Friday, July 25, 2014

plastic free July - three weeks on

Well more of the month has gone than there is to come and how am I doing with regard to keeping single use plastic out of my life?

That depends on how you look at it. Compared to many people I probably do pretty well. This month compared to what I usually use? Hmmm, not that much difference to be totally honest.

I was brave enough to refuse a plastic bag in Farmers the other day, in the past I'd been told there that they have to put things in one of their bags and seal it with tape for 'security reasons' whereas this time the teller didn't even bat an eyelid, so hopefully that is a positive sign of policy change.

I've become more aware of the remaining bits of single use plastic I can't figure out how to manage without like tablet blister packs. Yesterday as I was sewing and came towards the end of a reel of cotton I lamented the passing of wooden cottonreels. Some thread comes on cardboard spools so I can try to buy those where possible but the range of colours available (locally) is rather limited. Mind you I have a sizeable stash of cotton which I always try to use first, including some industrial cones dating back to the 70s, and I keep inheriting collections of cotton so I don't often buy it anyway. There are some food items that I buy because of my particular dietary requirements that as far as I know only come in plastic; as each one has come along this month I've thought hard 'do I really need this'. Some I don't and most likely won't buy again or, like the pasta, I haven't actually bought for a long time, I'm just using up what I still had in the cupboard. Other things are in the 'pending' pile as it were - I can't figure out a way around it just yet, but I'll work on it.

Then there are the times when different sets of principles/priorities clash - without thinking I bought some paprika in the health food shop last week as we'd just about run out. It comes in a resealable plastic pouch. If I'd waited until I'd next gone to Pak'n'Save I could've got it in a box. But a) that could be weeks away yet, and b) I do try to support the small shops in town as they need all the help they can get. I had checked Four Square that stocks some of the spices in boxes, but they don't keep a large range and paprika isn't part of it. But did I really need paprika now? Could I have lived without it? Of course I could. But when cooking with a limited range of ingredients it is often the herbs and spices that make all the difference. I bought a new recipe book recently and one particular recipe caught my eye, which calls for paprika. The fact that I'm even thinking of trying a new recipe is a sign of me slowly getting better and I'm not about to hold back my own recovery over a plastic packet of paprika. When I've made it as per recipe once I'll happily adapt, but I do like to try things as close to intended as possible the first time - especially when I can eat all the ingredients in it!

Yesterday I needed to go and buy reasonably large quantities of veg to make soup for a TimeBank fundraiser so I fished bags out of the pile in the laundry that I know came from Bells originally and  re-used them rather than tear new ones off the roll. I certainly wouldn't have thought to do that before, so I guess I am making some progress in my thinking and, more to the point, habits.

One thing that has been niggling in the back of my mind for a while is the food in the CDE Kit most of which is plastic packed. On the one hand this seems like a really good thing as plastic is light, doesn't easily break, and it is waterproof. But these foods need rotated and ideally replaced once a year. Of course I'm not about to throw out perfectly useable food so that means eating it... and it has to be said unless I'm camping I find it really hard to summon up any enthusiasm for instant rice meals! I've read some blog posts about making up your own 'instant' meals (ie just add water and cook) which would be all very well if I was at home or in some else's home. But if I end up at the college along with half of Kaitaia due to flooding, something that can be bunged in the microwave as is for 40 seconds is still looking like a better option as chances are I won't be able to eat what is served up for the masses. I'll work on this one!

But anyway this is what the last 3 weeks of single use plastic in my life looks like:

New from last week: a rice flakes packet (I mix these with oats for my morning porridge - I'm trying to cut out gluten and reduce the amount of oats I eat. There are other things I could use, but they all come in plastic too); an old wet wipes packet which had been in my bag for a couple of years, literally, I bought them for going to Kenya!; yet more tablet strips (but as yet no more painkiller ones, woo hoo!); the seals off a bottle of cider vinegar; the strips cut off the top of a couple more bulk buy packets and I think that's about it. I'm seriously considering keeping the challenge up for a second month at least to see how much is simply a case of using up what I already have, and how much new still manages to sneak in. Because I'm on a fairly tight budget I'm not rushing out to buy alternatives until I have used up what I have so it will all be a gradual process to reduce my consumption of single use plastic. Hopefully over time I'll also be able to make an impact on reducing the plastic use in our household that isn't generally my responsibility. Being healthy enough to get to market regularly will certainly make a difference to start with. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

plastic free July - two weeks in

Okay, so when I find an old cotton reel hiding down the back of the chair that has been there for months it doesn't count right? Not much of a dilemma I admit and I'm pretty sure it could be re-purposed, just not quite so easily as it could when I was working at kindergarten!

