If you don’t already know about Change the World Wednesday, it’s a weekly green challenge hosted by Reduce Footprints, and this week’s was to go a week without buying anything that involved plastic. (Not to live without using anything plastic, which would be much, much harder.)
It was a good challenge. I blame the cat for my failure. She had to have some teeth removed and came home with antibiotics (glass bottle, plastic lid), a plastic syringe (that doesn’t even work except to spray both of us with horribly bitter antibiotics), painkillers (plastic pill container). Then, in an attempt to bribe the cat into taking her meds, I bought her some liverwurst, which also came wrapped in plastic. She sniffed it and carefully ate around the concealed 1/4 pill. Damn cat.
On the human side, things went better. I made my grocery list, looked carefully at each item, and either found ways to get around plastic or came up with reasonable alternatives. I noticed I was especially good about preparing for my trip to the grocery store this week. Knowing that I couldn’t take a plastic bag if I really needed it meant that I packed more reused bags and containers — enough for everything on my list and a few extras. Here’s some of the stuff that was on my list this week:
- Popcorn. Buy in bulk with reused container, pop on the stove. (Tastes much better than microwaved popcorn, by the way.) Toss with olive oil (glass bottle), sea salt (bulk bins), and garlic (bulk spices) and nutritional yeast (bulk bins).
- Fruit. I hated walking past the plump blueberries on sale, and the strawberries were just as tempting. But I missed the farmers’ market this week, which was my only opportunity to get berries without the plastic packaging. Instead I ate stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines) which are in season locally and can be purchased without a bag.
- Salad and vegetables. My local market lets me bag my own salad greens as well as mushrooms, potatoes, leafy greens, and other vegetables. I don’t bag anything that doesn’t need it and often (but not always) remember to bring a bag for mushrooms, green beans, brussels sprouts, etc. I was good this week, so no new bags.
- Milk. Most dairy comes in plastic, so I used raw almonds (available from the bulk bins) and made almond milk. Sadly, my almond milk yogurt experiment fell through. No [new] cheese or other dairy this week, though I had some on hand.
- Snacks. Most snacks are heavily packaged, so you can either buy them from the bulk bins or DIY your own kale chips, applesauce, or granola. And did I mention popcorn?
Apart from some produce stickers and the cat stuff, I brought no new plastic into my life this week. Preparation seems to be key. I often find that consciously identifying problems (forgetting produce bags) and then coming up with solutions (keep them in a more prominent place) helps me improve.
At the same time, my no new plastic week was only possible because it was the right week. I didn’t need contact solution or dish soap or toothpaste. The cat didn’t need new litter, my shoes didn’t wear out, my computer didn’t break. Point is, there are lots of situations in which plastic might be hard to get out of, or in which I don’t want to do reasonable alternatives forever.
Still, it was a great exercise in being more conscious about how much plastic comes into my house, and I’m now in the mindset of always asking what my alternatives are to buying something that involves plastic.
Did you try this week’s challenge (or would you)? How did you do?