A Month Without Plastic
From university halls of chicken-devouring rugby players, to tight budget gap-year students, I have lived in several different households with numerous occupants, each with differing values toward waste and recycling. I have definitely noticed how general habits can be influenced by the people you live with and how it can be frustrating living with people who do not care for it as you do. Growing up, I was lucky enough to be in a household where recycling was encouraged. The people you live with play a great role in the mindset that you take regarding the waste and recycling habits you fall into.
Being a Christian in a conservation role over the last few years, I have been challenged by what it means to exercise care for creation. For me, this has come in a number of ways: trying to eat less meat, using public transport more and being more intentional with prayer and Bible reading.
With such intentions in mind, I participated in three plastic-free months (February, July and September) over 2019 to see how much I could personally reduce my waste and discover how (un)comfortable it would be. Of these three months, only one of them was truly plastic free. From this experience, a useful proviso to such a challenge is appreciating that it takes time to determine what you can and cannot buy and where to detect that rogue plastic lining in a ‘cardboard’ coffee cup.
My main tip for attempting a plastic free month (or Lent perhaps) would be to spend some time before the chosen period researching options: where is the nearest wholefood shop, are there any farmers markets, how much tinned food can my fragile carrier bag support? And soon. Research your options and it will make it less likely that you face frustrations or make a mistake.
One unforeseen challenge I faced was actually when popping out to buy a quick lunch or snack. I had expected my week shop to be the hardest task, but having intention and planning time to buy specific items made it easier to get right. Snacks on the other hand were very tricky. Whilst fruit and vegetables are easy enough to buy loose, it was really hard to find a packaging free, balanced snack or lunch conveniently without overspending, or having to trek across 6 different deli’s, bakeries and wholefoods shops, to do so.
My other challenge (and learning point) came in chocolate form: as it turns out it is very hard to buy in snack size paper packaging, the ‘smallest’ paper wrapped bars often coming in behemoth 100g portions. Having a minor chocolate addiction meant purchasing provisions in Picnic form was not an option. This helped me to appreciate finer quality and likely higher welfare/trade standard chocolate- at lesser intervals. All good things!
Perhaps my main take-away from my experience was learning to compromise. Going forward, I have realised quite how much I have been unwilling to compromise, or adapt to less convenient options in the past. Whilst such changes will be hard to face, it is important to remember the positive overall effect that it will have. Pay a bit extra to buy better quality vegetables from markets, spend more time planning where to shop and find people around you who can encourage you, or discourage you from buying that unnecessarily wrapped chocolate bar.
This Meet the Community article was written by Tom G, who has spent two years as Conservation Officer with Adventure Plus, on of A Rocha UK’s Partners in Action.
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