I'm doing the Plastic Free July challenge to try to avoid single use plastic for a month.

Again this weeks collection has a fair chunk of tablet blister packs in it, plus a couple of packets from things that were bought specifically for me to use at the bach which have now been finished (some GF wraps to stand in for pizza bases and some feta cheese). These aren't things I would usually buy if I was going to be eating at home as usual, and I quite possibly wouldn't have got if the cooking arrangements at the bach weren't so... odd, ie no stove! We did alright with the wood-fired pizza oven, barbeque, electric frying pan, microwave, and the dinky grill/oven box thingamijig Margaret managed to bake a birthday cake in (I was well impressed with that achievement!). But it was a challenge trying to shop when I'd never been there before and wasn't going to know until it was too late for me to go shopping again what they had planned for meals beyond pizza. However I now know the cunning plan of using the cast iron frying pans in the pizza oven and... anyway I digress.

Rather than seperate out each weeks collections here is two weeksworth together (week one can be seen here).

I've been reading some other peoples experiences about doing the plastic free July challenge and realising that my existing shopping habits certainly make it a lot easier for me than many. For a start I don't do that much shopping and for practical reasons I'm limiting this challenge to things I'm responsible for. I got to the market this weekend so managed to do our vegetable shopping - so that all came loose or in paper bags which went into my cloth shopping bag. It's only whilst I've been sick this year and Phyllis has been buying all the veggies that the amount of fresh food associated plastic has crept up as she goes to Four Square where most of it is pre-packed or puts everything in new bags when she goes to Bells. Buying local produce direct from the growers means there are no sticky plastic lables on the fruit etc. which had become some folks bugbear last week. Hopefully I'll be up to going to the market again from now on, so I'll be able to keep the amount of plastic creeping in to the house that way down again.

When I'm getting the bus back from Auckland etc I'd got into the habit of buying sushi from the shop where you change buses in Kerikeri. I had planned to the same last Tuesday, but I was off eating altogether when the time came, however I had set off prepared! I had my wee Marmite lunchbox with me which I was planning to fill up instead of the plastic trays they have - that being the great advantage of it being a self service sushi shop rather than everything pre-packaged. They serve the pickled ginger out of a big catering box rather than sachets and I was just planning to say no to wasabi and soy sauce having forgotten to refill and bring with me the wee squeezy soy sauce bottle I'd got from there last trip.

One thing that did strike me about this week was sellotape etc! I used some insulation tape in an attempt at some cable management and the first plan failed after a few days so I was about to throw away the tape then realised what it was! So into the bag it went with the rest of the plastic. Also in there is a shop sticker that had been used to seal up some tissue paper around a gift I received. The padded bag that arrived in will get re-used so certainly doesn't count as 'single use' - it was interesting to see it had two recycling numbers on it, presumably one for the bag and one for the bubble wrap inside it. But it doesn't say which is which and one number you can recycle locally and the other you can't... I'll add writing to NZ Post about that to my 'to do' list.

This all made me think about packaging for postage. Generally I re-use jiffy bags/padded packaging that I receive things in, or use brown paper and recycled bubble wrap. But I have to admit between parcels and re-using envelopes I do use a fair amount of sellotape and parcel tape, and I'd been using sellotape without even thinking this month. I've no idea how well brown paper tape works for anything other than mask making, I suppose I'd better get some and find out! Glue is okay for some cases, but comes in a plastic container itself and I'm definitely not going to use Cow Gum I'm afraid, I can smell the stuff just thinking about it and I doubt I've seen a tin since Primary school - which does make me wonder if it is even available here. The enevelope re-user lables I've got are just small address lable size, not the sort that can fold over the top of the envelope to seal it, and it was hard enough to find those! Hmmmm....

The observant will spot an ink cartridge - well that's the last one, I now have a reservoir in my fountain pen so I am back to using bottled ink. I haven't bought a biro in years, but somehow I accumulate freebies. I do have a pack of ball point refills but I seem to lose biros as easily as gain them so them running out isn't usually an issue.

