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Plastic Free Challenge

Diary of a Plastic Free March, 2024

Ahhhhhhgh, I totally forgot I agreed to trying plastic free March  with my friend Charlotte until I got home with the shopping, so what was the damage?

Scotch eggs from deli – (Paper bags with plastic windows). Milk. Tofu.

WINS:

Apple juice in glass bottle, all veg loose/simply chucked in basket – but how am I going to get yogurt and fetta cheese, which are regular staples in our house?

Decide hence forth to approach plastic free March with “the 10 minute walk that I do is better than the 10 mile run that I don’t do” attitude.

WIN!

Remember to take glass container with lid to fish shop.

FAIL!

Forget I have it with me until the fishmonger has put 3 sea bass in a plastic bag…apologise profusely and beg him to transfer it.

WIN!

Chucked all the veg to go with the fish into my shopping basket loose as usual.

Glitch.

My husband and I hit both Aldi and Waitrose in one night. Too much plastic to mention but I can tell you that one bag of shopping from Aldi was £15 and one bag of similar size from Waitrose was £50!

Okay, so I’m really determined to find my way with this now.

WIN!

I remember to take a glass bowl to the deli this time for scotch eggs.

FAIL!

The lady serving puts scotch eggs in the container I give her, but sticks price tags on the bag she was going to use in the first place! She tells me the bags are combustible anyway and I ask her whether she means compostable? (Without coming over as superior, I hope) We have a little giggle.

WIN!

I am shy about asking at the butcher to use my own packaging and so get chicken in theirs. Happy to find that they use a special kind of cool paper and get up the courage to ask whether I can bring my own containers next time. YES!

Decide to check out the zero-waste shop in Ticehurst. I can hardly speak when I get in there because I’m so in awe. Everything is loose such as lentils, tea and nuts.

 

I’m so overwhelmed that I order a cup of coffee and stare at all the shelves for about an hour before leaving with a kilner jar I bought then filled with pecan nuts from a satisfying dispenser and a roll of ‘who gives a crap’ toilet paper.

All in all alI don’t feel I’m doing very well and am relieved when my friend messages to say she’s got off to a bit of a slow start, too.

We agree to face time next Monday.

Things start to find a slightly more natural rhythm after that. I return to the zero-waste shop and get more loo paper, basmati rice in a jar that I bought from them, a paper bag of apricots, reusable eye makeup remover pads; and I fill my large glass jar from home (purchased in Botswana) with loose organic jumbo porridge oats, all the while feeling magnificent!

It is not too expensive, about the same as the super market.

I return to the butcher with glass containers for meat and get a lovely wedge of cheddar in wax paper.

Friday 15th March 2024

I hit the fishmongers 1st today, remembering not only the container, but to present said container to the server.

It was the veg that glitched. Everything I wanted in the farm shop next door was wrapped in plastic. I nearly caved as time was short, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it and went, instead, to my fave shop in Cranbrook, Charity Farm, and bought all my fruit and veg loose from there; also a pint of milk in a glass bottle and some locally made butter, packaged in wax paper.

Next it was the zero-waste shop on the way home for quality olive oil. I was pretty happy with that, although it was £15.

Saturday 16th March 2024

GLITCH! Excited to try zero waste makeup pads. Squirt eye makeup remover onto one and it slides straight off onto the carpet. No amount of technique can make the liquid absorb into the pad. There’s a blue patch on the carpet.

Wednesday 20th March 2024

I have noticed that the prices are undeniably higher in the farm shops: dreading doing a reccie and finding out what I had spent so far. Here I came upon a mystery : Spending had been exactly the same as previous months when I had predominantly been using the supermarkets and treating the farm shops as an occasional treat; why?

I think about it and figure when I go to the fish mongers to buy fish – I buy fish! Whereas when I go to the supermarket, it’s anyone’s guess what I might come out with.

Wednesday 27th March 2024

I sit down to plan out what we need.

I’m going to make a sausage stew with mash and salad for dinner, plus I want general ‘stuff’ such as bread / cheese. I’ve also noticed we are low on a few store cupboard items, such as various herbs, bicarbonate of soda and…what was it? Ah yes, lentils and brown rice.

I make my list and think about how I am going to organise my day. I figure the butchers in Hawkhurst do quality sausages and I can hit the glass shop at the same time to finally get a round mirror repaired that’s been sitting in the garage for 6 months.

After that I could go to Buy The Weigh zero waste store and get the store cupboard items.

On the way home I could easily stop at Eggs to Apples Farm Shop to get the veg, salad and other items such as bread and cheese.

I calculate that this will take about an hour.

I get my large colourful basket I got in Botswana and check the little cupboard housing all our herbs. Caraway, fennel and cumin is low so I take them (in their tesco containers) and put them in the basket along with the jar of rice and the bicarbonate of soda, which is also running low.

I pack a glass Tupperware with lid for the butchers, put everything in the car and set off.

Amazingly, there is a space just where I need it for the glass shop and the butchers. It is pouring with rain, but that’s okay, and I have soon off-loaded the mirror and am on my way to the butcher.

