This is my response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt of 28 July 2018 — Reduce.

Next month has been designated Plastic-Free July.  People have been asked to give up single-use plastic for a month.  How great would it be if each of us could reduce our plastic use?  As you probably know, the spread of plastic waste across the world has reached crisis point.  Eventually it all seems to end up in our oceans.  I am determined to do my bit to reduce my use of plastic.  I’m pragmatic enough to accept that it will take time, but it is so important.  I have friends who are small-scale farmers that produce products that are vacuumed packed, but on the other hand, their on-farm practices are sustainable and low-impact.  It is a tricky issue.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to find a solution.  Click here for tips on reducing your use of single-use plastics.  BUT, and there is always a “but”, participants need to be mindful of the environmental impact of substituting one single-use material for another.

Australia’s major supermarkets will stop providing single-use plastic bags imminently.  Supermarkets will supply (for a small charge) re-usable thicker/stronger plastic bags or re-usable polypropylene bags.  Or you can bring your own bag.  Apparently, the stronger plastic bags need to be used at least four times to recoup the extra energy required to make the bags.  In my state, where we have had a single-use plastic bag ban since 2011, many people don’t re-use the tougher plastic bags.  The tougher bags just end up as a bin-liners.  If you use your own cotton bags, then you will have to use them 130 times to offset the environmental cost of their production.  Apparently jute bags are the best option if you can get hold of them.  For the pros and cons on alternative bags, click here.  If you can sew, you could re-purpose old clothes destined for the bin as shopping bags.

Changes Our Family Has Made So Far

Rather than thinking of giving up plastic as an impost, maybe consider it an opportunity to make friends.  I re-use take-away plastic containers at the deli.  It’s a talking point.  Make sure to do it when other customers are about, then they can see what is possible too.  My children have been taking their own containers and used plastic bags when they get take-away.  They are well known by the proprietors of the places they frequent.  Maybe you could wash your milkshake container that you got from Maccas, and on your next visit ask them to re-fill it.  Sometimes you just need to be creative.  And what if I forget my bags or my containers?  Well that is tough for me.  I go without.  You learn pretty quickly that way.

We gave up on our butcher because he uses the plastic bag to handle the meat before putting it in our container.  Might as well just turn the bag inside out and use that.  I plan to donate several pairs of tongs to him so he doesn’t need to use a bag.  Novel, eh?  The man that we buy our apples from at the local market usually packs the apples in plastic bags, but we have convinced him to keep some loose ones aside for us.  And Walter, our dog treat supplier, is going to investigate buying the dog treats we like in bulk to avoid the packaging.  Onya Walter.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  You only have to ask.

What about disposable plastic bottles?  Are glass bottles that you are only going to drink from once a good substitute for PET bottles?  Even glass can end up in the oceans and glass takes just as much energy, if not more, to produce than plastic bottles.  So if you want to buy a glass bottle of fizzy drink, make sure that the glass goes into the recycling waste stream rather than into general waste.  Basically, glass is for keeps, unless you know someone that home-brews and the bottles can be returned for re-use – far better to drink water from your own re-usable container.

In the bathroom, we use palm oil-free soap for shampoo.  I buy direct from the supplier so it is unpackaged.  Check out your local markets for suppliers.  The Plastic Free July website has recipes for personal and household cleaning products that you can make yourself.  The recipes are simple.  Ladies, there are also suggestions for re-usable (washable) sanitary products.  Yuck?  It is only natural.  I will be trying out some of their suggestions.

Dog poo is only natural too.   At one time, I got quite stroppy about people not picking up their dog’s crap, but I’ve had a change of heart.  If it is a lightly traversed grassy area, well, just the let the crap break down.  For the backyard crap, I make newspaper poo bags.  We do use bio-degradable (corn starch) dog poo bags when pooch drops one on heavily trafficked areas.  I do have some consideration.

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What am I going to give up this July?  Crispy seaweed.  Seaweed sequesters a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, but the packaging is bad news.  Oh, woe is me.  This is going to be hard.  If it sounds too overwhelming, maybe start somewhere small.  But please do start.

Comments welcome.  Can’t find the Comments Section?  Keep scrolling.

 

 

32 thoughts on “Less Is Best

  1. We’ve been taking our own bags to the supermarket for years. Woolworths phased out single use bags this week, and I was horrified at the number of people buying new plastic bags rather than the green bags which can be used many many times. I’ve been known to mend them too! In our town we only have the supermarkets to shop at for groceries, which makes buying stuff not wrapped in plastic really difficult.