The more time passes doing this the more I realise that keeping single use plastic out of life is a long term strategy not a short term fix. I keep coming across things I'm using up that I actually stopped buying regularly some time ago, partly because my lifestyle has changed or because I bought it when I was really sick and not able to do as much cooking from scratch as I usally do these days, but partly because of making a conscious commitment to keeping throwaway plastic out of my life as much as possible. It would be even more wasteful not to use those things up just because of their plastic component. In theory though as I finish things, this should get easier, right? We'll see!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Facebook and vocal ministry

En route to Yearly Meeting I was having a conversation with Charlotte about giving vocal ministry in Meeting for Worship (that's speaking out of the silence of worship for those not so familiar with our ways), when it was appropriate to do so and so on. The conversation came to mind recently as I was sharing something I'd seen on Facebook on someone's timeline rather than simply sharing it on my own. I'd been telling Charlotte one of the rules of thumb I'd picked up some years ago (no idea where now!) about testing ministry that comes to you:

1) Is it a message for yourself? If so accept it with gratitude and sit with it in the silence and see if more unfolds.
2) Is it a message for a particular individual? If so tell them afterwards, in person if possible, otherwise use the phone/email etc later (although I suspect when I first heard this email wasn't an option!)
3) Is this message for the group, or someone you can't identify? If so share it as vocal ministry

Of course if it is #3 then Margaret's method of saying it over in your head three times before getting to your feet is a good stage two - usually I find before I've managed to get my head around it for a third time someone else has said whatever it was far better than I could, the sense of urgency to speak has eased, or another way had opened to follow the thought through later. Alternatively this could just be me making excuses for not liking to give vocal ministry, the few times it has happened I've been a proper quaker and been quaking in my boots!

So what does this have to do with Facebook?

Well when you have +500 Facebook friends you have to hope they share a certain amount of discernment before posting otherwise you end up with a lot of 'stuff' to get through to find the important bits of news and information. There are only a few of my friends who are prolific sharers of things and mostly I'm grateful for what they do, but after the 3rd or 4th consecutive link to articles on the same topic my eyes glaze over and I start to skim past them without even reading the snapshot properly to see if it is worth reading in full. A bit like tuning out when you hear ministry repeated for the umpteenth time by an elderly Friend who is getting a bit yonderly, if you focus you might get something new out of it, and those hearing it fresh are quite likely to, but that Friend is still probably on the Elders 'what can we do about so-and-so...?' list!

So generally I try not to post too much in one day. Often I'll post something direct to someone's page rather than in my feed if I think it will particularly appeal to them, even if I know others of my friends would appreciate it they'll probably appreciate me not sharing half a dozen items or so a day even more! A bit like going directly to the Friend in question after Meeting rather than adding to an already busy hour of ministry - when there's too much being said I stop taking things in properly after a while, both in Meeting and on Facebook.

But then there are some articles etc that I'll make sure I share liberally - in my own feed, and in various groups I'm part of to make sure the message gets out there: like our YM statement 'Lest we forget' and AFSCs piece on the current appauling violence in Gaza which gives the context the mainstream media seem to be glossing over at best. I guess that's like giving ministry in Meeting, adding campaign info in the notices, and just to be sure writing something for the newsletter!

But there is a lot that I see on Facebook that speaks to me and my condition that I don't necessarily share further, but I'll definitely 'like' it and often leave a comment so the person who shared it has a bit more idea as to why I 'like' it. Often these are the inspirational quotes or funnies that say just what I needed, (and sometimes didn't necessarily want to hear!), or that really made me laugh. After all laughter is the best medicine!

Where I dither regularly (and generally decide not to share) are the petitions. I often get several emails a day direct from the likes of Causes, Sum Of Us, Avaaz, Story of Stuff as well as groups like Greenpeace and Amnesty International that I support directly, and those petitions friends of mine have signed and passed on etc etc etc. I unsubscribed from 38 Degrees as really you're supposed to be a UK resident and whilst occasionally I've been known to borrow my parents postcode when I feel really strongly about something it is cheating the system somewhat! I don't think I've ever signed anything they wouldn't agree with should anyone care to check the electoral register for an 'A Dunford' in Whithorn, who could of course be my mum!

Given I often sign at least 10 petitions a week I figure that sharing requests to sign for all of them is going to bring upon whatever the petitioning version of 'donor fatigue' is on my friends and I'd rather they stayed my friends... In the same way that there really is a limit as to how many notices you can give about worthy causes after Meeting before folk start getting fidgety and thinking more about their upcoming cuppa rather than what you're saying. Instead I'd rather share links to articles that help people make their own mind up about whether to sign such petitions when they land in their inbox or news feed by other means. The few I do share are those unlikely to get much publicity otherwise such as to Save the Whithorn Trust which thankfully got rescued with Heritage Lottery funding (my misgivings about the ethics of Lottery funding in general is another topic altogether!) Call it my bit of repayment for borrowing a local postcode...

