Plastic Free July

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Well, it is a week into to Plastic Free July and I decided that rather trying to to buy any plastic for the whole month, I would simply shop and live as I do on a regular basis and try to capture a true picture of my plastic consumption.

Having our own vegetable garden and fruit trees certainly helps.

Orange juice ready to freeze.

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Grapefruit marmalade.

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Yesterday I took a Weck jar when I went to buy feta cheese at the deli counter of the local IGA.  This was a definite win, but only after reminding the attendant to weigh the jar before filling it.  A reminder that this is not yet the norm and you need to be ever vigilant to ensure that your plastic-free attempts are not hijacked by well-meaning staff.

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Fruit and vegetable shopping is relatively easy to achieve plastic-free, particularly if you choose local, seasonal produce as much as possible.

Here is what I bought today.

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The supermarket is a very different story.  The items I bought today represent the majority of what I buy at the supermarket.  By its very nature, everything is packaged.  The cans are recyclable as is some of the plastic but, as we know, recycling should be the last resort.

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There was also a bottle of vinegar which did not make it into the first photo.

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We make at least some of our food from scratch which helps to eliminate some plastic packaging.  These include bread, pizza bases, tomato sauce and peanut paste.

These pizza bases are partly pre-cooked and ready to be frozen.  The plastic wrap is old cereal packets which have been washed and re-used many times.

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I am far from perfect when it comes to Plastic Free July (or any other time for that matter) but by making and growing some of our own food, having virtually no takeaway and not shopping for recreation we are fairly successful at limiting our single-use plastic consumption.

Are you participating in Plastic Free July?  How is it going?

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Remember, there are no failures – just increased awareness.  And that is a good thing.

 

 

Food – The Eternal Merry-Go-Round

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Now don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy cooking and love planning and preparing meals but it occurred to me this morning how it really is a never-ending cycle.

The citrus trees are producing prolifically at this time of the year so yesterday I juiced grapefruit, oranges and limes as well as preparing some grapefruit ready for marmalade.

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Today I am making marmalade using this recipe from Annabel Langbein.

I am very happy with the result.  Lovely colour and consistency.  This is the excess that did not quite fit in the jar.

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The finished product ready to go in the pantry.  It should be enough for the whole year.

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The other job is to make some more gluten free pizza bases for the freezer.  The recipe I use makes 6 bases.

On the other side of the ledger, I dived into the freezer and retrieved some vegetable curry for lunch.  There are also portions of cooked rice frozen so lunch is ready to go.  Dinner will be equally as easy with cauliflower soup and cheese scones all from the freezer.

As an aside, all of this was prepared with zero waste and no single use plastics.

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Plastic – A Personal Perspective

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I have spent the best part of 3 days this week at a conference, hence the lack of posts.

Here is a photo of some of the things I took with me in an effort to reduce the inevitable waste that an event like this tends to generate.

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A stainless steel water bottle which I was able to refill during the course of the conference.  Cloth serviettes to use instead of disposable ones.  A bamboo straw in case I felt I needed it but it remained unused.  2 small Ball jars of snacks – 1 of sultanas and 1 of walnuts.  This was as much about making sure that I had gluten free snacks which were to my liking as it was about no plastic.  A tub of homemade hummus in a reused plastic container and a packet of rice crackers as well as some home-grown mandarins (not shown) completed my food supplies.  Although the rice crackers are in plastic packaging, the food selection I took was much lower waste than buying snacks at the venue.

I also took a plastic tumbler from our picnic set and was very grateful that I did because the morning/afternoon teas included tea and coffee with ‘real’ cups and saucers but there were disposable plastic cups with the dispensers of chilled water.  That was very disappointing.

On the upside, the straws provided in drinks were paper ones, however, I simply asked for my drinks with my standard, “no ice, no straw” request.

3 of the meals were in disposable ‘packs’ as we had to eat en route to the next item on the program.  I chose to partake as starving was not really an option.  I did not eat any of the single-wrapped mints which were on the tables in the conference room and stuck to my nuts and dried fruit as required.

Other unavoidable plastics included plastic-wrapped notebooks and plastic tag-holders on lanyards for every participant.

