It's been a year and a half since I've jumped on the zero-waste bandwagon. I've been applying its principles even more seriously since I've moved to Portland exactly a year ago. But lately, I've been feeling like I've hit a plateau.
At the beginning of this year, I read a book that, once again, completely changed the way I approach the food I eat, the clothes I wear, and the objects I welcome into my home. It got me wanting to dive deeper into my habits as a consumer, especially for material belongings. This book is Plastic Free, by Beth Terry.
I thought I was doing pretty well, having reduced the number of times I have to take the trash out each year and having decluttered the house during our last move. But Beth's manifesto opened my eyes even more on the consequences of plastic on our health and on the environment.
I first thought that adding yet another rule to my consumer habits would lead to disenchantment. And I have to admit that, looking at all the plastic that surrounds us at home, I panicked a little. But I decided to take things slow and opted for a step-by-step process.
First, I realized that I could use it as a guide to help me solve the dilemmas I face whenever I need to make a purchase. Adding plastic in the list of noes made decisions simpler.
For example, we decided to get sporks for camping and were presented with 3 options: BPA-free plastic, bamboo or titanium. By eliminating plastic from the equation and choosing titanium for its durability over bamboo (which could be a great option, since it's biodegradable), the decision was made for us. Simpler, greener, happier.
Of course, there are different ways of looking at this. What is the carbon footprint of the production of each one of these 3 items? I don't know. In the end, the best solution in these cases is always to borrow or buy second hand in the first place.
For those of you who are curious to see why and how we could and should ditch plastic, this amazing plastics mindmap sums up part of what Beth explains in her book and makes for a great inspiration to reduce our plastic consumption.
Plastic lasts forever
Plastic cannot be recycled, it can only be down cycled, which means it will eventually end up in the landfill at best, or in our waterways.
Plastic kills animals
Whoever has participated in a beach clean up will have seen how much plastic pollutes the ocean. Now you can imagine what percentage of it will make its way into the organism of innocent or confused sea creatures.
Plastic gets in the food chain and comes back to us
If fish eat plastic and we eat fish, do we eat plastic? Also, BPA and phthalates are widely used in plastic bottles and food packaging, they can contaminate what they hold and interfere with human hormonal function.
I'm pretty happy with what we've been achieving at home since I finished reading Plastic Free. But, but I thought I would get a great boost by signing up for Plastic Free July and challenge myself to avoid all single-use plastic including the top 4 (straws, plastic bottles, plastic bags & coffee cup lids) for all of July.
Here are some aspects I'm going to focus on, based on our actual situation:
Ask for paper-only packaging
When I need of something that is not available locally or second hand, I usually order it online and tend to forget to look and ask for eco-packaging.
Make our own tortillas
Octave and I both work from home and cook all three meals every day. Tortillas entered our pantry since we moved to the US and are a great solution when we run out of inspiration. But the only ones we can find are wrapped in plastic. Octave is usually in charge of cooking and his first attempt was pretty successful. So we should just make a habit of it and prepare a big bunch of tortillas and freeze them so we always have a couple on hand when we're feeling lazy.
Buy cheese at the counter
I recently found a great place in Portland which sells a lot of good fresh products at the counter and even has feta and mozzarella. It is located close to my CSA pickup so it saves me time and gas.
Start collecting produce stickers for Stickerman
Instead of automatically putting produce stickers in the trashcan, I'm gonna attach a piece of paper at the back of a cupboard and stick them on it every time I'll buy fruit. I'll use it as a reminder to sign up for the fruit CSA next year instead of the veggie one (now that we have planted the prettiest veggie garden at home) and will send the sticker sheep to Barry Snyder so he can make more educational art.
Be more aware of the composition of the fabrics my clothes are made of.
I'm planning on doing a lot of reading about fabric origin, composition, production and will simply continue de buy second hand and focus on natural fibers. I'll keep you updated if you will.
That's it for this month's challenge. If you need more inspiration, Beth also compiled a great list of 100 steps to a plastic free life on her website.
If you're interested in what I will be up to during this Plasic Free July, know that I'll be documenting my daily victories and failures on Snapchat. Just add me as your friend, my username is: chloelepeltier.
Has anyone signed up for the challenge yet? If so, let me know, we'll be challenge buddies! No pressure, it can be as simple as just deciding to order drinks without straws during a couple days this month. Come on, it will be fun. But watch out, once you start, you'll see plastic everywhere.