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!

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