My first year without plastic

1 July 2014
365 days have come and gone since I stepped up and announced that I would try to eliminate plastic from my life by taking on the Plastic Free July 2013 challenge.

Once the 31 days were complete I was inspired to continue and adopt a plastic free life full time. Now I am more committed than ever.

My life is not only about living without plastic; a result from schooling myself through documentaries, books, blogs and my own adventures. Along the way I have come to understand the toxic life consumerism creates and purged my life of unnecessary chemicals. I think harder about the amount of resources that goes into something as simple as a tea bag.

To celebrate my plastic free anniversary the Builder and I watched The Clean Bin Project. This was the movie that sparked a green movement in my life.

For all the greening in my life I have to ask; has my life become simpler or harder?



Personal care

Soap and shampoo have been combined. I now use a shampoo bar that I buy package free from The Australian Natural Soap Company sold at local markets here in Melbourne.

Continuing to use the same razor I had last year. When it stops working I plan to replace it with this.

Body moisturiser is coconut oil purchased in bulk using my own jar.

Face moisturiser has been replaced with nourishing almond oil. I was using rose hip oil but found a place to buy almond oil in bulk purchased package free.

Deodorant has been replaced with apple cider vinegar and water. The apple cider vinegar can be bought in bulk with my own bottle. I also use the apple cider vinegar to do monthly rinses on my hair. So versatile!

Perfume has been replaced by essential oils that I buy from Perfect Potion. Unable to find essential oils in bulk I opt to recycle the bottles or find other uses for them. After no longer using perfumed products I find my sense of smell has grown stronger (and more sensitive to artificial smells too). I made this choice not because of plastic but to lessen my exposure to the weird artificial ingredients in commercial perfumes.

Sanitary items like pads and tampons have been replaced. I have calculated that I have saved $145 in the last year.

Make up has been replaced which I have detailed here. All products used to make my own makeup have been bought in bulk except for the activated charcoal for my mascara (recipe coming soon).

Nail file currently using the same one I have had for years and years.

I did buy a new wooden all natural hair brush that was sustainability sourced and made. I am still using my hair dryer and hair straightener I previously owned. I have stopped using hair spray and hair gels. 

I have bought new hair ties that I am aware have some form of synthetic material. I have saved three hair ties from various footpaths around Melbourne since I wrote about my new hair ties here. Just put them in the wash and they are clean clean clean!



Grocery shopping

I take my own bags for grocery shop. No more plastic bags! And if we forgot our bags we will carry them by hand (the Builder is a pro at this) or find an old box at the store.

I also use old produce plastic bags (old pasta, rice, cereal bags) at bulk food stores to collect beans, rice, flour, lentils, nuts etc. These were left over from when I did buy food in plastic packaging. Right now I am slowly swapping these out for upcycled cloth shopping bags. The old plastic bags will be recycled with RedCycle. I cannot wait for this to occur because it is not fun cleaning out plastic bags. But when you think of this…it makes it easier! I keep all of the items we need for a package free/bulk shop tucked away in box with the words 'zero waste plastic free shopping' labelled on the outside.

My first year without plastic

We use a mixture of Stainless steel containers and old takeaway containers to collect our meat and seafood. We purchased the stainless steel containers here. Our butcher and fish monger know the drill when we visit them.

My first year without plastic

If we buy dips or cheese I take old take away containers. Some of them are getting to the end of their life and will be recycled. We are looking for replacements and think we will use these. Right now I hope they do not break as the counter staff at our local deli still has a hard time grasping the concept of bringing our own container and we are using their old containers...so giving them something like steel containers might cause trouble. Oh well, won’t be the first time.

I will note that due to the Builders food sensitivities, eggs, gluten and dairy, we rarely buy these items. I buy bread occasionally for myself. Again I take my own cloth bag. If it happens a recipe calls for eggs then I will recycle the cartons in the garden when I need to sprout some seedlings. And as for milk I rarely need a recipe that calls for more than two cups so I just buy the smallest milk box at the deli and recycle.

I drink tea (herbal) and the builder drinks coffee (long black). We can get all of these from our bulk food stores. I prefer not to use tea bags instead I use reusable cloth tea bags or a tea infuser.

The builder and I no longer shop at any of the larger supermarkets instead opting to use local fruit and veg’s stores, butchers, bakers, delis, cheese stores, continental grocers, and bulk stores. Supporting small business and Australian farmers has been a great bonus that we love doing.



