“Start before you plan to start”: I can’t remember where I read this nugget of advice last year, but it’s something that I have taken to heart. The idea is that you begin building routines and getting yourself into the mindset you want before you embark on any planned change.
This meant I started working on my New Year’s resolutions in November. The six-week lead time gave me the opportunity to figure out what worked well and find solutions for what didn’t before I officially kicked things off on 1st January. The benefits? Habits started to form, and the potential minor hiccups and major bumps that can derail the best of intentions were smoothed over from the very beginning.
This is why I am turning my thoughts to Plastic Free July in the depths of January. I have started to identify which areas I can cut back on and to troubleshoot solutions. For example, I realised that much of the single-use plastic that can be found in the kitchen is done in the name of convenience. It’s about things that are not necessarily better or cheaper than the alternatives, but it is easier to grab the pre-prepared rather than think through what is actually needed.
So the first change we instituted was eliminating pre-cut mixed vegetables in the ready-to-microwave plastic bag. This entailed buying reusable bags that are simply tossed in our existing shopping bag when going out (you can also use any existing bags you have around the house). We also changed from picking up fruit and veg when doing a large supermarket shop to using our local greengrocers. S.K. Fruits on The Bridge have been fantastic: I’ve found the food to be of higher quality and it seems to last much longer in the fridge. As an added bonus, Jon and I have converted the added time for food preparation in the evening into chatting about our day, which makes a nice buffer between a busy day job and unwinding in the evening.
Tea bags have become a hot-button topic recently with the revelation that many are made with plastic due the heat seal that holds them together. We have been flirting with using loose leaf for a while because we prefer the taste, but had never fully made the leap because of common excuses: it takes too long to brew, it can be messy, etc. etc. etc. However, this helped push us over the edge and to convert completely to loose leaf brands. While doing so, we discovered that the Tea House Emporium in Bath offer to refill caddies with your chosen blend. This is fantastic on many levels: it completely eliminates all packaging and gives us an excuse to go to Bath.
Jon has been the one to make the real sacrifice, giving up his plastic bottles of sauces and condiments in favour of glass. While the convenience of an easy-squeeze bottle has been lost, he has been exploring new brands and flavours, and it’s great that we’re both on the same page about reducing our plastic use. Indeed, we’re now approaching it as a fun challenge and there is a great feeling of success when we find a new substitution.
In terms of food storage, we have eliminated clingfilm by using bees wax wraps and relying far more on our Tupperware collection. Some may grouse that Tupperware is plastic. However, it is not single use and prevents the purchase of even more products. This raises a point that I have been thinking about as we begin our journey towards waste reduction around the house: how to avoid the perception that anti-waste extremism is the only way forward?
Some of you reading this series may think that it simply isn’t possible for your family to completely ditch plastic, or perhaps you’ve seen articles about the zero-waste lifestyle and think it’s a step too far. There is a vast spectrum of waste reduction open to everyone: awareness of the problem and a desire to make a change go a long way towards helping. Just by incorporating one thing at a time—say swapping your disposable coffee cup for a reusable one, or cutting up your own carrots instead of buying them in a plastic bag—and doing what you can, when you can, is how all of us can begin to turn the tide.