I'm a plastic girl, in a plastic world. Wait, rewind, why is this tune stuck in my head? The above picture is the epitome of cringe-worthy industrialization. Looking down an entire aisle, at a "healthy" grocery store, and it being filled with plastic water containers. I live in Denver, Colorado. I am fortunate here that clean water comes out of our taps. So why, do people buy bottled water? What an environmental waste! This photo is what sent me on my journey to be plastic free. I had heard about someone blogging about their "Plastic Free Life" and decided to challenge myself to do the same.
I am relatively health conscious; I recycle, shop at a healthy grocery store, commute on my bike to work. But even though I consider myself environmentally friendly because compared to others I am on the right track, I am not at a dead end, my journey can continue and I challenge myself to do more! First task: be more plastic free.
I started by visiting the blog: My Plastic-Free Life. Wow, my eyes were opened, there is always room for improvement. Comparing myself to this blog, I feel like I am chucking trash out of car windows in National Parks. I also want to make a caviate here as to why this issue became a foremost issue in my life. With the recent presidential election I decided that though I can't change the outcomes and setbacks that might happen during this administration, I can live in a way that lowers my impact on the environment. So, I started out by reading "My Plastic-Free Life" 100-step tips to living that life. This gave me an arsenal of ways to attack plastic in my life.
But, as I read through the blogs, studied up on plastic alternatives, and educated myself on the effects of plastic I became overwhelmed. Once you open a can of worms, you can't close it. All the ways I was degrading the environment started putting me in a panic, and then a depression, and then I became paralyzed with not knowing what to do. I quickly realized in order to actually make a change and commit to it, I would have to start with a bite-sized challenge. I decided to start with my food, committing this to being plastic free.
Cucumbers, individually wrapped in plastic! Can you believe that. Even before this challenge I would look at this and think what a waste! As I mentioned before I thought I was an eco-friendly person, so I regularly brought reusable grocery bags. But did you know there are reusable produce bags? I found these at the container store. Now, I could say no-no to individually plastic-wrapped cucumbers and heck-yes to all the avocados that fit in my bag. My produce is now 100% plastic free.
Another challenge are those items that come in fresh sealed packages. I was happy to see that in some stores there are now alternatives to that. Instead of the classic mushrooms in a box, I am able to select my own mushrooms and place them in one of my handy-dandy reusable produce bags. And, this also cuts down on food waste by only purchasing the amount that you need!
When thinking about this challenge in my mind there were two big challenges to me. The first was meat, doesn't all meat come in individually wrapped styrofoam and plastic trays? Well, most grocery stores have a butcher section that I was not utilizing. Even though there is still some waste in this option, brown butcher and a small piece of wax paper, the waste is decreased. And it's not exactly plastic.
I am still working on this to reduce my waste generated. I am currently looking for a local butcher where I can buy local, sustainably-raised meat and buy it in larger quantities to then deep freeze to reduce waste produced.
The second biggest challenge for me was cheese. I love cheese! But it all seems to come in plastic. I decided that if I couldn't cut down on plastic completely I would have to reuse it. Enter the pre-shaved cheese that comes in square, plastic containers. I now reuse these containers as freezer containers. They perfectly pack individual portions of lasagna, who knew!
Overall, this challenge was a big success. I don't buy products that come in packages unless they are cardboard but I try to opt for bulk items. But, just being conscious of having a challenge resulted in a huge mindset change, and I also talked about it with everyone. Spreading the word reaffirmed my commitment but also helped me talk through issues and hopefully inspire change in others.
Through this I also found some really cool projects that are rethinking plastic. So I'll leave you with some of these projects of hope, check them out below!