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    1. I think every body is so used to using the flimsy plastic bags as bin liners that they kind of freak out at first. I make newspaper bin liners, but if I’m feeling really lazy, I use one of bio-degradable ones, I do hope the Council can do some education on this, because we won’t be any better off otherwise. Do you think your local newspaper would run a story with some eco suggestions?

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      1. Our council has just delivered new green waste bins (now we have 4 bins) and lots of information on what to do, so I hope that makes a difference. Included are special biodegradable bags to put bones, left over meat and other kitchen waste in. About the plastic shopping bags: it’s early days, let’s hope people start remembering to take their bags with them.

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  2. I’m already using my selfsewn shopping bags for years now and also produce my own eco-friendly deodorant by mixing bicarbonate with water and fill it in my reusable spray bottle. It’s also skin friendly and so far no one complained about me.😉

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      1. No need being ashamed, Tracy. I found out about this kind of deodorant 3 years ago and have been playing around with different recipes. What works best for me is 1 tsp for 75ml water/sage leaf tea (sage also has an additional effect). Have fun finding your favourite! 😄

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  3. Now that I live in an apartment I rarely use the reusable plastic grocery bags. The plastic bags are used for garbage because they are the right size to fit down chute. I have brought a travel mug when I go for coffee but Tim Hortons measures it out in a paper cup so they are creating waste anyway.

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    1. Thank you, Lone Rose. Glad you are doing your bit. I make bags out of newspaper for my bin. I will have to investigate what the tape is made out of. How big is your town, Lone Rose? I have had to be tough with some of the retaliers, like my apple guy. Told him I could no longer buy my apples from him if they were in plastic. Next time I walked past his stall, he had loose apples in a crate. All of a sudden the impossible becomes possible. Maybe you could have a word to Tim Hortons?

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  4. I live in a city – Ripon- which is working towards Plastic Free status. This doesn’t mean plastic free of course, but it does mean that in all spheres of life we’re striving to minimise its impact, specifically reducing single-use items. Our own family is trying to be pretty eco-warrior-ish, rejecting plastic packaging where at all feasible (single use, plastic packaged shampoo, deodorant, soap etc. But it’s hard, isn’t it? Small steps though, from everyone, can make a big impact.

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    1. Your family is doing well, Margaret. Our family has mastered the easy changes, but we have to move on to some of the harder ones. Our city has waste reduction targets too, but they seem difficult to reach without big changes in packaging laws., eg. our egg supplier cannot re-use (clean, undamaged) egg cartons, which seems crazy to me. Still maybe the powers that will be will change their minds on this. Yep, small steps. I’ve been thrilled to read that other people are also doing everything they can.

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  5. I’ve been taking my reusable bags for groceries for quite a while now and when I buy fruit and veg I do not put them in the small plastic bags they are still supplying but just put them all loose in the basket and refuse to buy prepackaged veg. I think wrapping rubbish in newspaper could be a problem as I no longer buy newspapers. But as you say small steps but we have have to start somewhere. Good post Tracy very relevant

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    1. MaThank you, Pauline. Maybe you could try the bio-degradable bin liners? You can buy them at the well known hardware store. You would probably only need one a week. If I lived in warmer climes, I would probably have a worm farm too, but they don’t work so well in frosty areas. 🙂

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      1. I also use any spare plastic, ie bread bags, to put rubbish in. Will check out the biodegradable bags. Do you mean Bunnings? I also put all scraps egg cartons cardboard etc into my compost bin

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  6. Yes, it is time to be very intentional about reducing our use of plastic. And it doesn’t really require all that much effort. Thanks for your suggestions, as some of them are things I haven’t thought of before!

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  7. I really liked the ideas with newspaper. My mom also lines her garbage bins with newspaper; and, remember when street foods were wrapped in paper? (fish and chips, that kind of thing … did I just date myself?)

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  8. I’m fortunate to live in a community that started organized weekly recycling pickup. During the week at my home household waste is sorted by type: paper, tins, plastics and compost. But not all communities participate in this programme. The Federal Government of Canada wants to price carbon but is meeting great resistance.

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    1. That is great. I bet the pre-sorting cuts down on contamination. Since our plastic was shipped to China, we don’t have much a plastic recycling industry here, so that has caused some consternation.

      I like carbon pricing. We had it here for a while and it had just started to reduce emissions when it was scrapped. There have been some reports of our emissions increasing now that we don’t have carbon pricing. It is all a bit complicated as everyone interprets the numbers and baseline differently! One area where there is no debate is that emissions from the resources sector have skyrocketed. I imagine that is where a lot of the resistance is coming from in Canada. It will be all the usual suspects. The resources sector is expert at whipping up community fury.

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