I’m going to a party tonight and, wanting to turn my gorgeously fat and juicy home-grown blackcurrants into a delicious dessert that can be made in about 10 minutes (between a 9 hour shift on 4 hours sleep and the party itself), I have opted for a pavlova. Unfortunately the meringue I tried to make last night didn’t work out – Xylitol is not a sufficient substitute for sugar in this scenario it turns out – so I was forced to purchase some instead. My choices were some beautiful nutty plastic free ones from a French café at 90p a pop or a (plastic) pack of 6 at a third of the price. Since I needed at least 10, affordability won out…
During my lunch break I quickly popped to the plant stall on the market to replace the French beans that a rabbit has had the pleasure of tucking into over the last week on my allotment. So pleased to find they were still available but, as I was just about to hand over the cash, I realised they were in plastic trays! Shit! Now what? I explained to the woman on the stall that I was doing Plastic Free July and she said that someone else had had the same dilemma earlier but had taken the plants anyway. That made me feel better about my imminent purchase but, after the meringue situation just hours earlier, it didn’t feel okay. In the end she suggested I take them, plant them out and bring the trays back for her to re-use. Since the remit is to avoid buying single-use plastic, I felt this was an agreeable alternative.
Earlier in the day I had bought a little gift bag to put the party’s host’s present into. On getting home I noticed that it had a small plastic hook on it. I hadn’t registered it at the time, which goes to show how vigilant one must be and how easily plastic can sneak into our lives without us noticing. My first day of buying no plastic has not gone well at all but, all of these things have brought the whole campaign into better focus and I shall endeavour to do better from now on.
Husband and mayonnaise.
When food shopping today I forewent the plastic-wrapped variety of delicious salad leaves I usually go for and opted instead for a “naked” lettuce, and rued the fact that I still haven’t sown my own!! Other than that, all my purchases were plastic free (having also foregone tofu). My husband wanted sausages though and they were wrapped in plastic. He also wanted ice-cream which, although in a cardboard tub (including the lid), does have a plastic film between the two. Since he was paying and has opted out of Plastic Free July from the get-go, I concluded that I wasn’t breaking any rules. Personally I put my tub of ice-cream back in the shop’s freezer because of that thin film although I did have a couple of spoonfuls of his later on. The jar of mayonnaise I vigilantly checked for a plastic seal around the lid (I found none) turned out to have one on the inside so I guess that rules out jars for the next month as there’s no way of knowing the score until they’re open. Day 3
I’m having dinner with friends tonight and I’m taking dessert. I have blackcurrants available again so I’m making a dairy and gluten free chocolate cake. Going shopping I merrily filled my basket with everything I needed but realised half way round that the coconut oil was in a massive plastic tub! Still haven’t quite got the hang of this! I scoured the shop for some in a jar – yes, I know I said only yesterday that jars are out but this one is a great size and I will re-use it.
I’ve ordered a screen online for the back of the car. It’s plastic but it’s not single-use. I felt I really needed it but still, buying any kind of plastic isn’t sitting well with me at the moment.
Okay! I’m way more prepared today. It’s stir-fry for dinner so I take a plastic tub with me to put husband’s chicken in at the shop. Isabella and I spend the afternoon together preparing magazines for Seed Festival and we get chatting about our dinner. ‘Stir-fry and noodles,’ I say as I immediately realise noodles come in plastic packages. Arse! Rice then. I remember I don’t have rice and I’m not going to town especially to buy it from the Zero Waste shop. Thinking of substituting with a half packet of mung bean pasta that’s been in the cupboard a while… Isabella comes to the rescue and lends rice. At the shop I buy the chicken, butcher says bringing own tub is a good idea.
Last night’s leftovers suggest a quiche for tonight’s dinner but that would involve milk which only comes in plastic round here as far as I can tell. I think about scouring supermarkets for glass-bottled but I don’t really have the time and I don’t think I’ll find any anyway. I try to think of other things we could eat tonight. Pancakes…no, they also involve milk and even alternative milk cartons aren’t plastic-free. Buy a quiche ready-made? No, it comes in plastic and often contains palm oil. Grr. Ermmmmm… a depression creeps over me, this plastic-free scenario is seriously limiting my food freedom! I go shopping, fill the basket with loads of lovely fresh organic veg, I want an ice-cream but opt for a peach instead and decide it will be quiche tonight but with extra eggs and no milk. I have a quick look at the deli counter hoping there’s something there that will make my dinner more interesting and indeed, there’s a bowl of goats curd cheese. Hooray! I’m much happier now! I buy a tub (vegware, biodegradable) and make a quiche that’s fine without milk (even if the gluten-free pastry was a bit tough in places!)
