My Plastic Free Challenge
My business is focused on Sustainable Events. Making better choices for clients, one of which is not using single-use plastic. It got me thinking that I should really incorporate more of my passion for sustainability into my home life, and I was keen to see how easy or difficult it might be for a family of 4. I had missed the Plastic Free July but decided that if you want to go plastic free then anytime is good so why not right now!
When to start
On the 21st September - a Monday. just because it was a Monday and like any diet a Monday always feels inspired and a good time to start my challenge, I started my plastic free month... wait.. hang on a minute..
Preparation is King
Actually my challenge started a week or so before the 21st September Because you see organisation and preparation is everything, which will be a bit of a theme as I talk through the month. We as a society are used to convenience, and pretty much sums up our shopping habits, especially where food is concerned. So I knew that I had to do some research into where I could shop, and how I would do it. Where I could source items not wrapped in plastic and what we could actually eat!
My local shop 'Wookey Hub' has a milk re-fill station where you buy a glass bottle of milk and then you can take it in when its empty and get it re-filled. It costs £1 per litre.
My local shop also does re-fills into any container for shampoo, conditioner, body wash and cleaning products.
The local market on a Wednesday and Saturday does a lot of fresh, loose fruit and veg, they also have a fish stand - however you need to take a container as otherwise the fish will be wrapped in plastic.
The local butchers have now moved to paper wrapped instead of plastic but you can also take a container to avoid any packaging.
The Deli has a counter service for ham and cheese - just take your own containers.
The only place to buy bread not wrapped in plastic is the bakery - it comes in a paper bag.
Excited to start the challenge today. Myself, Lee and the children had paid a visit to West Bradley Orchards on Saturday as they open for a few weekends in September for PYO Apples. So we took the opportunity to go and pick some apples for eating, fruit juice and puddings. The children were thirsty whilst we were there so we also bought some of the Orchards Apple Juice in glass bottles as well.
From the apples we made Apple & Courgette Muffins - link to recipe here, this was for the children's lunch boxes and snacks that week. Apple Crumble - big success, and Apple Juice - not a great success. Despite putting a bit of lemon juice in it, it went brown and was quite tart so the children didn't really want to drink it despite the length faff or juicing all the apples!!
I also managed to source almond milk from The Good Earth in a glass bottle, and some Yoghurt from 'River Cottage' in a glass jar. - thought I could put this in a small tub for lunches/ puddings, and I also managed to get a cucumber from The Good Earth which wasn't wrapped in plastic - literally the only place I have seen a 'naked' cucumber!
I also made some roasted carrot hummus to go in lunch boxes as a dip/ on sandwiches. Feeling like a proper wholesome mum/ home bird/ and ultra smug.
Ahh and so my smugness came crashing down today. First proper market day shop in Wells. Started well, I took my containers for the fish, got some veg from the market, bought some ketchup in a glass bottle, bread from the bakery, ham and cheese from the deli, but then... disaster strikes. I went to buy some chicken from the butchers and although they have now switched to paper, before I knew what was happening the butcher had tipped the chicken into a plastic bag. I was too much of a coward to say anything, and walked out of the shop feeling like an utter failure!!.
Anyway, one home cooked apple muffin later and I decided to keep the plastic as evidence and put it down as a blip - note to self - keep a close eye on what people give you.
We ran out of milk (already!!) , washing up liquid and shower gel. So I went to Wookey Hub and filled up my fairy bottle with Ecover washing up liquid and my milk bottle. The shower gel I had to get rid of as I couldn't get the top of to re-fill it so I had to buy a new 'Faith in Nature' body wash - however i know that once its empty I can get it filled there. Its really nice stuff too. Smells lovely and so far everyone likes it - even the children so we might be all using it from now on.
Popped to Tesco today. Discovered a shop in Shepton Mallet which stocks 'loose' food items such as dried fruit/ pasta etc. Only to find it was closed and you can only order via click and collect - abandoned that idea and called in at Tesco to get some cordial. Really pleased to find some in a glass bottle, and also to find that Tesco now recycle Ink Cartridges and also Maybelline make up - not that I use Maybelline, but I might start if I know it can be recycled afterwards.
