How to give yourself a cerebral hemorrhage over ethical purchasing.

Going into my third week and things are looking ok. Not a spotless record yet – I’ve clocked up a couply stealth plastics (from inside lids)and a piece of sticky tape (from the wrapping around last night’s fish n chips). My biggest blunder was the tomato sauce packet I instinctively grabbed the other day when I was running around like mad before heading out on our camping trip… Yep, total facepalm moment when I got to the car and registered what was in my hand. But still it’s a minimal tally so far, and if that’s what I go out on for my first month then I’m ok with that.

UPDATE: for those that aren’t on my facebook page, Ella has a meat supplier! Many thanks to Paul Oettli who put me on to Darryn Clyne from The Gisborne Deli & Butchery – Darryn’s very cool and actually often uses uses paper wrapping anyway, and is happy to wrap meat orders plastic free upon request. AWESOME GUY, very supportive. Ella’s pretty happy about the whole thing (the whole thing being life, in general). Oh they also source their meat locally, and make GREAT coffees in the deli.

So that brings me to a topic I’ve been considering a lot, of late… The whole paper vs plastic vs bioplastic vs aluminium vs child labour vs bug cruelty etc etc discussion. I touched upon this earlier when I mentioned my own personal longstanding philosophy of “just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you should do nothing”. Yeah… paper uses trees, and encourages pine afforestation, which has it’s own issues. Technically, the process involved in producing an aluminium drink can is more harmful than that of a glass bottle with a bit of plastic on the lid. There is very little way to get around doing harm of SOME kind in this high consumption economy where, by and large, socio-environmental concerns will only matter where the profit margin allows for it. And then there are bioplastics and cellulose plastics – which could be significantly better than aluminium cans or non-recycled paper options.

So I’m going to lay this out clearly. My definition of non-plastic for 2014 will include bio-plastics. That’s not because I don’t support the development of these plastics – I honestly celebrate their development. There are undoubtedly some areas that we need plastics and in those cases of course it would be wonderful if they were degradable. Of course I’m thinking more medical supplies than multipack potato crisps here. I advocate for LESS plastic, not better plastic – and the notion of “better” plastic is still a very, VERY grey area. There are still concerns over the length of time some “biodegradable” plastics still take to degrade, there are still concerns over the production processes and the emissions – my particular concern is that it does not address the fact that we consume way more than we need to. I’d rather reduce my consumption while redirecting it to better nonplastic options along the way. People have labelled that “minimalism” and while I think we could all minimise, I wouldn’t at all call my current lifestyle minimalist.

In my opinion, we live a life of hedonism. We don’t actually need a WHOLE lot of what we buy – and we’ve become accustomed to simply sating our appetites regardless of the impacts. Making do without something is becoming unfathomable to many. I go to the supermarket now for one or two things and I can’t help but glance at the trolleys around me, loaded up with plastic goods – and visualise the collective mountain of plastic packaging that will be sold through the checkouts just on that one day. It’s pretty sobering. And it’s not stuff we NEED. It’s… Cheezels multi-packs. It’s single serve yoghurts. It’s plastic packaged fruit, for freaks sakes. Come on guys – how many of us buy the plastic net sack of fruit only to take it home, rip it open and put the fruit in the fridge anyways???

You know… this hasn’t been AS hard as I thought it would be. It has it’s inconvenient moments, but it’s quite clear to me that that was more because of the dependency that I’d developed than any true difficulty. Actually I’m saving a LOT of money buying in bulk, and through the vege shop, and being a more thoughtful, planned shopper has led, of course, to much less impulse buying (also because I’m spending less time in the stores that are geared to encourage impulse buying). I’m enjoying supporting the local businesses more and am maintaining, if not improving my nutrition choices.

And getting back to my earlier point – you know what – funnily enough going plastic free has led to LESS agonising. I used to pore over packaging to see if it was tested on animals, how many additives and codes it had, what was the company’s environmental commitment, was it locally made etc etc. Honestly I’d annoy myself with my little ethical quandry – and no flatmate ever shopped with me more than once. Now it’s simple… I don’t do ANY of them – I’m working my way through the last of what I have, and have sampled and settled upon alternatives that are absolutely not tested on animals and are sans numbery codes. Forcing myself to make do without, or find the next most environmentally sound alternative has cut down on a LOT of the epic nail-gnawing drama in the hair-care aisle.

As for the aluminium cans and paper products – no… the plastic alternative is not always “safe” for the environment – but go have a look in the trolleys – they’re not stacked up with cans (unless everyone’s stocking their bomb shelters – in which case maybe there are more immediate issues for you to be concerned with) and they’re certainly not stacked up with paper cups – both of which are recyclable. If you do neighbourhood cleanups and certainly beach cleanups – it’s not the cans and paper you come across. I’m going to deal with this – in a way that ALSO tries to cut down on that, where possible. I made a commitment to a kaupapa, however – no plastics – and that is where my priority will lie.

And at the end of the day – hey find SOMETHING and stand for it. Make a stand against carbon emissions in processing, make a stand against bug cruelty in baking (yeah it’s a thing). Better than standing for nothing. We might be going about it in different ways – but we’re both looking down the same path of better alternatives.

I’m going to copy some of my facebook posts over to this blog as well – for those of you who are “facebook free” (I get it… I did that for a bit too and it felt GREAT).

Mauriora, everyone

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4 thoughts on “How to give yourself a cerebral hemorrhage over ethical purchasing.”

  1. Kia ora Tina, Our whanau has changed some of our plastic packaged habits, we buy our meat from butcher as plastic meat trays in supermarket can’t be recycled. just trying to de-colonise my partner from glad wrap! Did you know Tupperware has a lifetime guarantee? (I didn’t!)

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