The Challenges of Going Plastic Free
I have been listening to Bea Johnson’s book, “Zero Waste Home” and have been so inspired to make my plastic free journey a success. She makes it sound so easy. Find a bulk food store; bulk tends to be less expensive. Take your own containers with you shopping so you can refuse waste. Simplify your life and you will have more time for things that matter. I have run into several issues, however, and I am feeling very frustrated with the process. I had to remind myself that Bea and her family have been living this way for over ten years and I just began my journey in earnest a couple months ago. There are bound to be snags in the process. In this article I will cover some of the challenges I have faced during the first two months of my plastic free journey.
The only comprehensive bulk food store I have been able to find not only doesn’t allow the use of personal containers and bulk bags but their prices are quite high. I must say, they do have an option to buy a jar from their store and return it on your next trip, which I will be utilizing in the future if I continue to shop with them. I purchased a couple different spices, an assortment of gummy candies, and a lb. of coffee; the total was nearly $60.00. Admittedly, I should have passed on the candy (four different types) but I was very disappointed with the cost. This bulk store is a good distance away from my house and not very convenient. It also does not carry any fresh produce, baked goods, toiletries, or meat so those items have to be purchased elsewhere, meaning multiple stops, increased drive time, and added stress to my day. I had so many plans for my Sunday but I spent far more time shopping and driving to the next store than I wanted. In the end I forgot things on the list because I was just ready to be home.
Meat and Cheese
When I went to the regular grocery store I was able to find the produce I needed without the extra plastic but when I went to the meat department I was surprised to see the man behind the counter place a lb. of ground beef on a black Styrofoam tray and wrap it in plastic. Why not just pick up the already packaged beef from the shelf? What is the point? I kindly asked if he could wrap my meat in paper instead. He was happy to oblige and it felt like a win for me. When I got home and unwrapped the meat I discovered the brown paper was lined on one side with a plastic film completely defeating the purpose! Face palm! Meat comes with an exceptionally large carbon footprint, so we are working to cut meat out. My kids are having a hard time with the transition so this one will take a little work and meal planning.
I wanted to make a recipe that calls for cottage cheese and, at this time, I haven’t discovered a way to purchase cottage cheese, or any other cheese for that matter, without plastic. I asked my daughter to pick one out for us and was surprised to see that the plastic tub wasn’t printed with the brand, but shrink wrapped with another plastic label. Plastic wrapped in plastic! Face palm again! We went back for a better choice.
The Tru Earth laundry sheets have not been a success. My laundry is not coming as clean as it did with traditional, inexpensive laundry detergent from a plastic bottle, and the cost is a huge deterrent. Here again I am stumped by something that I thought was going to work and make my life easier. I am currently trying a powder detergent that was shipped in a paper bag. I haven’t used it long enough to know the efficacy, but the price tag was pretty steep for the amount of product I received.
The Good News
I have found a few really good products that have worked well for the house such as the etee dish soap concentrate, Lush shampoo and conditioner bars, and Native deodorant. I have also found some simple switches around the house, such as using my massive inventory of ugly and colorful wash clothes instead of paper towels and wool dryer balls with essential oils rather than dryer sheets. I have also switched to vinegar and baking soda rather than traditional cleaning products.
What I am most unhappy about is the carbon footprint of shipping and the added cost. I was so excited to find alternatives to traditional plastic products that I ran my bank account into the ground. All of these items have had to be shipped. They have mostly been free shipping, but the cost of the items has been much higher than the traditional plastic products which unfortunately, are not feasible on a fixed income.
What am I doing wrong?
This project is supposed to reduce my waste and reduce my spending, while simplifying my life and housekeeping. So far I have felt more overwhelmed than ever with the amount of clutter in my house and more ashamed of the amount waste my little family is producing. Cooking meals has been so daunting because I am worried about plastic waste, food waste, and the impact of my food choices. Not to mention decision fatigue. Refusing prepackaged goodies for my children means they need to be prepared instead and as a single mother I simply don’t have time for this much meal prep.
I have already started to purge the unneeded items in the house to reduce the clutter and hopefully bring me some clarity. I recently donated three boxes of books and I already feel lighter. I need to take inventory of the items I do have and decide if they are truly necessary and making my life easier. Next, I need to find more simple solutions to the grocery shopping problem. I am working 40 hours a week with 2 hours of commute time per day. When I get home the last thing I want to do is bake a loaf of bread or make an elaborate dinner. I have created a capsule closet in hopes of destroying the ever growing (sometimes breathing) laundry monster in the basement. It’s clear to me that our wasteful habits are worse than I had originally thought.
I wanted to make all of these changes at once because I am plagued with guilt thinking about my contribution to the massive landfills growing daily. I know this isn’t possible though and my focus is to take things slow and give myself a break. The changes I want to make are not simple changes; they are changes of habit and behavior. It’s encouraging realizing that every day I am making better and better decisions and breaking bad habits. Every ethical choice I make is a reduction in plastic waste.
Thank you for following me through this journey. I would love to hear from you and incorporate your feedback into my journey to become Crystal Clear and Plastic Free!
· What challenges have you encountered in your waste reduction journey?
· What successes have you had?