Made homemade squash soup today which had a mixed reaction - I quite enjoyed it but it lacked flavour, it'll do for my lunch tomorrow. I think we might need to get some tinned soup for the children though! I also made some more roasted carrot hummus and some Chocolate and Avocado Fudge muffins see recipe here . - these turned out quite well, my daughter loves them but they are quite bitter. Still, I'm glad we're having healthy-ish snacks with an element of veg in them
Having purchased butter wrapped in 'paper' a week or so ago. I discovered today that the wrapping is not recyclable, which is disappointing I think that's because it has some sort of greaseproof lining in it. So I went on the hunt for some butter , I also went on the hunt for hamster food. Unfortunately after trawling all the pet stores and supermarkets, for both items, I had to buy butter in a tub and hamster food in a plastic bag. Really frustrating. I have since learnt though that you can buy butter tubs see link here. No solution for the hamster food though. Its a shame because you can buy loose dog biscuits and food, but not for any other animal - gap in the market here people!!
Ran out of bread and its after 5pm so no chance of buying any now. Decided to make wraps for the children's lunch boxes. Actually really straightforward link to the
recipe here. You have to get the cooking time right though, too long and they go crispy and you can't bend them, too little and they taste like uncooked dough! Feedback from my biggest critics - Harry said yum, Amelia said she didn't like them. - can't please everyone I guess.
My husband offered to do the shopping today - hmm I was a little nervous at this prospect.. so i loaded him up with containers, and bags for the shopping. Gave him a list and details of where to buy everything in town....
Generally successful, however he came back with lots of tins of soup/beans/tinned veg.. which to be fair isn't plastic and it
does help with quick lunches but its not quite as healthy as fresh food!. We also ended up with a number of items from the deli wrapped in what looked like paper but on closer inspection its lined with a thin film of plastic, argh!
We also had to break the rules and buy Mozzarella - one item that you just can't buy unless its in a plastic packet. But we were making pizza and we had my nephews staying over so.. we had to give in and deal with it.
I did keep the plastic packet as evidence of the issue! I think you'll agree the pizzas do look yummy, and I made the dough from scratch no plastic packed ingredients there!
Excited by the arrival of my LoofCo washing up pads. These are hand made from the Loofah plant and are 100% biodegradable, the company offer a range of scrubbing pads, washing up
pads and cleaning pads especially for cleaning in bathrooms. They puff up when you add water and apparently they last for months. So I can finally ditch my horrendous yellow and green sponge. I also received a delivery of Rice Husk Containers, having to take containers everywhere is all well and good but the ones I have area quite small. I didn't want to buy any more plastic ones, so I found these. They are made from Rice Husk and Silicone, dishwasher, freezer and Microwave safe. Rice Husk was once a by-produce but has now become a sustainable material used for fuel, building and can be made into an alternative to plastic. - win win!
Mum and I are having a couple of days out and I'm constantly on plastic watch!! Its not so bad when you're home and can control it but the biggest issue is other people and things they give you!. Went shopping today and was given a plastic bag, as I'd completely forgot to take on with me, vowed to re-use it! got back to the hotel and tried on new item of clothing only to realise I didn't like it - went back to the store the following day and returned the item along with the bag!! hope they re-use it!
Market day again today. Trying to shop whilst my daughter is in Ballet, managed to get most of it but still needed some bits from the supermarket and also wanted to try and get some oats. One of the items we haven't been having is Cereal. I made my own Granola recipe link here which only I seem to like, I have this with Yoghurt which is lovely, although it was made using some of my store cupboard ingredients - including dried fruit which you would need to source from a loose food store as it all comes in plastic, the same is true for any nuts and seeds in the supermarket.
The children have switched to Porridge or toast in the mornings. Oats are really useful for both Porridge and flapjacks - another snack item I've made quite a bit! Unfortunately due to Covid the shop in town isn't able to offer the loose items that you can fill up your containers with as its a food bin with a scoop, whereas the one in Glastonbury uses a drop down/ gravity type system. So off I went to Glastonbury to get some oats. Couldn't find any pasta though. I then went to the supermarket to get cordial, and some ham from the deli counter. - The summary of this is that I was pretty much out for the whole day food shopping. Felt properly annoyed as did my other half! and ready to pack it all in!. Vowed to do any supermarket shops if needed during the week and just do the market shop on a Saturday at least that way its not taking up half our weekend to do food shopping. I did also have to buy pasta in a box as I couldn't get it loose - it was more expensive than normal but apparently the box is recyclable so didn't feel too bad.
