just blowing your nose. It’s true though that something with plastic will always come around at some point. I guess it would be easier if I was vegan. But I don’t want to be vegan, I just want to be waste-free 😉

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  2. evelinamarie says:

    I have been living a waste free life for a few months now, not only reducing, reusing and recycling plastic packaging but also paper products. I recently bought 18 clothe napkins at a reuse shop for $5. Since I live alone, I will be able to use them for at least a month or more before I have to do a small wash and then I will line dry them. They should last many years. Sometimes plastic packaging is unavoidable – even when purchasing organic produce! I wash these bags and use for refrigerator storage until they wear out. I did find 3 vintage metal storage containers which I use for freezing. They are just as good, if not better than plastic. Right now I’m focusing on divesting myself of plastic items that I have accumulated by repurposing them until they wear out. Then I will be totally plastic free. Good luck!

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