So this month, whilst we’ve been running our crowdfund campaign, we’ve also been having a bash at living a life plastic-free!
The lead in…
To clarify what we’re aiming for here we have decided to try and cut single use disposable plastics out of our lives. Hopefully, in the process, we will find sustainable ways to be plastic free in the long-term.
It’s amazing how much you don’t see the waste until you really start looking! We have dabbled in this realm for most of the past year so we weren’t entering into this challenging unknowingly; our awareness of how much plastic packaging is being used these days has been growing and growing throughout the year. There’s the obvious things like plastic carrier bags, but the more you investigate the more you discover the plastic linings, the seals, the windows, and plastic being produced in huge quantities, often just to allow us to get a sneak peek at our food in the supermarket before buying.
Interestingly, in the days leading up to the challenge, we both started to experience feelings of dread. Even though this is something we both feel strongly about, and are excited to embrace, it wouldn’t be honest to suggest it is easy or convenient in anyway. We are super busy people and this time of year has been particularly full-on, so what we’re aiming for is 21st century ways to tackle this problem. Whilst we are confident that if we both took a month off work and made everything from scratch we could manage the challenge, it isn’t actually practical for us right now so we’re trying to find quick and workable ways that fit in with our busy lifestyles. Hopefully, it’s possible, right….?
By persevering with this challenge, we’d like to discover some tips and tricks that will help everyone live a life more plastic-free without too much difficulty.
One step at a time…
So in this first challenge we are taking one small step down this bumpy road. We have decided to tackle just the front-line of plastic consumption. By this we mean: we won’t buy any plastic-wrapped products where the plastic heads straight for the bin. We will for now be using reusable plastic, those designed to carry food stuffs, lunch boxes, flasks etc., as these will be vital in helping us avoid the single-use terrors.
Perhaps the only way to really ensure 100% that you are not contributing to a big plastic pile, somewhere out of sight and out of mind, is to buy a small farm and grow absolutely everything you need yourself.
We are aware that a supply chain might involve invisible plastics that aren’t visible by the time products hit the shelves, but we think targeting our immediate purchasing power is the first step; perhaps further down the line tracking products will come into play.
In the same vein, we have decided to allow eating in restaurants. It’s Christmas and we are both freelance artists who travel a lot and often stay in hotels, so cooking isn’t always on the cards. Hopefully these places buy bulk (reducing packaging) and we will endeavour to always eat in.
Which leads me onto... drum roll please…
Plastic free tip no. 1 – Eat in! Drink in!
It sounds obvious, but the amount of waste caused by people taking food out or getting a coffee to go is enormous and is growing all the time. For example, in the UK we throw away approximately 10,000 disposable coffee cups every two minutes. That adds up to more than seven million a day, or 2.5 billion a year. The really sad truth is that these cups aren’t just cardboard. People throw them in the recycling but they aren’t recycled. To make them waterproof, the card is fused with polyethylene - a type of plastic - and the truth is that separating the two is so complex so that nobody is doing it. Source: read more detail here.
So stop for a coffee in a real cup, sounds simple right!
Except that some of the big high street coffee chains no longer even offer real cups.
For example, small Costa branded cafes are popping up inside other institutions all over the country and we’ve experienced this first-hand lately when teaching in Manchester. This institution had a café with no real cups, and to boot, health and safety regulations also state that the staff cannot let us walk away without a plastic lid, even if we are to immediately sit down and drink the coffee a mere two metres from the counter. We’ve also encountered the same thing at some service stations.
So perhaps not as simple as it sounds!
Our solution is that, in this situation, it’s best to carry your own cup. My favourite is the Keep Cup/Brew Cup. I like it because it feels like a real cup but it also uses the least plastic - it’s mostly glass, it does have a reusable plastic lid, but you can get the cork band option to minimise plastics.
The price tag is heavy, which delayed me buying one for quite a long time, but I eventually took the plunge and, if I take care of it, it should last me a long time. There are many other cheaper plastic alternatives out there as well. Added bonus: some independent coffee shops have even started offering discounts to people who use them for takeaway. So perhaps eventually I’ll have saved the value of my cup anyway.
Thanks for reading about this first step on our journey. There’s loads more tips, insights, discoveries, forgetfulness and some failures to go, so watch this space!