It’s been a while, but I am very happy to now follow-up on my previous “Plastic-Free Tuesday’ post, which was hosted here a while back. Many many thanks for the great comments and support, it really helped, as you will tell below…
Truth be told, after my first Plastic-Free Tuesday I needed some regroup, thus.. my second Plastic-Free Tuesday went by without much ado. However, I’m back now, with what I like to think is quite a bit of progress!
Some main improvements in my current Plastic-Free Tuesday routine – and even beyond that! – are:
1. A weekly visit to the local market
My city, Groningen, has three per week but I generally go one day, on Saturdays, sometimes on Tuesdays as well. This is actually the real winner for going No-Plastic I’ve found. More about this later in the post.
2. Plastic-free breakfast
– see below!
3. Plastic-free lunch options
– see below!
4. Plastic-free dinners
Still experimental phase… can still be better, but also some good options there, again see below.
5. Baked my own bread(s)
Way easier than it seems, and not a science it turns out (which means: I messed up each recipe so far, and the bread was still very much OK.. also, more below.)
6. Read up on plastics
This has been very useful and interesting. I can really recommend everyone ‘Plastic Planet’, which is a longer documentary. Also I’ve watched a few interesting plastic production clips on You Tube, here and here. I still plan to watch ‘Addicted to Plastic’. For ‘Plastic Planet’, please bear with it through the beginning, I think it starts a bit strange.. but it usefully addresses a whole lot of issues!
Below I am commenting a bit more on each of the new steps, hoping you find it of interest! Also I still have some challenges and questions left, so comments are again more than welcome!
Step #1 – Plastic-Free Breakfast
I think where I did probably best over the past weeks is on the breakfast front! My first Plastic-Free Tuesday demonstrated that I had a lot of plastic there (muesli, yoghurt, dried fruit, coffee, honey), but I am now enjoying the following plastic-free options, in fact, every day of the week! Yeay for that!
- Yoghurt (local, organic) in a glass bottle, subject to ‘statiegeld’ from Ekoplaza + dried fruits or fresh fruits or assorted nuts. I get all these at the market, using my own glass containers, see more later on that later on.
- Same yoghurt + dates + cinnamon powder + cardamom powder + honey. Yummie! Actually a dessert from a local restaurant here which I copy. (The honey still has a plastic lid though.. but is healthy.. could be without as well)
- Crackers from the brand ‘Wasa’ + cheese or avocado or vegetables or whatever (also see under ’lunch-time’). Thanks, ‘duurzaamtoch?’! Truly, a great find!
- Home-made (focaccia) bread with topping (also see more in lunch).
The only item which is still struggle with is coffee though… I actually still prefer to use the cups in my Dolce Gusto machine, even though I can easily get around this on Plastic-Free Tuesdays. Yet, I am interested to become more structural here as well. Now considering coffee beans for the percolator (I don’t like the filter coffee much, have become coffee snob against own will I think…)
Yet, the coffee cups also present an additional problem now, which is that Nestlé has indicated to me (after sending them an email about it) that their cups contain so-called “Bisphenol A” (BPA), which a controversial hazardous toxin in some types of plastic, i.e. types ’03’ and ‘07’ plastics mostly. (also see ‘Plastic Planet’ documentary).
BPA is said to cause rather severe hormone/estrogeneimbalances, besides other effects. If interested to know more: e.g. here (English), here (English), here (Dutch, ‘Voedingscentrum’, old message), or more recently this broadcast from Tros Radar, 2012. Very interesting as well is the website of the European Union’s Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is currently reevaluating BPA-hazards and potentially regulation. BPA is already forbidden in baby bottles, and in some countries for wider kids products. Nestlé indicated that their cups currently comply with the current EFSA regulations, but the question I guess is whether these regulations are up to date/sufficient… They also said that they take customer preferences seriously, and will use a different plastic once available. But my question is now.. should I quit the machine altogether?? Not sure yet.. More on this later!
Step #2: Lunch!
Lunch-time also proved a rather big challenge last time, but has become much better with the introduction of the ‘Wasa’-crackers! Thanks again!