All in all, the waste was probably not excessive, however, it was still too much for my liking so I will be providing some feedback to both the organisers and the venue in the hope that they will take sustainable practices into consideration when planning future events.

Beyond the Bags

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The ban on single-use shopping bags seems to have garnered all of the media attention recently and not all of the publicity has been positive.  I have already had my say about some of the ridiculous commentary here.

Tonight I want to talk about moving beyond simply banning one particular type of single-use plastic bag and look at other things we can do.

Plastic-Free July is just around the corner so now is a great time to focus on the many single-use plastics that are still part of many people’s everyday lives.

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Here is a list of some of the single-use plastics which have combined to create enormous islands of floating waste in our oceans.

  • Bottled water
  • Soft drink bottles
  • Single use cups – styrofoam and plastic
  • Plastic plates
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Plastic straws
  • Balloons
  • Clingwrap
  • Ziplock bags
  • Plastic produce bags

All of these items have relatively cheap and easy alternatives/replacements.

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  • Limit your consumption of soft drinks
  • Carry your own reusable cup – Keep cups are suitable for hot drinks.  Seek out cafes who will accept your own mug.  Check out Responsible Cafes or just ask.

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  • At home – choose to use regular crockery.  When eating out – take your own reusable plate.
  • At home – choose to use regular cutlery.  When eating out – take your own reusable cutlery.
  • Skip the straw – ask for ‘no straw’ when ordering your drink.  If you really need to use a straw, consider buying a stainless steel or bamboo one.

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  • ‘Message’ balloons – consider a card or practical gift.  Decorative balloons can be replaced with paper decorations.  Balloon releases are just mass littering.  They do not go to heaven, they end up harming wildlife on land and in the oceans.  Plant trees or scatter wildflower seeds in memory of a loved one.
  • At home – replace clingwrap with a lidded container, plate on top of a bowl or beeswax wraps.  Refuse to purchase produce wrapped in clingwrap.  Buy it unwrapped.

 

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  • Ziplock bags – use lidded containers.  If you have ziplock bags, use them multiple times – they can easily be rewashed.
  • Plastic produce bags – buy or make your own produce bags for buying fruit and vegetables.  Tulle or mesh curtains work really well.

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As with any change, it is probably best to start with a couple of items and work from there.

What will you commit to changing for Plastic Free July?  Make it a new habit that you can carry forward into the future.  Then build on your achievement with other changes.

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The Bag Ban

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I really wish I did not feel compelled to write this post and I apologise in advance to those readers who live in jurisdictions not affected by the impending plastic bag ban in Queensland.

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It seems to have generated some of the most ridiculous comments I have heard in a long time.

I offer the following observations.

Lightweight plastic shopping bags have not been around forever.  They have been in use in Australia for less than 50 years.

Remembering to take your reuseable bags is as simple as remembering to take your purse and keys when you go shopping.

The ban is about the lightweight carry bags only – not the thicker plastic bags which some supermarkets may choose to sell, nor the flimsy plastic bags for produce.  However, you can choose to refuse these too.  Bring your own reuseable carry bags – fabric ones are best.  They are strong, durable and can be washed as often as required.  You can also buy or make lightweight produce bags for fruit and vegetables.

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You do not need supermarket carry bags to line your bin.  Rather than re-invent the wheel please read this post.

Instead of railing against the fact that supermarkets are profiteering, that the ban will not reduce plastic use, that you will not have a bag to line your bin, that other plastic bags are still available and so on, let us use this as a real opportunity to take a leap forward in moving away from a range of single-use plastics.  We do not have wait until change is legislated and forced upon us.  Take the lead and make a difference now.

The ban on lightweight carry bags should be just the beginning.  Plastic Free July looms on the horizon so tomorrow I will address some of the other single-use plastics that we should be campaigning to eliminate.

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Do you have a bag story?  Please share in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic-Free July – All Wrapped Up

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Well, July is over and that means Plastic-Free July has come to an end for another year.

However, Plastic-Free July is much more than simply a month of denial.  It is an opportunity for us all to challenge ourselves to reduce our use of single-use plastics and to continue new habits well beyond 31st July.

