Last week I tried out my first “Plastic-Free Tuesday”! I am happy to be the first one on this website to share it with you, including, of course, some of the ‘plastic-dilemma’s’ which I encountered throughout the day, and the attempts at their resolution!
Before I start off, I probably have to confess that I am not entirely a plasticminimalist-newbie. I have been thinking about this for a while now, and have tried to apply a few ‘golden rules’ in my day-to-day life already – although not always with success, as you will also notice later on in the blog… They are:
- Not accepting new plastic bags when out shopping – I always just use my own (hand)bag/rucksack or whatever I have on me to carry new purchases. Is the bag too small (or non-existent), I use my (jacket’s) pockets as economically as possible or I carry extra stuff by hand. If it’s really too much and I have no other place to store it, I opt to leave it and come back later (better figure this out before check out though!) Also, when staff at a store already put something into a plastic bag without asking me first, I kindly ask them if I can also take it without the bag. This has never proven a problem! I also (especially) ask this at the bigger department stores, H&M, Mango, Zara etc. or when I am buying food at the market. This one I manage a near 100% I am proud to say.
- When grocery shopping I look out for plastic-free alternatives in terms of product-packaging, i.e. no packaging or glass/paper packaging. (This is not by and large successful yet, as you can also tell from the rest of the post later on; I think I have not applied it consistently to all product-groups…)
- Not buying any plastic items for our house, only solid woods, natural fabrics, stone, cardboard and some occasional metal. In any case, no plastic furniture/laminated furniture, decorative items or floors. I can really recommend looking for nice second-hand/vintage wooden furniture or floors, which often have great style, are even (much) cheaper than Ikea or other comparable stores, way more durable, and often unique and made of good quality materials (solid wood!). Also, second-hand means you reuse/recycle, which means no new materials went into your ‘new’ item, and you prevented an item from becoming waste prematurely.
So….. I thought I was doing quite well already with these few daily notes in the back of my mind when going out shopping. But, “Plastic Free Tuesday “ is a true eye-opener also for the relative plastic-conscious! So here goes for a short report of my rather “Plastic FULL Tuesday” – and how I hope to turn it into a fully “Plastic FREE Tuesday” next time.
8:00-12:00: Waking-up, breakfast and a pretty plastic free morning!
Alright, people who know me well might frown at the portrayed starting time of my day there, but seriously… most of the time I do have an alarm clock waking me around 8:00, if not earlier! A standard Tuesday-morning for me includes a shower, breakfast, brushing teeth, getting ready, etc. riding bike/walking to work, and one or two coffees. This morning, before breakfast I already encounter/use the following plastic products:
Pfewww.. so much plastic!! Is there a need for all these plastic bottles and containers I wonder…? I decide that at least unnecessary are: my big plastic hair brush (not in the picture) and all shower stuff. I used to be a fan of the products of Lush who sell many of their products without any packaging (shampoo-bars, soap-bars, hand-cream-bars etc.), and which generally smell really nice and are largely made of natural ingredients (the small square soap in the picture is theirs – it is so tiny and plastic-free compared to the mess surrounding it!). I am not sure why I stopped buying their products, but I decide to make sure to find a Lush-store before my current products run out. They are not in my home city unfortunately, so I need to think about it the next time I am in The Hague or Amsterdam. I prefer not to order any stuff online if I don’t have to, it seems an unnecessary additional process of delivery. I use the remainder of the Lush-soap on the occasion of this “Plastic-Free Tuesday”, but still get the shampoo and conditioner from the plastic bottles for now (I see Lush even has plastic-free conditioner-bars! Will need to look into that). If any other tips besides Lush, please, more than welcome. I also wonder whether the contact fluids, plastic toothbrush, the toothpaste and facial crème can be purchased fully plastic-free..? I doubt it, but I will try to find out.
