Author: Tara Bono
It was a lot of fun taking this challenge over the last few weeks. I learned a bit about myself (including my level of willpower and ability to rationalize things to myself) and a lot about our plastic-addicted consumer culture. I knew before that we were surrounded by plastic, but it’s not until you try to avoid it every minute, every day that you realize how prevalent it is!
Here are a few of my take-aways:
- When you tell the guy at Dunkin Donuts that you want your iced latte in a paper cup, or the pizza guy that you want your your soda without a straw, you need to be super clear as to WHY. Otherwise they will put a plastic lid on it….
- You only have to repeat yourself 3 to 4 times before the guy at the deli counter understands that you only want your cold cuts wrapped in paper with just the price sticker – no bag, thanks!
- It might seem overwhelming to walk through the grocery store and realize all of the items you can’t buy, but I realized that you really CAN make a well-rounded dinner meal out of items in King Kullen without plastic. My favorite one: potato hash with peppers and asparagus (rubber bands are reusable, right?) with sliced deli ham and swiss cheese melted on top.
- When you really need something that only comes in plastic, you can subtly hint to your boyfriend about it and your in-ability to buy it. When it shows up in your house, you can use it. It’s not breaking the rules if you didn’t buy it and you didn’t ask for it. Right?…
- Toiletries – ugh. I learned (albeit, too late…) that there is such thing as a shampoo bar. I will have to invest in some of those. It’s also really hard to find soap in supermarkets. I came close to running out and even had to buy a bar of heavy-duty “volcanic” hand soap to get me through the last few days of the month. It was the only brand that didn’t come in a plastic wrapper, in a cardboard box. It’s soap! Why is it in plastic?! I could have tried a few more stores or the mall to find some, but I made it work.
- I realized that going plastic-free meant going meat-less for the most part. Except for cold cuts, I didn’t buy any meat to cook for myself for the whole month as there are not many solutions for buying meat from the grocery store without plastic. I didn’t go completely vegetarian though – I was able to eat meat when I ate our at restaurants or at parties (where I didn’t buy or prepare the food.) I do suppose that a butcher shop may be a solution for getting around this in the future.
The most ironic thing to me is that this whole challenge stemmed from a group focused on eliminating single-use plastic bags from our lives and from our community (Long Beach NY) but this challenge was about everything BUT plastic bags. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that skipping the check-out bag was not only the easiest part of this challenge, but completely obvious and second-nature. It was everything else that was the hard part! I think we will have even less sympathy than we did before to those who challenge bag bills with the “but I need them!” remarks.
Overall, I learned that going plastic-free for a month is 100% do-able. However, I don’t think it would have been realistic to sustain this for much longer than really a month. So many things come only wrapped in plastic that there were a few times that I thought to myself – I can do without this for a few more days or I can’t wait until July is over so I can buy this again. I believe that changing consumer habits has to start somewhere – with single-use bags. Once people understand HOW and WHY we do this, then the market demand for other items without plastic packaging will follow.
Congrats to all the plastic-free July participants – you all did great. Thank you for sharing your anecdotes with us. I believe we all came away with this with some tips and tricks to reduce our plastic habits in the future. So while I may not be 100% plastic free in the future, I will certainly be much more plastic-free than I was before this challenge.