There seems to be a month for everything these days- lots of national incentives to give things up for a month in a bid to get us to change our habits, challenge ourselves, get healthier or even just think twice. Stoptober, Vegan-uary, Dry January.. and the less amusingly named- 'Plastic Free July'!
My mister and I have been gradually attempting to reduce our plastic purchases over the years, and have focused ourselves in July for the last three summers. And now that I'm a city dweller (when you grow up on a farm with no electricity, Dorchester is the bright lights alright!), it was easier than ever.
City vs countryside.. you'd probably associate the former with far more plastic and waste- but it's definitely so much easier to buy plastic free realistically when living in a large town. In the countryside, shopping options are very limited, and difficult to reduce plastic even if you grow your own veg and get eggs from the farmer next door (please always buy your eggs from roadside stands if you can- if you've never had a 'real' farm egg from hens who roam around outside scratching and hunting worms and laying rogue eggs in the hedge... it's a totally different beast). You could drive to the nearest large town to visit a zero waste shop- but then aren't you kind of defeating the purpose by chugging out a load of fuel emissions?
Every Wednesday morning I take a couple of shopping bags, with some jars and paper bags inside them, and head down to the market with the dog. We visit the Green Weigh, a cleverly converted truck full of jars and giant bottles of everything from nuts and seeds to washing up liquid and body lotion. I fill up my containers with things that have run low that week, and then usually get tempted to try a few extra things, and have a lovely conversation with Alex, the lady who runs the operation that day. It takes a little longer than 'normal' shopping, but the slow and deliberate act of scooping spoonfuls of peppercorns into a bag or watching your bottle fill with delicious herby lavender shampoo means you're extra aware of exactly what you're buying. You can't help but interact with the other shoppers, passing one another scoops and bags and everyone chats and discusses their latest favourite products- something I can hardly imagine in your Tesco superstore.
The same goes for the fruit and veg market just next door, with piles of slightly muddy carrots next to exotic fruits all tumbling over each other, while people bump into each other whilst feeling for the perfect peach. It feels like going back in time, when shopkeepers got to know their customers, and the relationship with what we buy was much more conscious than mindlessly flinging rustling plastic bags of pre-chopped fruit (don't even get me started on pre-chopped fruit) into a piled up trolley. It's popular to blame the current plastic climate on earlier generations, but I think they had it right in the first place.
It's not just the market though, there are also zero waste shops popping up all over the place- there's one here in Dorchester, and 'Bare Necessities' has just opened in Wareham and has been a hit. Of course we're by no means perfect. We often find ourselves 'needing' something that we can then only get from our supermarket on the corner in plastic, or get caught out when on the road having to stop at a service station for something to eat (almost impossible to find plastic free anything there!), but we're trying. Plastic is certainly not the only problem, it's popular at the moment and hopefully it will make people think more about their habits, although if the big shops don't start taking notice and just getting rid of all the ridiculous waste, sadly most time-poor people these days will continue taking what they see as the easy option. Using the car less is my goal for next year, which will sadly mean giving up a job I enjoy, as is getting the waste from my business down which is more tricky as it is unfortunately still more expensive to find plastic alternatives. However, shopping plastic free day to day is CHEAPER! And it's more fun, and you end up with a beautiful, Homes & Interiors -worthy pantry, far prettier than piles of colourful bags and tins.
So give it a try. And compost your food waste! And buy recycled kitchen roll and loo roll! And chop your own damn fruit! Make your own damn smoothies! And if you're going to eat meat, buy it from a local butcher! And if you do have to buy some items in plastic bags, make an eco-brick (stuff them in a plastic bottle- it's kind of fun and you can fit a bin bag's worth in there), OR return the plastic bags to the supermarket- often they have large plastic bag recycling containers which ccept things like salad bags, loo roll wrappers etc. Now I'm off to use my electric toothbrush then drive 15 miles in my car... but at least I'm trying.
OUR ZERO WASTE ITEMS:
Milk, Pasta, Rice, Cous cous, Fruit, Vegetables (not all), Bread, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, Cereal, Tea bags, Oats, Shampoo, Conditioner, Washing up liquid, Laundry detergent, Razors, Salt, Pepper, Herbs, Loo roll.. etc
PLASTIC/ WASTE CONTAINER ITEMS:
Toothpaste (tried a couple of jars, didn't work for me), Squash (eco-brick the bottles), Fish, Shellfish, Coffee, Veggie sausages, Crisps, Chocolate, Dog food and lots of things that I use for my business.