Kitchen

I store all items in glass jars that I have collected over the last year. I choose not to shop with glass jars unless it is liquid. It would be too heavy to carry home. Once I am home i transfer it all to glass containers.

My first year without plastic

My first year without plastic

Food is stored in the fridge in either glass jars or on a plate/in a bowl covered with a tea towel. No more plastic wrap or plastic baggies in our freezer or fridge.

I do have three plastic bowls and plastic utensils that I use for baking. I hope to swap these to wooden or metal instruments but this depends on what we find at the thrift store. It took me a year to find a second hand wooden rolling pin! Before that I was using an old wine bottle.

We moved the microwave out of the kitchen and into the laundry. We have not microwaved our food instead choosing to heat it up on the stove top. Our housemate is the only one who uses it. The builder and I don’t miss it. We are trying to keep our appliance use down to a minimum.

We compost everything except for onion and some citrus. I save the citrus in the freezer while the onion skin is thrown in the bin. We will either create new compost for these items (worms do not like citrus or onion) or find someone who can take it like a friend or relative.

Currently we fill up our 5 litre bin each fortnight. We do have a housemate that does not follow our sustainability habits.

As we are recycling more we have had to make space for containers to house our recycling goods before we drop them off. We typically use old boxes and label them clearly.

Cleaning products like dish washing cloths are washed each week to prolong life. I also swapped for scrubbing brushes that will break down in the compost.




Cleaning

While I was getting my education on about weird chemicals in makeup I was also getting a serve of knowledge about chemicals in general. We had a plethora of cleaning products that we decided had to go. We toiled about this decision for a long time as it was not a sustainable option to chuck out a product that had not been used up. But we figured it would be healthier to clean our house with kinder ingredients and so have stored them away until we can dispose of them correctly through a hazardous chemical disposal pick-up later in the year.

My first year without plastic

My first year without plastic

I will admit that we (not proudly) bought new empty plastic spray bottles that are reserved for home made and bulk bought green cleaning products. Currently we make our own window cleaner and will progressively move onto making all our own cleaning products.

Let me say why we bought new bottles. The old bottles were full of harsh chemicals. You know the kind that warrant a toxic if swallowed label. Heck they need to be disposed of through a hazardous disposal system!! We just didn't deem it ok to mix any leftover residue with natural cleaners. We also had no other alternatives in the house spray wise so unfortunately new was our option here.

I researched glass bottles but worried about them breaking. Since going plastic free and switching my life to glass there have been a couple of breaks which happens when a majority of the floors in the house are concrete and this ginger is a bit of a klutz.

After we bought the bottles we realised we could use old wine bottles to house our cleaning products and make kitted holders for them so if they broke the glass would be contained. Hindsight is great.



Clothing

We don’t really shop anymore and when we do we will find great buys at our local thrift stores. But having said that I have bought one clothing item that is new and it was a beanie for the Builder that was Australian sourced, designed and made in Australia.

 We are not adverse to buying new clothing but is has to come from either Australian designed and made companies or if from abroad, a sustainable company that are not exploiting their workers or the environment. Plus we have way more fun in thrift stores and clothing exchanges.



Conclusion

One of the biggest queries I get is how I make the time to buy all my food unpackaged, get organised for my shopping with different bags and containers, make my own makeup, make meals from scratch….

I am not going to lie... It was a challenge at the start and sometimes still is. I did cry once. The Builder and I both learnt a lot. I remind myself that I am changing 29 years of habits.

I have had a tremendous amount of support from family and friends. The biggest support has been from my partner, known on here as the Builder. He has supported me in a big way and made mammoth changes in his own life. Living with someone who suddenly renounces plastic is pretty big (well i think it is) and his patience as I waded through this journey has been unwavering and nothing short of amazing.

So I tell people just that: It takes time, practice and preparedness. But then I tell them it gets easier because it really does. There is a great feeling knowing that after one year I only contribute one item to landfill (onion peels!). Everything else I buy is done using my own packaging or the packaging, if any, is recycled.

The best part is that I have a bag full of new skills. These are skills our great grandparents lived every day. My cooking has improved (well, I think it has!). I know what goes into my body as I make nearly everything that I eat. Even if you put me into a health food store I would still prefer something unpackaged! I am also surprised at the money I have saved too and the ease of refusing anything that is not aligned to my beliefs.

I can say my life is simple, now.

The next challenge is to focus on improving my zero waste habits that have resulted from taking away plastic but to also look at the waste I create outside the home. It's not much, but there are some places in my life I can improve. And I look forward to sharing more on the blog.

To the next 365 days.
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