Invested in some Thermos style containers for the kids lunches - and so far they have been a great investment. Using leftovers from dinner and putting soups in there so they can have a hot lunch is great, and its cut down on all the bread we were using - and wasting on sandwiches. My daughter doesn't really like sandwiches so she often came home with it half eaten. So at least we can now say we've cut down on our waste and I'm not buying bread every 5 mins. I also have started buying bread - 2 loaves at a time and put one in the freezer, and milk 2 litres at a time which we get through if we're having porridge every day.
Really craving crisps and snacks, and Harry has been asking for them too... My husbands work have a collection box set up for crisp packets so knowing that they could be recycled we decided to buy some crisps! Its only through this process that I've discovered TerraCycle.
At the start of September we ran out of Toothpaste and so I tried the natural paste style toothpaste that you smear onto your toothbrush with a little wooden stick. It comes in a glass jar and can be recycled. However that's all well and good but no-one including me likes it. We persevered for a few days, but then had to revert to the normal stuff. It was then that I discovered that in the next village along in Easton they have a collection box in the town hall for toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes. Anyone can take their products there - as clean as possible and it will get collected and recycled at TerraCycle's processing unit. This is something that the brands themselves pay for and there are a number of schemes set up such as Toys, Crisp packets, Make-Up, a lot of the hard to recycle plastics that usually end up in landfill.
TerraCycle also run something called Loop Europe which is where you can use and return the containers to be re-used hence the name 'loop' . At the moment they have a loopstore in conjunction with Tesco check out the website here. I had the pleasure of interviewing the head of communications Steve Clarke from TerraCycle about how the scheme works and how people can go about finding a collection point or indeed setting one up themselves in their local community and about Loop. See link to their website here. and you can watch the interview and find out more about both TerraCycle and Loopstore on my youtube channel here. Green Sense Events. 6 days of the challenge remaining!!
Clearly we must have got into the swing of things as there hasn't been anything to report for a few days and less pictures! My latest find is bamboo toothbrushes and a safety razor. Usually I buy the packs of 5 disposable plastic razors which are fairly expensive, terrible for the environment and don't last long so I decided to look into it. You can buy safety razors which are bamboo and then you just change the blades, you can recycle the blades and the handle lasts potentially forever if you look after it! So I ordered a safety razor for me and my husband to use and a pack of bamboo toothbrushes for all 4 of us.
I also wanted to mention that I have come across some amazing facebook groups and websites whilst on this challenge. Journey to Zero Waste in the UK is a great one, type a query in there and you'll get some awesome suggestions from members of the group, as well as http://www.pfree.co.uk/ which has some great suggestions and ideas on just about everything.
Today is the last day of my challenge. But only in terms of documenting it of course. The plan was not to do it for a month and then give up but to incorporate these changes into our lives for good. I have learnt a lot over this past month and have found lots of like minded individuals through it too which is encouraging. I think generally if you can shop local and be a bit more seasonal with it alongside reducing your plastic then this will help to reduce our carbon footprint and also have a positive benefit on your health. However I do also understand that for convenience it will be necessary to sometimes buy tinned and items in a box from the supermarket that can go in the freezer, for those evenings when you're busy and rushing to get the kids some dinner.
Cost wise we have spent a similar amount per week as we were doing at the supermarket, I have tried to reduce our meat intake and have a few meat free nights because fresh meat from the butchers is more expensive as it should be, but its also better quality and locally produced, but also I'm keen to reduce our meat intake generally in a bid to lower our carbon footprint and cattle farming is a big contributor.
Good luck with your own plastic free challenge and please do get in touch if you need any support!!
Look out for future blog posts from me as I explore Sustainability in different types of events.
If you require a Sustainable Event Management Service, or would like to talk to me further about how to plan a Sustainable event please contact Green Sense Events for a free consultation. firstname.lastname@example.org