We thought we’d try a plastic-free challenge among the staff here at Australian Ethical to reduce our single-plastic waste. It wasn’t easy, but we came to some helpful realisations and made some mind-shifting changes.
See if you fared better than us in trying to go plastic free! Remembering reusable bags with Danni:
Doing the challenge has made me aware of how much plastic I actually use. I also realised that if you’re prepared, then the transition away from plastic is not so difficult.
The hardest part for me was fruit and vegie shopping. I’m so used to grabbing a plastic bag for loose produce, and I found that I had to make a conscious effort to remind myself to put the item into a reusable bag instead.
Luckily, my local supermarket has helped make it easier for me to shop plastic free by providing a stand with reusable Boomerang Bags (pictured right). I wish there were more of these stands around!
Plastic-free kids’ lunches with Kathy:
The biggest change I made by doing the plastic-free challenge was with my kids’ school lunch boxes. The challenge became easier once I put some planning and forethought into it. For example, I bought some Honeybee wraps*. And once you get used to it, it’s not so hard.
My tip is to be prepared to make a small financial investment in alternatives to plastics. For example, you might need to stock up on shopping bags, beeswax wraps (vegan alternatives), and additional lunch boxes or snack-sized containers. Our family has decided to continue with challenge now that we’ve invested in these things.
I am very proud of my disposable plastic free lunchboxes (pictured right).
*There are also vegan alternatives to Honeybee wraps, such as this range from WRAPPA.
Bulk shopping and recycling with Amanda:
In taking a conscious effort to reduce plastic, I found I did a lot more shopping at bulk food stores. What I noticed (or what was pointed out to me by more sceptical family members) was that, while those shops are lovely and you can get so many things there (nuts, grains, chocolate, flour and things you wouldn’t expect like nutritional yeast and baking powder), they’re not necessarily scalable or accessible to most people. Not only are there are only a handful of these bulk shops around, there’s a bit of a process to it… First, you have to get your jars or containers weighed, then you have to scoop things into them, then you have to weigh each jar again. If everyone shopped at bulk stores, shopping would take hours!
For me, the hardest part of the challenge – surprisingly – was remembering not to ask for a receipt! Receipts are actually lined with BPA plastic, so they’re not only single-use plastic, they’re often not even recyclable in your regular household bins.
The photos below show my now-regular bulk food shop.
Plastic-free bread dilemmas with Beth:
Over the years I’ve eliminated most of the obvious single-use plastic from my life; I’ve had a KeepCup for a decade, I refuse straws and carry a reusable bag. These were small changes that have become habits.
But it was the everyday things that tripped me up, like buying bread from the supermarket. I go to my farmer’s market every weekend, but the bread there is twice the price and I don’t have the time to bake my own bread as much as I’d like to.
Making the plastic-free choice is not always the most convenient in everyday life. If I haven’t planned enough – which let’s face it, who has? – then I found myself buying things wrapped in plastic. I think the most important thing is to become mindful, start bit by bit and build incremental habits into your life.
Reusable and plastic-free nappies with Caitlin:
The hardest part of the challenge for me was switching to reusable nappies for my young daughter. With over 2 billion nappies in landfill a year in Australia, I wanted to make a difference. But there are so many more loads of washing to do, and I had trouble finding an effective natural detergent that doesn’t irritate my bub’s skin.
Now, when I can’t bring myself to do the extra washing of reusable nappies, I use biodegradable, ethical and PVC-free ones – such as Naty which are made from certified organic cotton. They’re not perfect, but they’re a start.
A win more generally for our family is that we’re very good at remembering to take our own reusable straw, cutlery, KeepCup and bags with us everywhere, so I know we still have a big impact by doing this!
As deep as plastic-free dental floss with Nick:
I didn’t do so well in week one, but in week two I think I actually did pretty well!
My ‘shame stash’ from week one is pictured below.
And my not-quite-so-shameful stash from week two is pictured below (although I could have probably got away with not including the peanut butter jar, as technically it isn’t ‘single’ use only).
Something unusual that I realised by doing the challenge is that dental floss is made of plastic! So I kept that in my ‘shame jar’ and I have just bought a plastic-free alternative online. Check it out, it’s pretty cool!
If you missed out on doing Plastic Free July, you can always try the challenge any other time of year!
If you want to do something about the plastic problem, you can start by ditching single-use plastic.
Download our Plastic-free Living Guide, which includes:
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