I immediately spy the sausages, but there is an annoying woman in front of me dithering and seemingly blocking my view on purpose. Every time I go right to try and get a look, she goes right. And when I go left, she goes left. I eventually manage to see that it’s gluten free linconshire I want when happily another assistant comes out and asks whether she can help me. I gratefully hand over my container and say, “8 gluten free linconshire sausages, please,” just as the annoying woman says, “I’ll have the gluten free linconshire sausages!” to her server. My server is already in there, scooping up the sausages before their very eyes and I guiltily say, “Oh…I’m sorry….” But her server says he has more out back – phew. I go to the till, scoop up farm eggs, pay: skidaddle.

It’s the zero shop next GLITCH! My neighbour from Botswana is in there with his daughter.

The neighbour that lived near us for 8 years – in Botswana, Africa – is inexplicably in our local zero waste shop perusing with his daughter. We say WTF a lot whilst shaking our heads in wonder at the coincidence.

Once that has concluded and they have gone, the assistant happily and brilliantly sets about filling my containers. It feels amazing seeing those little jars be re-filled rather than being flung into the recycling. The quality of the herbs are better and fresher, but I brace myself for the cost. £9! The whole lot came to just £9, and that’s with a large jar of organic brown basmati rice / organic lentils as well.

They asked whether I liked peanut butter – I do. They have an amazing machine filled with peanuts and they simply press a button for some freshly made additive and salt free peanut butter to come out. They give me a wee paper cup of it to try and it’s lovely.

I stop on the way home as planned at Eggs to Apples and get the remainder, then get back to hop onto my meeting with Charlotte.

It’s been like test driving a different operating system. Quite frankly, it’s noodled my brain. I’m spending the same amount, I’ve got more time; and I feel happier. A major stumbling block was reliable parking, and I’ve found a few creative solutions ie: a residential cul de sac near the butchers which negates the need to navigate the congested high street at all!

Has this month changed the way I do things forever?

I ask Charlotte how it has been for her.

Charlotte’s diary

Here we go! Embarking on the no-plastic challenge for a whole month. To my delight a friend in Sussex has agreed to join me so we have some co-motivation which I feel will come in handy.  No backing out now!

Week 1 

Win!

Rediscovered shopping along the high street in Crediton and armed with an array of containers came home with armfuls of plastic free veg from the grocer, sausages in my own container from the butcher & flour & pasta from the refill/bakery. Snacks for packed lunches nearly threw me but remembered cup cakes, flap jacks & pop corn. This does however require getting up just that bit early to make them, but I’m up for the sacrifice!

Fail!

My favourite cereal only comes in plastic (although it says it is recyclable) and stumped looking for plastic-free options for cheese, yoghurt & butter.  Lovely unpackaged parsley from the grocer but gave in to packaged basil.

Week 2 

Win!

A trip to Ashburton for work, so popped in to their grocer and fishmonger-deli. Fruit & veg plastic free, amazing smoked haddock wrapped in paper, crab in my own container and preserved artichokes. Special effort to buy chicken food in paper bags & tinned cat food even though those plastic pouches are so much easier.

Fail!

Although we get oat milk in reusable glass containers from Riverford, having a couple of cereal eating teens in the house meant that a few emergency tetra-plastic oat milks were required. Reminded myself that each day I open little plastic pots to use daily contacts, and I haven’t yet found a fluoride toothpaste not in a plastic tube. New puppy in the house and his highness’s food only comes in plastic!

Week 3 

Win!

Refilled washing liquid & shampoo at the bakery in Crediton so feeling quite chuffed. Remembered the refills at Mole Avon and stocked up on frozen pastries and delighted to find Bombay mix as a cheap plastic-free replacement for crisps.

 

Fail!

Ordering a coffee forgot to bring a reusable cup and…. oh dear too late to ask for no lid. Remind myself I should not leave the house without pots, cups & glass milk bottles. Perhaps I could design a box to go in my car with all the jars & pots neatly organised? I feel this is an opportunity for someone to market something funky & appealing that might make me want to go refill shopping.

Week 4 

Win!

Visited the zero waste shop in Exeter to get loose noodles and dried goji berries. Found little refills sachets for floor cleaner. Tiny little box and dissolvable sachet – pop in old container, add water and ready to roll! Realised I also need a chart reminding myself what I can get where – some days wish there was just one shop I could go for everything plastic free…which reminds me wouldn’t it be convenient if supermarkets phased out plastic.

Fail!

Easter Saturday – high street shops not open and a fridge to fill for the weekend. Supermarket shopping trying to dodge plastic is like trying to avoid cracks on a cobbled street.

Sum-up

It’s the end of the month and I’m reminded how no one makes it easy for the consumer to avoid plastic and yet we tend to get all the blame.  I love all the independent shops and shopping suddenly becomes a valuable experience with real human interactions and a respect and joy in the food I buy. Yet, these wonderful shops are not open after work hours when most people need them. What if hundreds of people tried the 30-day plastic-free challenge and supermarkets saw an opportunity to provide real plastic free options?

Interested in taking the plastic free challenge? Watch this space : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

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