Could you eat plastic-free for a week?
I’m up to day 6 of this strange challenge I’ve set for myself. It was Bianca’s post in this blog, in fact, that opened my eyes to the issues of producing so much plastic waste. Actually, there have been several posts about plastic on this blog. Reading about this, and watching the really cool video in Bianca’s post made me think, but to be honest I didn’t try to change my behaviour.
Then I went to Japan for three weeks, and found myself constantly encountering plastic-gone-crazy products similar to what Bianca described. One time, buying some biscuits, I found myself holding a plastic bag, containing a plastic packet, which I would later discover contained a plastic tray, and in the tray each biscuit was individually wrapped. Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoyed my time in Japan and I liked many aspects of the Japanese culture. But they do seem to like plastic. Everything comes individually wrapped, and they even have plastic food in their shop windows.
I felt so bad for the planet that I decided when I got home I would try to go for a week without eating anything that came to me wrapped or contained in plastic.
This means no vegemite, sliced bread, nuts, rice, lentils, salt and pepper, spices, cheese, or tea. No tea!!!
I am a big tea drinker; I usually have multiple cups per day. I’ve had to substitute with honey + lemon in hot water, which is nice too, but not quite the same.
Luckily I have a breadmaker and I frequently make my own bread, so I have enjoyed fresh homemade bread with jam (from a jar) or butter (wrapped in paper) for breakfast.
The types of food I most often cook are Italian and Indian, so having to go without cheese and spices is a bit difficult. Fortunately, I have discovered you can get pasta in cardboard boxes. Fresh fruit and veggies are the obvious candidates as a basis for a plastic-free week, so I’ve had a couple of meals of stir-fried veggies, pasta and veggies, and salads.
My first failure happened on Day 5, ironically, during the “Nara festival”. I had visited Nara (which is Canberra’s sister city in Japan) just a few weeks ago, so I was quite excited to go to the festival, and it was a beautiful evening for it. One of the first things we did was watch a demonstration of “mochi pounding” where they whack sticky rice with big mallets to make rice pudding. We were excited to try some samples, which were quite tasty – but half way through eating it I realised, with horror, that I was eating out of a plastic bowl! I turned over the bowl to see if it was at least recyclable. Instead of a number in a triangle*, I found two faces that seemed to be laughing at me: “ha-ha, gotcha!”
Going forward, it is not sustainable to continue to avoid all plastic. But I would like to cut down the amount of single-use, non-recyclable plastic I consume. Here are the things that I’m going to try to do:
- Diligently recycle everything possible
- Buy products with minimal packaging
- BYO containers and bags to the farmers markets
- Buy pasta in cardboard boxes
- Keep making my own bread
On Day 5, Take 2 (I had to try again because of my failure at the Nara Festival), I gave my mother a call. Before I’d made any mention of this project, she said, “I made hummus today, because I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of plastic I use.”
Spooky mother-daughter synchronization? Maybe, or maybe it just means the awareness is spreading. Could we make plastic-free a new dietary requirement?
* It turns out, in the ACT, they don’t use the numbering system. They say that any rigid plastic is recyclable – this includes semi-rigid plastic like biscuit trays. So maybe the smiles on the bottom of that plastic bowl are actually happy, ‘yes please recycle me’ smiles, not so evil after all!