Anyway, as Victor used to say I've spoken for far too long already, but I assure you I'm not about to repeat myself and go off on several tangents for twice as long again. Well not this time anyway!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

plastic free July - one week in

Well it hasn't been the easiest week to start trying to keep track of my single-use plastic consumption! I was away with long time f/Friends for a few days at "the bosses' bach" near Tutukaka which was fantastic. It's been years since we've spent that long together and the break was just what I needed. It did mean though that they had done most of the food shopping not me so I had to figure out how I was going to deal with the plastic monitoring. I decided that anything that was just for me, or that I had brought counted, if it was something of theirs that I happened to have shared then it didn't. The only thing I dithered over was the seal of a tub of hummus that they probably bought because of me but we did all tuck in to it so I let it go!

So my total of single use plastic for the first week is pretty low: the strips cut off the top of several bulk buy bags, one crisp packet from the weekend (that I didn't track down until after I'd taken the photo), the wrapper from a box of teabags that had been gifted to me and a few extra scraps; but a lot so far is medical - blister packs from tablets and the wrapper from a moxa stick the acupuncturist provides. It doesn't look that much but I know there are a few packets close to being finished that no doubt will be added to the collection before the month (this week?) is out. I must admit it is tempting to avoid those things until August but that really is cheating! I did pause before opening the box of teabags I have to admit especially as it is a brand I'd never buy myself.

I knew I already did fairly well in terms of keeping my single-use plastic consumption down, and this week has confirmed that. But it has made me think a lot more about the issue, and notice how much is wrapped in plastic that really doesn't need to be. Also so far I don't think there is much more I could cut out - I don't think the pharmacy would be too happy if I asked for counted out tablets in glass bottles like we used to get, especially given how many tablets I take! I suspect all their dispensing bottles are plastic these days. Didn't we used to take empty glass ones back to the chemists? I've a feeling we did, well when not filling them up with potions and and various things made from painted DAS clay for playing shops with anyway!

Anyway, two days into week 2 and so far the pile hasn't grown much more, we'll so how it looks by the end of the 14th!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

plastic free July

Well if you've been following my blog for a while (thanks for hanging in there with me!) you'll know I've been trying to reduce the amount of plastic in my life, especially single use plastic. So when an email arrived mentioning Plastic Free July of course I had to investigate!

Now the quibbler in me who knows I have to go shopping for bulk items this week and those things all come in plastic, is thinking if you re-use something it isn't single use any more is it? Like the bags I get my bulk food items in, these pre-sealed (so it isn't like I can take my own bag) large snaplock bags get washed out and re-used. Well okay, some of them get re-used, the rest are gradually accumulating in the laundry. But the only way I can avoid plastic when I buy such things is to buy organic versions from the health food shop which uses corn starch bags for it's bulk bin products, and I simply don't have that much money right now and they don't stock all the things I buy anway.

I haven't used cling wrap in years, I very rarely buy takeaway food that comes with disposable plastic and I always refuse plastic bags it at all possible, so the main things most people are cutting back on are hardly a challenge for me. Today as I was walking past the butchers in town I saw he had a big poster in his window - tofu on special, $3.50 for about 680g. Well at that price it was definitely worth investigating and whilst I'm a life long vegetarian I'm quite happy to support a local independent butcher on the high street, especially as he sells local meat (keep those food miles down where possible!). Plus Kaitaia needs all the retailers in town that it can get to fill the numerous empty shops.

The tofu in question is made in Auckland from GMO free beans, and I know it is pretty good having had it down there at a friend's. I had been making a point of buying Tonzu's tofu as not only is it organic but they are a Living Wage employer too, but feeling it was worth supporting another small business for a change got me in the door. Anyway, the point of this (before I completely do a Ronnie Corbett) was the dither over packaging once I got in the shop - it is in a plastic tray with a film seal over the top. Tonzu sell their tofu in cardboard boxes, but packaged in plastic inside. I figured the plastic seal was about the same amount as the Tonzu inside packaging so fair enough, but the tray? Well thriftiness won the day and I bought it, but I was very glad to find out when I got home that the tray is recyclable. But this all got me thinking again (and that was before I'd read the email!), could I manage without buying anything in plastic?

I've signed up for the challenge, but knowing that for some things I have the choice of plastic or going without. I could just wait until August to buy them to improve my July target, but that really feels like cheating. Whilst I've changed my diet considerably to reduce the amount of processed food in it over the last few years there are some things that I really need to eat to keep my diet properly balanced, and right now the only way I can get them is in plastic packaging. But I'm definitely going to make the extra effort this month to cut out as much single use plastic as I can and see how I go, hopefully the promised emailed tips will help!