Apart from these crackers (which come in about 9 different types), I have bought some breads during my market trips, as well as, ta da da… baked my own breads! This was a bit of step as I’ve tried to bake sweets before, but they’ve always turned out, well, crappy, yet the breads are really quite easy in terms of ingredients and preparation, just mix in a few ingredients (flour, water, yeast and oil), knead a bit, wait, wait some more, oven and done! And like I said, it can’t seem to wrong.. judge results for yourself…
Have baked four breads so far, but the focaccia remains my favorite for now, especially because I have sneaking suspicion that they turn out fine even if you mess up the recipe … If the bread is done, I store it in the oven in the baking paper for about 3 days.
I ‘m eager to move on to more sophisticated/healthier breads and to get rid of the final small piece of plastic around the packaging of the yeast. Yet, I’ve not been able to find many flours or wheats in a fully paper bag..? There is always some plastic looking sticker on the packet..? Any tips, yes please!
On another small note: I also went to one bakery shop and asked them if they make the bread from scratch there, it turns out they do, but the bread might still end up being wrapped in a lot of plastic every day to keep it fresh..? That does not really add up. So in that sense, I think I will stick with the baking every now and again, besides crackers, which I like a lot.
Step #3: Plastic-Free Dinner!
Pfieww.. then the dinners, they are still a bit more challenging. I manage a single Tuesday, but not a full week yet (note that my lunch is also a full-week thing now! Pretty great I think.) Currently I have the following options for dinner:
- Easiest no-brainer still: Pasta (spaghetti, penne, lasagna can all be bought in card board at my supermarket) + assorted vegetables (e.g. onion, garlic, eggplant, mushrooms, spinach, bell-pepper, zucchini, all from the market without any plastic wrapping), home-made tomato sauce/pesto-sauce (or as purchased in glass pot.., fresh herbs (e.g. basil), cheese (also bought from market, bringing my own container, more below).
- Risotto (card board container), using vegetable stock (small metallic wrapper if not home-made), white wine (bit of plastic on the bottle there…but no other option and I drink it anyways..), garlic, onion, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach and some nice cheese (e.g. parmesan, bought at market). Many risotto’s are possible, such as beetroot risotto (fresh beet root, mushrooms, some sliced carrots, spring onion, fresh cilantro and goat/parmesan cheese), or a butternut risotto (not yet tried).
- Roasted assorted vegetables and potato’s and herbs from oven. By far easiest I think. Simply put e..g pumpkin/butternut, nice potato’s, carrot slices , garlic, rosemary, salt in the oven and bake. This is also one of the fully ‘waste-free’ options.
- Rice (in card board) + assorted Chinese vegetables (eggplant)/mushrooms stir fries . Sauce may come from a glass container, e.g. soy sauce, chili bean sauce. I personally love Fuchsia Dunlop’s Chinese cook books, e.g. ‘Every Grain of Rice’, also available in Dutch.
- Bean-burgers, especially great if you can use dried beans from the market and not get them in a can or glass (bought dried ones, but not yet tried). Mash beans, add some grated carrots, grated cheese, egg/bread crumb, and various herbs & spices of choice, e.g. paprika-powder, chili-powder, fresh cilantro, or cumin, ground cilantro seeds, or curry. All can be purchased at the market. Burgers can be complemented with roasted vegetables, baked potato’s, or bread or salad.
- When figured out dried beans, and lentils and/or peas, and got a nice place for plastic-free spices/herbs: many Indian dishes also come within reach! Both for the Chinese and Indian cuisines goes that you only need to purchase their most standard spices or sauces once (say 5-7 euro per cuisine for 4-5 ingredients) with which you can make many different dishes for about 10+ meals! So, my tip is: line up some recipes, get all the spices in one trip to the market, and then enjoy! Eat with rice, or venture making nan-bread (stuck to rice so far).
- A stuffed bell pepper, with rice, tomato (puree), other vegetables, some stock, (fresh) herbs (e.g. cilantro, basil) and e.g. goats cheese on top from the oven. I prefer these with couscous or quinoa actually, but haven’t found this without additional plastic packaging in the box? Any tips? Nice with additional salad.
