As someone who is concerned about the environment, who educates others about it, and who believes I should practice what I preach, I have made some serious changes in the life of my family. This year I thought I would take it to the next level – go plastic free. And then I went food shopping.
I have made a lot of changes over the years. I use canvas bags for groceries, I got rid of the TV (ok it fell off the wall and broke so I recycled it and haven’t bought another one), I compost, I use cloth instead of paper towels, I have energy efficient washer and dryer, hand wash my dishes, I recycle like a mad women, hell I even make my own laundry soap. So I thought this year, I would take the plunge and go plastic free. I read a whole bunch of advice, including http://myplasticfreelife.com/ and http://noimpactproject.org for ideas, made a plan, got all excited, and then I went to the grocery store.
I am a regular at Whole Paycheck (whole foods) and the farmers market, so right there you would think this shouldn’t be hard. WRONG! Follow me below to read about my journey.
I know plastic is bad for us, for the environment, for the kids 7 generations from now. I do my best, but I really wanted to push myself this year to do better. I wanted to not bring any new plastic into our house. To go plastic free is one of the best things we can do for the environment. Every year tons of plastic pollutes that oceans, the streams, the streets and the roads. Its dangerous and we are consuming more and more in our foods every day.
I can do a decent job at going plastic free with fruit and veggies, as long as I by everything loose and mostly in season. Not a bad start. Of course it means saying no to the cut up watermelon and berries in the plastic container, tubs of tomatoes, bags of apples and potatoes, and sliced mushrooms – all of which are wrapped in plastic. But once you get through your fruit and veggies, it gets a lot harder.
The Meat Counter
I’m not a vegetarian. I LOVE meat, even though I have cut back in the last year. I prefer to get my meat at the local farmers market for a few reasons. The first is the treatment of the animals. It’s partially for the hate of CAFOs and partially because I mentally like the idea of my hamburger roaming happily around a pasture, my bacon dreamily wallowing in the muck and the mother of my omelet basking in the sunshine. The second reason is because grass finished meat just tastes better. Finally, because it doesn’t support large ag and I know the money is going right to the farmer. But I PAY a lot more for my meat (which helps me not eat as much of it). It was all good till I decided to go plastic free realized that every single piece of meat is wrapped in plastic at the farmers market. So I head off to the meat counter, thinking it would solve my problem. WRONG! Before it got there it was wrapped in plastic. It sits on plastic with plastic signs and it wrapped in a plastic lined paper sheet or put into a plastic bag when you buy it. Oh meat, why are you all in plastic? I could give up meat, but I’m not going to because I love bacon and sausage and the occasional burger. Maybe I can talk to one of the farmers and see if they have a different way I can get meat, but I doubt it because of FDA regulations.
Oh the sea of plastic is endless. Even if you already cut out soda, chips, and cookies, the plastic abounds. The can of beans or soup you think is all innocent is lined with BPA (the plastic that has been banned in baby products). The coffee I refuse to give up – even the whole loose beans got there in plastic and is stored in plastic and if I didn’t bring something to put it in, the bag sitting there is lined with plastic. The oatmeal, flour, rice, and everything else in the bulk section is plastic bags before they were dumped into the plastic bins. My pasta comes in a box, but many of them have plastic windows or come in plastic bags. I can get local flour, so I luck out on that.
I am SO lucky that my whole foods carries milk in glass jars, because 99.99% of milk comes in plastic lined containers. I get my eggs from a friend in a cardboard container for free when I can but if I buy it in the store, the eggs came on a flat wrapped in plastic before they got put into the cooler. Butter, yogurt, cheese, dressings, condiments, juice and a ton of other stuff comes in plastic. I get my bread from a local baker in my cloth bag at the farmers market, but odds are the ingredients for that bread was in plastic before they made it.
The Non-Food Isle
All plastic! My cleaning supplies, even if I make it myself, the initial products come in plastic. My TP comes in plastic. Someone once suggested going cloth, but I have my limits. I stopped using plastic garbage bags because I am not throwing out food and I rinse out trash before I throw it away, so at least that is a start.
The Other Stuff
I drive to the store in my plastic filled car. I store my food on plastic shelves or in plastic drawers in my fridge. I keep my food in plastic Tupperware, although I am working to slowly transition to glass as they die off. If I eat out, which happens more than it should, a ton of new plastic was used for transportation and containers for that food. If I get a t- go container, odds are it is Styrofoam which is also plastic (I have taken to ordering only the smallest portions to make sure there isn’t any left overs). My greatest weakness is to go cups, which are also plastic with plastic lids and plastic straws.
Revise my resolution. While it was going to be to give up plastic, it is now going to be to do my best to not get new plastic. I am much more diligent at bringing a cup or jar to drink from or to put a drink in when I am out. I would love to be more industrious and make more of my own food, but I know I am not going to churn my own butter or make my own yogurt. But Stoneyfields kid yogurt is in plant plastic, so that is something. I am continuing to get my meat from a farmer, because the amount of plastic is going to be less and the transportation is less as well. To offset the plastic that my TP comes in, I’ll get recycled paper TP, because I am still not going to use cloth. I am working on using glass Tupperware and am going to see if I can bring my own containers to the store for them to put my food in. I am also going to ask the manager of whole food to carry more bulk cereal, because there is just less waste that way. I get what I can in glass, including juice and milk, and we drink water the rest of the time. I have cut back on eating out and when I do, I make sure there is enough time to eat off a plate as opposed to in a box or a wrapper and a to go cup. My family eats off ceramic plates and bowls with real silver ware that I wash rather than throw out plastic plates and silverware. When I have company, I get recycled paper plates and vegetable plastic utensils.
I am also teaching others about two things they can do to make major difference in plastic consumption, which I think is at least as important as my own decisions. I am teaching them and challenging them to not use plastic bottles of any kind and no plastic bags. There at 10 people that making this this change for part of their semester long project. It takes 30 days to make a real change, so after 16 weeks, hopefully they will stick with it. It is something and I hope you too will make a small change, like not using plastic soda bottles or plastic bags, because out of everything else that you can do not using these two items will have a huge impact on the environment.
Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 10:05 AM PT: I wanted to take a second to reflect on some of the comments. I realize that there are uses for plastics that are extremely valuable and lifesaving. The goal of this dairy was to reflect on the sheer volume of plastics that surround us in places we might not even think about it, especially in our food system, where ones choice to not have it is very limited. There are a lot of plastics that cannot be reused and many that can that are thrown out. The waste alone has a significant impact on so many environmental systems. My hope is to get people to think about what is around us and how we use the resources. I greatly appreciate all of your comments and for reading this. :)