I'm quitting plastic: Plastic Free July 2013 is not the end, only the beginning

31 July 2013
My first Plastic Free July ends tomorrow and I have decided I'm quitting plastic.

Why? Simply because this challenge held a mirror up to my life and my habits...I do alot of buying without thinking. I don't think about the people affected by the manufacturing of the item or where the packaging will end up. I use a lot of plastic, more than I need. Way more than I realised. It's scary and sad. In the first week my dilemma bag was full of plastic straws (not against them myself but I don't need one), plastic bags, produce bags, coffee cup lids from my chai, food packaging, takeaway, online clothing purchases....AGH! 

I'm not anti plastic, only anti the misuse. Plastic has been beneficial in health care and transport. But plastic packaged junk food, maybe not?!

Of course the whole problem is not on me, alone. There are big companies and big people making alot of money out of plastic. So while I *try* to quit plastics on a personal level, I also be will work to figure out what I can do to change beyond the individual. There has to be something. 

It's not just the huge amount of plastic that has led me to this decision. There is also the upsides to reducing my plastic; I ate healthier food, saved money, took the bin out less, enjoyed more of my life without opening my wallet. 

So this little space on the internet was going to be a travel diary of sorts. Move aside, it's now a blog about plastic free living.

I never imagined watching one movie would lead me a big lifestyle change. But there you go. It has.

Here is a round up of why I'm going to continue this plastic free challenge beyond July

The environment surrounding the petrochemical factories and manufacturing facilities and recycling and landfill... are commonly low economic and being introduced to polluted air, water, food sources. My role as a mindless consumer encouraged corporations creating the plastics to continue taking advantage of poor communities. My purchases were part of the chain that endangered a persons health due to lax environmental laws and unfair working environments propped up by the Westerns obsession with stuff and convenience. The more I read the more I realise how Western practices really screw over non-white people. So while I'm learning about this I'm also looking at how my own life has attributed to this and what I can do to make changes in the future. 

Eight million metric tons of our plastic waste enter the oceans from land each year. It migrates through our creeks, rivers, beaches and storm water run off, through different circumstances. Ocean currents take the plastic to gyres, creating large areas of concentrated plastic in our oceans. During the plastics movement, marine animals becoming tangled init pollution and are mistaking it for food. Albatross on the Midway Atoll are dying due to the heavy amount of plastic pollution found in traditional feeding areas. Here in Australia, vast quantities on turtles are dying due to the ingestion of plastic bags. What's worst is many communities also rely on polluted areas as their food source. 

From extraction to production, the manufacturing of plastic has a heavy impact on the environment, polluting air, soil and ground water. It requires the use of fossil fuels, oil and gas, both of which are non renewable resources. The pollution from fossil fuels contributes to 19,000 deaths every day. Then there is the resources, waste and danger associated with shipping nurdles (plastic pellets before they become a single us plastic spoon) around the world. Once plastic is used and disposed of, it does not completely breakdown.

Unlike organic matter nothing in plastic is returned to the soil for nourishment, food or life. It will sit around clogging up landfill or end up in our rivers, oceans, forests and deserts, releasing chemicals into the environment. Plastic is disturbing the natural environment everywhere.

Plastic can break apart, becoming microscopic particles known as micro plastics. They act as magnets for other harmful toxins like DDT. Scientists are seeing these micro plastics entering our food chain, being found in fish, honey, beer and salt.

Potentially harmful chemicals / Bisphenol A (BPA), Bisphenol F (BPF), Bisphenol S (BPS), Phthalates, Vinyl Chloride, Dioxin, Styrene; the list of the chemical compounds found in plastic that could cause reproductive and brain development, asthma, obesity, diabetes and cancer did not sit comfortably with me and I was left wondering; did I really need these chemicals in my life? Was the uncertainty of these chemicals worth the risk? The answer was no. I understood that some plastics have become necessary in our lives. For instance in medicine and transport. But much of the plastic I was using, exposed me to these potentially harmful chemicals, could be avoided.

Recycling is a bandaid
I used to think recycling would solve our environmental issues that greenies were always going on about. I was a lazy recycler, meaning many items that ended up in my recycling bin, were put in there under the guise that someone on the other end would figure out for me if it was truly recyclable. I quickly realised that recycling in the not the solution. While our recycling levels have increased, so has our consumption. How much we consume is the issue and recycling does nothing to curb it. 

There is no away
Our rubbish that is put out on the street moves away from our lives, but does not go away. Because there is no away. It's merely transported to the outskirts of our cities, taking up valuable agricultural land, to sit around for eons, never truly breaking down. All the single use plastic, and frankly, everything else we toss into bins will be left around for the next generation to deal with.

They were just some of the issues I discovered and I'm sure there will be more to learn.

I came across this clip of Jack Johnson singing about single-use plastic. It's kinda funny because I've been a BIG fan of his for years and years...but never properly understood his love for the environment. I guess we all have to find our way to those light bulb moments. Maybe this clip will be yours...

I can't wait to share my new life without plastic. It sure will be an interesting journey. Gosh, I wonder what my boyfriend is going to think! Maybe we'll see if we can use a mug from home to get his take-away coffees...or just sit in?  

Saying NO to take away containers and learning to take my own

15 July 2013
take your own take away containers
Image from pinimg.com
My Monday to Friday lunch ritual starts on Sunday.

On Sunday I cook four lunches for days Monday through to Thursday. Usually the dish is roasted vegetables. This will be pumpkin, cauliflower, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, zucchini and onion cooked in coconut oil with garlic (i love garlic) and either yeast flakes on top or turmeric. Simple, healthy and affordable. I occasionally snack on a mandarin before lunch. And the day time feast is completed with gulps and gulps of lovely water.

