By now we’re all well aware that plastic pollution is a real problem, and it’s not only impacting our oceans, but also the wildlife that lives there and ultimately, us. In support of the plastic-free initiatives, I tried going plastic-free for one week.
Well, it turned out to be a bigger challenge than I thought.
While there are some areas of my life where I’ve managed to completely cut out single plastic use, such as grocery shopping, I’ve come to realize that there is still lots of room for improvement that needs to happen in my life. Here are some of the challenges and the successes I came across during the week I tried to live free of plastic.
No, I’m not kidding. It’s everywhere. Clothing, packaging, even chewing gum itself! I always thought of myself as a fairly mindful person, but after consciously taking a look at my plastic consumption during the span of this challenge, I was left a little discouraged.
I was also overwhelmed by the reality that while I’m an avid recycler, I was doing it wrong. Not all plastic is actually recyclable. I quickly realized that this an area where I need to be doing more research and better educating myself about the different kinds of plastic, which kinds are actually able to be recycled and areas where I can swap out the item containing plastic for a more environmentally conscious option.
I love getting mail. Gone are the days of getting bills in the mail (thank you, digital age!), so now my mailbox is filled with the orders I place from various online stores, postcards from loved ones and goodies from brand partnerships. However, after actually keeping all of the packagings in a box for the entire duration of the week, I was shocked to see what a little mountain of plastic waste I have made in the corner of our apartment. While Bandit (our sweet little corgi) was having a hoot in his newly found playground, I was overwhelmed by all of the plastic waste created and couldn’t help but think that all of this would undoubtedly end up in the oceans and in landfills.
Life is busy. Between working a full-time job, planning a wedding and a honeymoon abroad and running a blog (do I need to mention cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, walking the dog, doing laundry and making sure I put in a call to my mother too?), life can get hectic real quick. So, on some nights, my fiancé and I were guilty of getting takeout and shoveling in bites of food between checking items off of our to-do lists. The downside? Plastic and styrofoam takeout containers.
My fiancé and I have been working hard the past few months to be more conscious about our waste output. In efforts to reduce the need for plastic bags at the grocery store checkout, we purchased a reusable bags and we bring them with us every time we head out for the weekly shopping trip. Also, when shopping in the produce aisle, we don’t use those little plastic bags, but instead just place the produce in the cart and wash it really, really well when we get home.
Another way we were able to eliminate the use of plastic in our home is through our pantry and shopping in bulk. First, we bought some jars from IKEA and instead of going to the grocery store and buying spices, nuts, pasta, rice, beans, etc. in packaging, we just go to Bulk Barn, bring our jars and fill them right there on the spot. Not only does this save us quite a bit of money, but now I don’t have extra packaging around the house to dispose of. Granted, it does take a little more thought and planning, but it’s been such a fun thing for us to do together and we love packing up our jars in a canvas tote bag and heading to the store. We walk through the aisles and learn about new kinds of foods we’ve never tried before. Because we’re both vegan, we don’t shop for meat or dairy products, so pretty much everything we consume can come from the bulk store, save for almond milk and butter.
PRO TIP: once you finish a jar of pickles, olives, what-have-you, wash it out well and reuse it for your bulk purchases.
I love coffee and I love exploring new coffee shops. But what I don’t love is the disposable cups that end up in the landfills. I’ve been able to cut down on that waste by bringing along my trusty KeepCup with me wherever I went. I’ve had mine for a few months now, and I rarely ever leave the house without it.
Instead of buying individual water bottles, we have a Brita at home that we refill and keep in the fridge.
Over the past few months, I’ve been transitioning my skincare and makeup to be more mindful and natural, as that is something that’s very important to me. But to take that one step further, I’ve really appreciated when brands made an effort to have conscious packaging like the MeowMeowTweet deodorant that comes in a compostable packaging, or the AuNaturale foundation that comes encased in aluminum. I’ve recently purchased a few cleaners that also come packaged in glass as well, making them recycling-friendly!
I’ve learned a lot about plastic waste and plastic pollution during this week, but more-so I’ve learned so much about myself and my habits as a consumer. There’s a quote from Eat, Pray, Love that came to my mind often during this challenge and it was “you must be very polite with yourself when you are learning something new”. In reality, this is a big lifestyle change to make and it’s important to be patient and kind with yourself throughout the process. Every bit counts. I encourage you to try to reduce the plastic waste output in your life as well. We can all do our part, no matter how small, to keep our oceans cleaner and our planet healthier.