OK, then breakfast! Less complicated, so easier. You’d say…. But also here a number of plastic obstacles present themselves immediately …
(Admittedly, I think I may take “Plastic-Free Tuesday” a bit stricter than the original meaning: I am aiming not to touch/use any objects which involve plastic the entire day, and identify such products for future plastic-free replacement..). That this stricter approach makes sense, is soon clear from the fact that I already have some plastic-free options in my cup-board besides the plastic ones, which I could have easily shopped plastic-free in the first place (honey in glass v. honey in a plastic bottle?)!A normal breakfast nowadays entails muesli with some added ‘goodies’ – e.g. dried fruit, nuts –, yoghurt and some honey. I decide to pour the muesli despite the plastic packaging, for lack of another breakfast option today, and I wonder whether muesli is also sold without plastic packaging, (probably not)… also, is yoghurt is still available without plastic cap..? (this goes on my list for later (super)market research! Conclusion: yes it is.)) I leave the dried fruits today (because in plastic), I take honey from the glass container, and make coffee with the percolator, rather than sticking one of the plastic cups in the machine. Apart from the muesli, plastic cap on the yogurt and the plastic lid on the glass honey jar, this could have been worse…? But… It could also have been better. I think these products can be replaced with/substituted for something totally plastic-free. So, I will think about a complete plastic-free alternative next week. (My main lesson for this “Plastic Free Tuesday” will turn out to be; everything is in plastic! Plastic free living requires some planning! – which, of course, is ridiculous, it shouldn’t be (made) that hard not to consume plastic!! But next week’s PFT will start with a bit more planning I guess, and of course as this blog expands we can hopefully help each other find PF-products).
The rest of the morning is perfectly plastic-free – apart from the plastic machines I tap away at at work (computer, laptop, phone), but also due to the pencil used and the paper post-its, instead of plastic ones. I decide not to have another coffee, as I am not sure whether the machine at work will be able to deliver it to me plastic-free, and I feel I need to make up for breakfast.
12.00-18.00: Lunch and the afternoon
Lunch turns out to be another challenge – again, because not well enough prepared. Normally I have two sandwiches and a cup of soup at our canteen. The sandwiches are no option today, because they are wrapped in plastic. The soup, technically, also not an option, because originally delivered in plastic bags. Further inspection of the canteen proves it is virtually impossible to have a plastic free lunch option though. So, in the end, I settle for the soup, with the optional bread rolls (which are offered unpackaged, but no doubt came to kitchen wrapped in plastic) and a fried snack (for which counts the same as the bread rolls I presume…) Hmm this is not a very successful lunch …. Next Tuesday I will prepare my own lunch from home.
No more coffee in the afternoon, but hot tea water from the hot water tab at work. No more plastic used.
18:00-22:00 Dinner and evening
Then, dinner-time, what I took, beforehand, to be the greatest no-plastic challenge of “Plastic-Free Tuesday” (I was wrong)! Considering the plastic challenges already encountered throughout the day, I decide not to make my first “PFT”-dinner too difficult,pasta it is! This should be easy because spaghetti can be purchased in a cardboard container at my grocery store and pasta sauce in a glass jar. Rest the veggies, which are surprisingly largely unavailable in our supermarket without additional plastic packaging… We get: plastic-free tomatoes, zucchini and carrots (onion and garlic already at home). Unfortunately mushrooms, eggplant, bell pepper, nor spinach can be found without plastic (unless from the freezer), so it wasn’t ideal. Also we left the meat-replacement due to lack of no-plastic options. So while finding products was a relatively easy plastic-free affair, it could be made more appealing if we had done some plastic free veggie shopping beforehand, say at the market place (luckily we did still have bell pepper and eggplant without plastic wrapping from the weekend shopping at the market). A final thing not accounted for upon dinner-time was the cheese, which we had at home in a plastic wrapper and, thus, decided not to add.
Sooo….. summing up my first “Plastic-Free Tuesday”: not entirely successful (yet), but it has made me very aware of all the plastic I unconsciously encounter, use, consume and discard on a daily (and hence weekly, monthly, yearly) basis! It really adds up, even though some of these things could be changed by simply adopting another shopping pattern – instead of always taking product A (plastic) from the shelves, you need to identify product B (no plastic) and buy that from now on. In that sense it is not that hard. I am interested in making a cost-comparison as well though, as I suspect plastic-free living potentially weighs heavier on peoples’ budgets, but, then again, it may not: totally plastic-free yogurt and spaghetti are actually the cheapest in the supermarket…The coming weeks I follow up on my plastic-free shopping list, and make sure to prepare some breakfast and lunch options for my next “PFT” during the coming week. If any tips, they are very welcome! Overall, my guess is it is very well possible to go plastic-free, also more structurally, but it needs some planning and potentially a few structural adjustments. In any case, I am looking forward to report (more successfully) on my next “Plastic Free Tuesday”, comments welcome!