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I chose to renew my efforts to refuse plastic straws. I do not often have a drink when I am out but I made a conscious decision to ask for my drink without a straw whenever I was ordering.

The highlight was tonight when GMan and I went to the local tavern in a small village near us for dinner.  We went to the bar to order our drinks and I ordered a lime and soda.  I was asked if I would like ice – yes, please, lime cordial as well as fresh lime – no, thanks and finally, as the glass was filled – would I like a straw?  Of course, my response was no, thanks but I also pointed out that I was delighted to actually be asked.  I felt that this gives validity to those of us who choose the ‘no straw’ option.  The waitress then asked if I didn’t like drinking from a straw and I replied that I chose not to use one as it is single-use plastic and most often ends up in the ocean.  I then pointed out that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do because no-one expects that my husband will drink his beer with a straw!  I was excited by her reply of, “You know, I’ve never really thought of it like that, but you are right”.  Another seed is sown…………

Did you participate in Plastic-Free July?  Are you trying to reduce your use of single-use plastics?

Please share your story.

10 Days

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Yes, it is 10 days since my last blog post.  There is no good reason – I just took a break.

I think the biggest news (in Australia) in the past couple of weeks has been the announcement by Woolworths that they will stop using single-use plastic bags.  This was closely followed by Coles announcing that they would do the same.  Here is a news report.  I have not commented on this announcement so now is probably as good a time as any.

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“What a great initiative” was my my immediate thought, especially in the midst of Plastic Free July.  Perhaps the movement was really starting to gain some traction with mainstream consumers?

My optimism was short-lived as I began to hear and read various responses.  In fact, despair would have been a more accurate description of my mood over the following days.

Here is a round-up of the sort of comments that came to my notice:

  • It is only so they (supermarkets) can sell more heavy-duty plastic carrier bags.
  • Green bags are made from a plastic-based fabric – you have to use them 347 times to make the impact less than the single-use plastic bags.
  • What will I use to collect dog poo when out walking?
  • Research shows that the sale of bin liner bags has increased in those states that have completely banned single-use plastic bags.
  • What will I use to line my bins?

Seriously??

It is evident that many, many people have long way to go before they understand the impact of the millions of plastic bags which are produced every year and used only once.  They also do not appear to be prepared to adjust their lifestyle even slightly.

So, how do you counter these and a million other ill-informed comments?

The first and simplest thing is to consider investing in some strong fabric bags that do not contain plastics.  I can assure you that these will last for many, many years and can be repaired as necessary.

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Work towards generating less waste so that you have a reduced need for bin liners.  Purchasing larger packs, from bulk bins, unwrapped, using your own produce bags will all assist in reducing the amount of packaging waste.

Take more care with grocery shopping and buy only what you will actually use.  Remember, first world countries such as Australia, the USA and UK discard around 25% of all food produced.  Make sure you are not part of this dreadful statistic.

Consider composting food scraps to reduce the amount which you currently send to landfill.  Even if you do not have access to a backyard there are numerous systems available which can be used by people living in apartments.  Additionally, there are opportunities to connect with people who may be happy to take your scraps for their compost system or search for a community garden in your area.  Online connections are invaluable in the 21st century for developing relationships which are mutually beneficial.  One such example is Spare Harvest which is building a sharing community for excess produce, plants and garden resources.

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Small bins that do not contain wet food scraps can be lined with newspaper.  So, the naysayers point out that not everyone gets the newspaper anymore!

The real point of this post is to encourage everyone to take a positive, solution-based approach to change.  We need to be looking for innovative ways to reduce our environmental footprint rather than railing against any change which may happen to impact our wasteful lifestyle.

I live in a semi-rural area and our local town has a Woolworths and IGA supermarkets as well as a selection of independent retailers.  Almost all of these businesses routinely provide plastic bags for purchases.  I believe that the impending phasing out of plastic bags by the retail giants can taken up by all retailers and set a precedent by making Maleny plastic bag free.

I intend to promote this idea and encourage others to become involved.  My first strategy will be to contact the IGA supermarket and ask them to match the Woolworths ban on plastic bags.  I am also looking into the Boomerang Bags project which would be a perfect way to introduce people to the options available to fill the void left by the removal of plastic bags.