Signing up for ‘Plastic Free July’ you are faced with neat column of tick boxes, with the statement:

During Plastic Free July I will:

  • Target takeaway items (the Top 4: bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups)
  • Go completely plastic-free

I hovered and hesitated then realised – I don’t do take away items, I rarely do single use packaging, OH NO – I’ve only got one choice! Argh!

But before you think I am completely off my rocker to do this, it is not such a big leap as it seems, I have been working at this for 6 months and I’ve got life down to a bare minimum without it seeming like a massive headache to be low-plastic

My current changes vs what I need to work on:

What I am already doing that is plastic free or low plastic:

  • Re-usable cup for takeaway coffee
  • Re-usable shopping bags
  • Re-usable water bottle
  • Use loose tea
  • Only buy loose veg
  • Boxed pasta
  • Boxed Aldi Weetabix
  • Make my own bread
  • Use a soda stream & make lemonade syrup
  • Get milk delivered in glass bottles
  • Use Yeo Valley Butter in foil wrappers
  • Use Shampoo Bars instead of bottled shampoo
  • Wash with homemade soap
  • Citric acid instead of bottled conditioner
  • Shave with a safety razor & soap
  • Clean with vinegar, bicarb and citric acid
  • Do laundry with an eco-egg, soap nuts and for big stains use Napisan Powder in a box
  • Use towel wee-wipes
  • Mooncup & washable pads
  • Tupperware and wax wraps instead of cling film
  • Changed to Nuud deodorant – It is not strictly zero waste but it lasts 5 months and you can recycle the tiny tube it comes in.
  • Bamboo toothbrush (when my current one dies)
  • Use old toothbrushes for home cleaning
  • Knitted faceclothes & washing up clothes

What I am NOT buying plastic free because it is really frickin hard:

  • Biscuits
  • Crisps
  • Occasional punnet of strawberries
  • Crackers/oatcakes
  • Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Rice Crispies / cornflakes
  • Ham for sandwiches
  • Some fresh meat (rarely now, but still it’s in plastic)
  • Using toilet roll for poo (sorry)
  • Frozen peas

 

So I will be targeting the above items and I fear we may be rather craving penguins by August.

The hardest part of being plastic free is not what you personally buy, but what others give you, whether in shops, cafes or restaurants, people don’t realise they are doing it, it is ingrained in our culture.   Only yesterday I treated myself and my daughter to coffee and cake in a local coffee shop, I was careful to ask that my coffee-over-ice would come in a glass and not a plastic takeaway cup & straw (been caught out by that one before) – the waiter proudly presented my coffee with a tiny plastic wrapped biscuit on the side.

Here is the offending biscuit, the Lotus coffee biscuit – a totally unnecessary additional to any coffee, it makes so many assumptions to give people one of these – that they eat sugar, gluten, they want the temptation, THEY DON’T MIND THE PLASTIC

What I didn’t do was say anything, because I am sometimes a total coward.

I have felt this cowardly fear of speaking up on numerous occasions. I am truly passionate about my convictions, but I do not like to preach (I hate being preached at) and I am not keen on confrontation, so often I keep quite.

I Say No to Plastic pin Badge

It occurred to me that if I could wear a small statement of my values, it might make it easier on both me and them.  People might strike up a conversion about it, or ask me what I am doing to achieve my goals, they might also ask before giving me plastic, without me feeling like a stuck record explaining that I really don’t want to be given unnecessary plastic.

So I created a pin badge, for me.

But I also figured that I cannot be the only one wishing to promote their values.  So I had a batch made – for you.  I will be selling them soon, so if  you are after one, watch this space.

So here is the start of my journey into a Plastic Free July – and I will be proudly wearing my badge:

I say no to plastic

Diary of a…

1 July

I failed. We are staying at YHA South Downs, we have pre-ordered a continental breakfast, we sit down to eat our croissant and my daughter asks for jam. Enter offending article number 1 – the individual plastic pot of jam.  Damn, fallen at the first hurdle.  Then I get to thinking, did I fail or did the YHA fail me?  When it is out of your control does some of the blame shift?  I suppose the answer would be that is was in my control –  I should have made my own breakfast or made my daughter go without, but how much should I have to give up to achieve this?  And should I make my daughter suffer for my convictions.  I have kept the pot for posterity.

