Plastic-free July

Last Plastic-free July, my Report Card would have read somewhere between “flashes of brilliance” & a few ticks in the “room for improvement” column.

First of all, we want to REDUCE.

Continued habits which I’d love you all to take on board, when you consider the world population is estimated at 7.6 billion people…

  1. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes – an average household of 4 people would go through 20 never-degrading toothbrushes per year. YUK. I bought two dozen from Solander & Banks which were delivered to my front door. Now I don’t have to think about ordering more for a while
  2. Take your non-plastic reusable bags everywhere. There is really no excuse for plastic bags now.
  3. Take your reusable coffee cup everywhere. My work colleagues laugh at me & say they are going to refuse to get me a coffee in it but they always do 😉
  4. Going to the local Farmer’s Market – where the majority of fruit & veg is not packaged in plastic
  5. Using Who Gives a Crap for both toilet paper & paper towel. No plastic packaging. All either recycled or made from bamboo & sugarcane. Also delivered to your front door so unlike the lady I saw today with a trolley overflowing with a huge plastic wrapped package of toilet paper & nearly equally big plastic packaged pack of paper towel, you hardly have to lift a finger.
  6. Growing it yourself – I am no green thumb but am enjoying watercress, rocket, rosemary, thyme, oregano, kale & mint from my garden. Even these small volumes make an incredible difference when it comes to decreasing plastic as herbs & salad greens are almost always packaged in plastic. Imagine if one thousand or even one million people adopted this small habit (hashtag dream big)

Some new habits

  1. Making our own Popcorn – we bought the kernels at Naked Foods – they are about $5 per kilo, a hell of a lot cheaper than the individually packaged ones at the supermarket & the kids loved watching it pop.
  2. Making our own bread – it’s not a proper one, but is so simple & satisfying to make
  3. Plastic free meals – I’ve made a real effort to create some plastic-free meals which is harder than it sounds! If it has cheese, meat, seafood, dairy – it often has plastic. Even most sauces have a small piece of plastic to seal them. I make a weekly batch of pesto which goes on nearly everything I eat from salads to toast to eggs – Harris Farm Markets & Wholefoods House in Woollahra sell parsley with no plastic. I make a weekly batch of mayonnaise which my eldest LOVES & would eat with everything if I let him.

Areas where I’ve failed

  1. Berries by the punnet – I stack the empty punnets & recycle them but it is still plastic. Can anyone guide me towards fresh plastic-free berries in Eastern Suburbs of Sydney? Even if they come by the box, I’d be happy to split with friends.
  2. Milk – I don’t drink cow’s milk, nor does my daughter but my sons do. They like a particular organic brand which comes in plastic.
  3. Cheese – we all like cheese….
  4. Cereal – over winter my children tend to alternate between oats (bought by the scoop) & eggs. When they have cereal I rinse the packages, they go into my soft plastics & are taken to the supermarket.

Something you learn quickly is how entwined health is – the less plastic you use = the less processed foods you are eating = the more likely it is you are buying fruit & vegetables that are in season = the more likely your health is to benefit.

So who thinks it’s a bad idea to decrease their plastic usage? Tell me all your fabulous tips to decrease plastic usage & let’s make this earth a better place, rather than waiting round for someone else to fix it.

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Conscious travel

We have been extremely fortunate to be able to visit family in Europe five times in the last 8 years. Over the last few visits, I have been more aware of our environmental impact as well as aiming to decrease it.

We have brought our ONYA recycled plastic produce bags which are brilliant for everything to putting dirty washing in, using as a sock bag, storing snacks or even as a mini nappy bag. I always pack at least a couple of reusable cotton bags which fold down & take up minimal space. We took 2 reusable stainless steel bottles, a glass reusable drink bottle & a reusable coffee cup (usually I use glass but I took my Frank Green). In anticipation of our trip I bought myself & each of the children a Kathmandu fleece & made from their “replas” technology – made of recycled plastic water bottles.

We did Secret Santa to minimise the volume of gifts & I received a trip to a vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh rather than a “thing”. Father Christmas brought around 10 gifts each to the children, predominately games which have been used on the trip.

Every time I come I spend a lot of time trawling supermarkets, health food shops & even gift shops for options that complement my conscious lifestyle. This includes everything from reusable coffee cups to steel water bottles to low plastic options.

I am always impressed with the UK.

  • Multiple yoghurts in glass jars in both supermarkets (Sainsbury’s) & WholeFoods Market is a serious lesson to Australia.
  • We stayed with cousins in Edinburgh – they have compostable bags which all food scraps go into & are collected separately.
  • If you buy a pre-packed sandwich (I know – but sometimes you are stuck in a situation where that’s an option – hello Gatwick Dronegate), there is a tab that allows you to pull the plastic off so the card can be recycled.
  • A hotel we stayed in in London didn’t offer little plastic bottles of toiletries, but a refillable unit.
  • On EasyJet I received a 50p discount for using my Frank Green for a cup of tea.
  • In Pret a Manger there was a sign which I LOVE with “thank goodness our unsold food goes to the hungry at the end of the day & not in the bin. But some plastic bottles, coffee cups & napkins will do. We have to start asking questions…what if we stopped selling plastic bottles? We made our coffee counters out of old coffee grounds? We used less packaging? There’s lots to do & we need to move fast”

I’m saying this, there were also a lot of eco fails. Airlines I’m looking at you: trays with SO. MUCH. PLASTIC. Granted I could have brought all our own food but for 5 people to bring 24 hours worth of food plus contingency (delays), it was relegated to the too hard basket. Add to this every pair of headphones on the international flights being wrapped in plastic – for a family of 5 on Sydney-London return, that is potentially 20 pieces of plastic. Or just BYO headphones?

The volume of fruit & veg wrapped in plastic in mainstream supermarkets in the UK must have been above 90%. The volume of fruit & veg that is imported is incredible. Would there really be an outrage from customers if they couldn’t get a pineapple at Christmas in the Highlands of Scotland? Would a sign along the lines of “we try where possible to provide food that is both in season & locally produced. To minimise impact on the environment, we try not to import food which is why you won’t find pineapples here in the middle of winter”.

A few times we were caught short & had to buy plastic water bottles – we brought our own water bottles but had to empty them before passing security & some (smaller) airports didn’t have refill stations past security. Thumbs up to Heathrow & Gatwick for both having clearly labelled water bottle refill stations which we were able to use.

I encourage all of you to embrace travel as much as possible, it it literally a priceless experience for all of the family. On the flip side, we all know air travel has an environmental impact so let’s try to minimise this where we can.