This year I’m following in the recent footsteps of the Queen (who has banned single-use plastic from her palaces), and in the spirit of preserving the beautiful ocean that I swim in most days, I have decided to give up plastic for lent; again.
This time last year I was at the start of a 40-day self-enforced ban on plastic. I was living in Melbourne at the time, and though on occasion I found the ban rightfully challenging, it got particularly interesting when my partner and I went on a trip to Tasmania. On the road, the convenience and accessibility of single use plastic was outstanding, and cutting it out altogether was some serious business.
From what I can remember, overall, the most difficult thing was not being able to buy milk. Being an avid milk-drinker and tea enthusiast, milk was (and still is) a staple item in my fridge at all times. Anyone who has looked into the most sustainable way to purchase their milk will have come across the arguments for and against the plastic bottles (lightweight and cheap, commonly ends up in landfill), paper cartons (not as recyclable as you might think), and glass (reusable but heavyweight: raising the debate of waste vs fossil fuel).
Anyhow, these arguments were entirely void while we were on the road (fridge-less), and my only opportunity for milky tea was from those dinky little long-life milk shots. These are, of course, plastic. Goodbye sweet tea.
In addition to the milk debacle, bottled water – or in fact any bottled liquid – when you’re out of a big city, is often only available in plastic. This becomes an issue if you are staying in a place that does not come equipped with a water supply suitable for drinking (this is more common that you might think).
And lodging, no matter what the status or price, frequently supply plastic-wrapped soaps or single-use shampoo and conditioners in 20ml bottles. Straws, stirrers, plastic cups and single-use condiments such as jam or butter are also pretty common. Thankfully, I’m not one for plastic straws, I can turn down toast at breakfast and I came prepared with my own soaps.
However, I wasn’t quite prepared for the state of affairs in the local shops. Through no fault of their own, shops in country towns in Australia supply most fruit and vegetables in barcoded bags or individually shrink-wrapped so as to preserve their shelf life and protect them from damage on the long journey from the farm. And as for snacks (my kryptonite), they were almost entirely off the cards.
It wasn’t all bad news though. Giving up plastic made me realise just how much I can cut out of day-to-day living. Taking my own Tupperware or bees-wax wraps to the butcher or supermarket for meat, cheese or grains, buying fresh-baked bread served in paper bags, and discovering and supporting shops and brands that are in line with my own values. It also gave me the chance to get creative with cooking and gift giving… Give me parcel paper & string over glossy-paper & sticky-tape any day!
So here we are, exactly one year on and I’m giving it another go. Only this time my partner and I are back on the road full time. Though I don’t anticipate that lent will be entirely plastic free, I thought it might be a good opportunity to see what is easy to substitute and what is down right impossible to avoid.
- No purchasing or accepting of plastic. This includes but is not exclusive of: single-use bags, straws, cups, plastic-wrapped food or drink, toiletries, gifts, stationary or clothing.
- Use of plastic is allowed – if I already own it. Examples include sunscreen, sunglasses, Tupperware, medical bits and bobs, reusable water bottle, torch, pens etc.
- Everything I do buy will be documented here, with reasonable (or not so reasonable) explanation.
- Remember that Tom is not doing the challenge. So no preaching.
Hold tight for a follow-up article documenting how it all went.