The sun screen for the car arrived and, although it will get used over and over again, it came wrapped in not one but two plastic bags. However, since I keep every plastic bag that comes my way, these will both be re-used. The outer as a postage bag again and the other will join my collection of about 400 (not even joking!) others to one day become a bin liner.
Loo roll revelation
I always buy loo roll in bumper packs and I always get the bargains as long as they are FSC stamped but today I was prepared to buy less for more by way of individual rolls. Very happy to find a bumper pack in fully compostable wrapping for only a £1 more than I would usually pay. This is definitely a keeper of a brand for after July. Yay, I feel like I’m getting somewhere with this now.
We’re off to Seed Festival tomorrow so I gather some supplies for the weekend. I have ‘snacks’ written on my shopping list but, apart from the plethora of loose fruit and veg going into the basket, there is not a snack in sight that isn’t wrapped in plastic! I’m quite sure that even the crisp packets that look like they’re foil still contain some plastic so they’re a no-go. I guess I’ll just have to find cake whilst I’m there!
On the way home from work I need ice cream. It’s been a long day and the intense heat has sapped all my energy. I lose all willpower and am completely up for reneging on being both sugar- and plastic-free. Luckily the ice cream I want also contains palm oil so that’s that then, I don’t have it. My senses return before leaving the shop and I head home for a slice of quiche instead.
Today I’m preparing to go to Seed Festival for the weekend. Apparently there’s no electricity available there but my car has a port for a 12v phone charger which I don’t have. I feel the need to get one, not so I can be on the phone all weekend – I’m actually looking forward to some screen-free time – but I don’t want to be stranded on the motorway without access to the breakdown service should such a situation arise. I appease myself with the fact that the charger is not single-use but am frustrated by its packaging, a plastic tray inside a plastic box which I can’t put to further use.
Apart from that the rest of my personal purchases – bread from the market, a new dress and some matches (chosen over a lighter) – are plastic free. The magazine needs a clipboard and I’m imagining a leather-covered cardboard one, but all I can find is plastic. Again, not single-use, but one of those irritating acquisitions that COULD come in other materials if only suppliers could get on board with it.
Days 8 & 9
Seed Festival is a place where, on one hand, you don’t need to worry about a thing. Everyone is friendly, there’s amazing food available without a single plastic accessory involved, water comes from a natural spring, and you cannot cease to be entertained or cared for. On the other hand, Seed is all about exploring, highlighting and acting upon some of the most heart-breaking socio-political and environmental injustices on the planet so, in the bigger picture, there’s a lot to think about and digest.
For the entirety of the first day there I did not have a single dalliance with plastic BUT, on the second day I came across a stall with kefir on it from a small, local, independent, bio-dynamic dairy. I love kefir, it does my gut the world of good, I drink it often and I had been craving it the day before so I was over the moon to find it here! There was only one drawback – it was in a plastic bottle. I took a paper cup over and asked them to pour half into it which I would drink there, and then refill with the other half which I would take away for later. But there was still the matter of the bottle. Would it get re-used? ‘Probably not’ was the answer, ‘though it would definitely be recycled.’ Hmm, not really enough to assuage my single-use remit. They asked if I could up-cycle the bottle – to be honest, I felt I probably wouldn’t so they suggested I just take it with me and bring it back when it was empty and they would deal with it from there. But I knew that bottle was ultimately my responsibility because I had, in effect, bought it.
Re-grouping with friends who had watched the Plastic Ocean film the night before and who reported that our plastic waste is sent to China where only 20% of it is actually recycled and the rest is thrown into rivers to make its way out to sea, compounded my feeling of fickleness for giving in to the kefir purchase. I vowed that I would keep the bottle and use it for something. I have no idea what that will be. Right now it is sitting in front of me as a reminder of my weak moment when habit overpowered my resolve and I feel sad about that because it really wasn’t a necessary purchase although what it has done is bring the whole plastic thing home – quite literally! I feel way more in touch with the issue at hand and now even just the word “plastic” feels icky and toxic and wrong.
Cheryl Tipple-Trepat is a writer, artist and Editor of She Who Knows Magazine, currently undergoing the challenge of Plastic Free July!
Isabella Lazlo is a mother and an artist dedicated to bringing through the voice of the feminine in service of healing and re-balancing upon our Earth. As Editor at She Who Knows, a new and inspiring woman's magazine, she weaves an ever-expanding rich tapestry of voices from today's leading women, the inspirational, impassioned, heartfelt voices of women who care for our Earth and serve as midwives in the birth of a new world.