Plastic jam pot

2 July

I bought a jam thermometer.  It came in a molded plastic package with a cardboard back.  This thermometer will enable me to successfully make my own yoghurt and cheese – am I forgiven?  In the same shopping trip I purchased free from plastic: citric acid, white vinegar, boxed napisan powder, lemons and 3kg of flour which the Sainsbury’s checkout lady came very close to ‘kindly’ putting in an individual plastic bag for me – face palm.   I made bread (well Betty the bread maker did), chocolate biscuits and began experimenting with making cereal bars.

3 July

Child told me my chocolate biscuits are the best thing she has ever tasted – Move over McVitie’s.

Just receive my order of packaging for my pin badges – they came from eco-crafts.co.uk and were beautifully posted plastic free and carbon neutral.

Plastic Free stationery

4 July

Keen to eat at least one plastic free pizza in my lifetime, I embarked on a journey into the world of mozzarella making.  I would love to say that I am now never going to be buying cheese again, but I would be lying.  Cheese making is a very wasteful process as you are left with an abundance of whey and although I like to make make bread with whey,  the bread to cheese ratio is a bit disproportionate.  I believe I may have overworked my first attempt and it had a texture similar to halloumi, but it was a perfectly edible pizza cheese.  Using delivered milk in glass bottles did make it expensive, I may have to leave my next batch for when I find a few pints in the reduced section of my local supermarket.

5 July

I am exhausted, it is so hot and my weeks are so busy at the moment I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.  It was Rainbow’s tonight and the girls planted decorated rock around our village for others to find, it’s like a giant, perpetual treasure hunt.   I relented on the way home and we had fish and chips making sure to ask for no bag to the packaging could all go in the compost.

6 July

School disco; so I had an hour to kill.  I took myself to Waitrose to peruse the shelves and found they have a new line of glass bottled cordials which are great for making ice lollies.  I also successfully procured salmon, ham and brie in my own Tupperware containers – it was so easy and the deli staff were more than happy to oblige.   Heading back to the disco, the PTA were selling Pimm’s outside for the waiting parents – luckily I had a plastic wine glass upon my person and avoided a disposable plastic cup… winning!

waitrose plastic free deli

7 July

Today was dreading going to the circus with my daughter, they ask that you do not take in your own food but I like to treat my daughter as she is very patient with my crazy plastic free idea and does tend to miss out on things if I cannot justify the plastic-shame.  I expected there to be nothing but plastic wrapped fare on offer but was pleasantly surprised to find both popcorn in cardboard boxes and candyfloss just on sticks – it make me feel just a little bit normal.  I did however sneak in a homemade slushie – frozen watermelon and elderflower cordial blitzed to icy perfection.

8 July

Sunday is my absolute favourite day for plastic free shopping.  I am very lucky to have a fruit and veg stall that pops up on a Sunday at my local garden centre and today it was abundant with local veg, including naked cucumbers from 2 miles away.  I also grabbed a ton of cheap green tomatoes to make chutney and as I was about to leave my ears pricked up to the owner asking my mum if she made jam, she doesn’t, but I do – I became the proud owner of an entire crate of very, very ripe apricots.  Sadly they came with a black plastic tray, however it will go in my ecobrick and I saved the apricots.  The afternoon was a sort of plastic fail as I helped my friend with her daughters party and came away with left overs, crisps, a bottle of milk and a ready-made pizza.  I have forgiven myself as it would have been wasted otherwise.

9 July

My lunch today was the most delicious plastic-free affair – I had baked my Waitrose smoked salmon and so enjoyed cold with a salad of plastic-free veg.   The evening was a mammoth session of apricot jam, green tomato chutney and golden syrup making.  It dawned on me at around midnight that I still have a stupidly large bin in my kitchen which takes me 6 months or more to fill, it also prevents my back door opening fully.  So I did a reshuffle – my compost bin is now my ‘bin’ and I am going to use a ice cream tub for compost so I can put it out every day and it is easier to clean.

Plastic free Lunch

10 July

FAILED – WHY, WHY, WHY did I mail order my sodastream refills? I am such an idiot.  I needed them in a hurry and didn’t want to make a special journey to get them, I asked for no plastic packaging on the order, but alas! I contacted Sodastream and made a comment on this, and they said they are looking into alternative packaging – so there is some hope as businesses are starting to make the switch.  In other news my ‘Plastic Free Planet’ stamp arrived from Get Stamped – great company and (Hooray!) no plastic in the post.  Check out my pin badges and packaging now – I love it!

sodastream in plastic

11 July

Needed to head into London to visit one of my clients, I took my own coffee and water, but totally forgot to make lunch.  I treated myself to a halloumi wrap from Benugo at Waterloo, I first thought “great! it is paper wrapped”, but alas it appears to be plastic coated inside so I will have to keep and reuse it.  With end of term looming closer tonight the class Mums all headed out for a dinner & cocktails.  Super proud to be presented with a mojito and paper straw! It is working, people are listening and changing!