- Finally I personally much like rice + ‘roti’ filling (= Surinam dish). It contains: ‘Kouseband’ (long green bean, my Jumbo supermarket has it) or haricot verts, onion, potato’s, (Hindustan) masala spices, ground cumin, ground cilantro seeds, vegetable stock, Mme. Jeanette pepper (small yellow pepper, also at my supermarket), tomato (puree), and as many boiled eggs as you like.
So actually plenty of options already, though some more successful then others. What I would really like to find is: Plastic-Free tofu…? Anyone has any thoughts on that..? that would be super helpful!
Finally, a few notes on my market visits, and mostly: how to deal with FRIENDLY people!
Considering that the market has been the main contributor to no-plastic improvements, a few further thoughts on that.
First of all, it found it very useful to collect some containers before taking my trip – I critically reviewed all items already in my cupboard and fridge such as glass pots or other reusable (plastic) containers, had many as you see. Got some of the following containers and purchaches (nosy cat approved as you see).
Next step could be fabricating some assorted fabric bags and/or to get these ‘Bee-wraps’, which is cloth covered with beeswax, good for cheese wrapping apparently. (I got a question/remark/concern from one cheese-seller about the cheese potentially going dry in my container.. haven’t noticed, but he might have a point.).
Overall, I was extremely happy to find that most stalls were very willing to accept my containers, and even got some encouragement from some. In any case, it seems very clear I am not the only one making these kinds of requests.
Yet… one of the most surprising and tricky things I’ve found about the market place: it can be a real challenge to deal with all the very FRIENDLY people there! (rather than UNFRIENDLY people, I didn’t really meet any of those actually).
Explanation: A very nice lady at the dried fruit stall was super forthcoming in handing me an apricot to taste, which I was eyeing while building up courage to bring out my glass pot, for which she very hygienically… wrapped a huge plastic bag around her hand! Oh no…. mission totally defeated? What do I do, do I still hand her the pot, do I take the bag?? Gave her the glass pot anyways. Then, similar situation with the kind lady selling dressing, who kindly offered me an additional paper napkin to protect the cork from leaking in transport (super friendly, and no plastic, but still.. not very successful in eliminating needless waste there). Also, the man at the honey stall gave me a disposable wooden spoon with honey as I was looking at his produce (same issue as the dressing and apricot lady..) while personnel at the local nut-store got confused at my container request (though very accepting of it) first wanting to put the nuts in their paper bag, after which she could pour them more easily in my glass container. This would not save me a thing, as you generally buy the nuts at this place in a paper bag. So I might as well take the bag. Finally, also got some confusion at the bread stand, finding much support for not wanting an extra plastic bag, but only just being able to prevent the girl from wrapping my bread in a separate plastic foil anyways… haha, oh no… So, basically, buying plastic-free seems good for the reflexes. In any case, I think it already really helps if you say that you’re trying to buy your stuff ‘waste-free’ rather than ‘plastic-free’.
I think you actually need to figure out how you feel about paper bags before you go to visit the market for Plastic-Free Tuesday: if OK, the market will be a breeze, most stalls seem to have them. For now, I think I will try a ‘waste-free’ approach.
Finally, the only place where my container-request was (kindly) rejected, was at the spices/herbs stall. The lady there said she gets multiple requests like mine, but that the purchases are already quite labor intensive and that it costs too much time to adjust the scales each time for the containers and trying to squeeze the spices into small pots. She openly approved of my somewhat bigger pot (yes!), but seemed to have a bottom line.. To be fair, it did look like it would be quite a hassle with the spoon she was using. She offered me to come back with the paper bag though, as the other people did.
Alright, think I leave it at that! Hopefully next time a bit more on the cosmetics front. In any case, today I bought a (Marseille) soap at De Tuinen shop (though I now see it is ‘perfumed’.. can’t find anything on that further..? btw, it was rightfully pointed out to me that the Lush-soap still contains many chemicals, so considering some other options). Also, have started to explore the many wonders of ‘baking soda’..! And considering to join the ever-growing ‘No-(Sham)Poo” movement, see here, and here. I’ve got the means, but now the courage… (check links to see what I mean if you’re not familiar)!
Again, many thanks for reading guys, and if any new comments or tips, yes please!