Growing up lunch was different; it was prepared for me. I received a Le Snack and three Arnotts biscuits for recess and a Vegemite and cheese sandwich (or lettuce and cheese) with a juice for lunch. This was my lunch from kindergarten to year 12.

Except on Fridays, there was no lunch made by my mother. This was the day I would be given money to buy something from the canteen. The usual was a cheese and bacon roll for recess. Lunch time I would have a sausage roll, chocolate Moove and packet of chips. 

To this day I never bring a packed lunch to work on a Friday. I still see the end of the week as my time for a treat. Yep, going out for a meal still feels like an occasion. Normally my work colleagues and I get a takeaway meal, come back to the office, and have a company communal lunch away from deadlines, emails, and phone calls.

take your own take away containers
Image from pinimg.com
My Friday takeaway has been etched into my life like some ritual. For the past 23 years I have stood in line, ummed and ahhed about what I want. But my well trod path came to a little bit of a hill with Plastic Free July. I stood in line at my usual local cafe, waiting to place my order when I realised that my take away container was plastic. Sure it was in a container that I could reuse and reuse, but how many can I take home. There are 52 Fridays a year. That is 52 containers. And how many had I already thrown away?! I took one look at the tall stack of containers ready to be filled for the days orders and wondered how many of these would be tossed into the garbage. I decided mine would not be.

So I left the line, went back to my office and got a container from the communal kitchen. I asked the staff at the cafe if they would put my order of food into my container and they did, without a second look.

I felt wonderful. It's funny how such a small change can make you feel powerful.

The following week I went to a different cafe with my same container and asked for them to put my lunch in there. I received a strange look like they wanted to ask me a question. And I was ready to tell them why. I have now done this for last four weeks.

I know there will be instances where I will be somewhere without my container. And when this happens I will need to get creative, think hard and remember that every piece of packaging (plastic, paper or aluminium) ends up somewhere.

Are you a fan of takeaway? Do you think you could implement the same change? And do you think cafes/restaurants and eateries should reward those who bring their own containers with a 10 cent discount?

Turn your kitchen scraps into vegetable broth

13 July 2013
Plastic Free July has changed the way I shop for food.

I roam the supermarket aisles avoiding everything in plastic, and look for packaging that can be recycled and have begun to take my own bags for vegetables and containers for cheese. I find that it is easier to buy food that is not packaged in anything. Hello more vegetables and fruit!  

Going without plastic, especially single use plastic is not as hard as I imagined. It has been small changes here and there, mainly going without items. Most packaging is made up of plastic (those cardboard milk cartons have plastic in them!!!). I am learning a lot of about the impact plastic is having on the environment, animals and other people. It’s staggering!

I have not had to tackle letting go of take away drinks like coffees as it’s not something indulge in. I was already in the habit of carrying my refillable water bottle on me if I needed a drink. My usual routine of picking up takeaway food has dwindled down. If anything, I find I am saving money and eating better. And the best part is, that I have seen my waste decrease.

I also discovered that my apartment block has a compost bin. It is not a big compost bin, so I am limited as to how much can be put in. I have decided to keep kitchen scraps to make vegetable broths as a way to use up as much food as possible.

The process is so easy. Did you know, a stock can only be technically called a stock if it has bones in it? I didn't. I love learning new facts.

For the last three weeks I put away an assortment of food scraps. Stuff like the first layer of onions, the rough part of celery, carrot ends, parsley stems, coriander stems, pumpkin skins, squash skins, garlic, and fennel. I packed these away into the freezer until I was ready to make the stock.

Turn your kitchen scraps into vegetable broth

Handy tip: When putting your finished vegetable broth into jars or containers, measure how many cups are in each jar/container and write them on a label with the date it was made. That way you will know how much broth you have for your recipes and how old the broth is.

Going plastic free for my periods

9 July 2013
When I decided to attempt Plastic Free July, I sat down and wrote a rough list of items that fall into my shopping basket each month that would be covered in plastic.

My list showed that the biggest offender was packaging. I made my way down the list writing down alternatives and feeling chuffed with my ideas. That was until I came to two items I buy each month – My pads and tampons. I felt deflated. These are covered in single use plastic. Essential woman items. I was stumped.

And like any other person who has an internet connection and a problem to solve, I turned to Google.I was going to apologise for sharing a post about periods but then I thought why should I? I don’t think it’s something we should be shy of. But if you are, that is OK.Google response to alternative tampons was a cup. Yep, a cup. They went by names like Diva Cup and Moon Cup.

They are made of medical grade silicon. And can be reused and reused and reused. All that is needed is water for cleaning and a comfortable relationship with your body because it does take practice to get it right the first time. Plus a little courage because some people might tell you that it is gross when they find out you reuse rather than dispose. I see tampon packaging and applicator waste gross.

Not to mention the chemicals that lurk in most sanitary products (not all, I know there are brands that focus on being kind to the female body). Its all about your own perspective and what you believe in and I believe in plastic free living.

Would I recommend it? Of course! The Builder can testify to my enthusiasm. He sat through a long speech about how happy I was to find a product that has allowed me to be kinder to the environment in a small way.I'd love to hear if you have used a cup or another alternative like a sponge. Prefer pads? Check out why I love my reusable pads.

If you need help finding the correct size, visit Menstrual Cup Sizing Guidelines created by Menstrual Cups Australia Online. 
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