12 July

It is my last Rainbows before I become a Brownie leader, as a thank you we all received a few gifts from parents, some of which were in plastic.  How can I begrudge this? It is so lovely to be appreciated, so this plastic is welcome and will go into my ecobrick.

13 July

We are off camping this weekend and I have AGAIN failed.  Time has run away with me and I forgot to buy burgers from the deli and freeze them, and they had none frozen in my local store. So I have here 4 burgers and 4 buns and this is the first food I have bought in plastic this month.  I have frozen my bottled milk, pancake mix and homemade pasta sauce for the weekend. I am also taking my sodastream, tonic syrup and of course the gin to go in it!

14 July

Very hot day on the beach at West Wittering, but no plastic today.  Cooked pancakes for 20 kids, with homemade syrup and 10 of us braved the heat to litterpick.  The kids were shocked by the cigarette ends / general selfishness of people.  We found a cache of ‘nurdles’ up by one of the groins, these are the plastic pellets used in plastic manufacturing. When the occasional shipping container falls off a ship they distribute literally billions of these tiny plastic beads in to the ocean many of which are eaten by fish.  We sieved out a bucketful and created the next generation of eco-warriors in the process.

15 July

With temperatures soaring into the 30s today, I relented and bought two ice lollies from the campsite shop before we left.  I am sure lollies used to come in paper, or am I imagining this?  Before heading home we stopped off at Bracklesham Bay for an hour on the beach and some lunch.  I saw this great recycling board outside the cafe (Billy’s on the beach) for you to drop in coffee cups and lids – so simple but so effective at demonstrating the quantity of cups that are used and how easy it is to do your bit by not just binning them.

20 July

Last day of school term, I received an orchid for being one of the class representative, it was wrapped in cellophone which I dutifully washed dried and stored for wrapping or crafting.  My daughter also received a little plastic bag of treats from her teacher.

21 July

My daughter went to another party and came home with a bottle of water and a party bag.  I cannot control this so I am not going to worry about it – the water bottle will become an ecobrick.  What did happen today was the launch of Girlguiding’s new programme.  I was very proud to see there is a Zero Waste interest badge for Brownies, it encourages them to look at their personal consumption and make changes to reduce waste, water and help the environment.

zero waste

22 July

Sunday – Back to the fruit and veg man!  Managed to pick up plastic free grapes and lettuce, which is not the ‘norm’.  Went to Waitrose to purchase deli ham for next week’s sandwiches, I was annoyed that the counter staff used a plastic sheet when weighing, even more annoyed that I didn’t say anything, I’m such a coward.  I also relented and bought grated mozzarella for pizza making. I don’t feel guilty, I tried making my own and it wasn’t great.  If I could get it without plastic I would, everything else about my pizzas are homemade and plastic free and they are one of my favourite things to make.  It is the one sacrifice I am not willing to make and I reuse the packets for storing and freezing things.

23 July

It is the home straight for Plastic Free July and also the first work-day of the holidays.  I packed my daughter off to ‘wild-camp’ with a plastic free lunch, she proudly presented me with her empty lunchbox and said ‘I ate it all because I didn’t want to waste any food’  *my hero*

27 July

We are in holiday in Wales.  I am out of my shopping comfort zone.   Zero waste shopping is out because we need to eat and we have to shop in the supermarket to survive the week away.  Everything will be recycled or put in an ecobrick for the sake of my conscience.

30 July

We cycle along the canal to a local pub, my daughter is delighted that the straw in her lemonade is paper. But we fail when they present tomato ketchup sachets with her bowl of chips.  They did however have a cool sign on the wall.

31 July

Well today is the last day of July – and I am sad to say I have not been as successful as I hoped this month.  Life got a bit in the way.  It has highlighted again that being plastic free is not easily accessible and at the moment it is definitely a lifestyle choice that comes with sacrifices; supermarket shopping is effectively out, unless you just want to eat bananas.   Had I not gone on three holidays in this month, I think I might have had a better chance.  Despite my stumbling, the plastic waste (and indeed the total waste) we used in July still wouldn’t have filled a small shopping bag. With some households producing an entire 240 litre wheelie bin full every 2 weeks, I count this as a win.

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