BUT picked up. Took Ella to the beach with my Mum and brother, stayed at the beach for breakfast… then came home and wrote up some of my health research, digitised some family whakapapa (genealogy), noticed messages from friends on my facebook feed both about the drastically increased level of oil exploration going on here in NZ and their new awareness of plastic… which prompted me to make this infographic:
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).
And here we have it… the first plastic purchase for 2014.
Inside the lid of a glass bottle of spring water that I bought today. Dangit I was SURE Antipodes didn’t use plastic inside their lids but… as I found out upon opening it (and doing a little “dangitdangitdangit” dance on the street) – it certainly does. Man I’m coming to haaaate on these sneaky sneaky stealth plastics. I managed to find a few out before buying them but gahhh they got me in the end.
As a whole Antipodes ARE very carbon conscious, but will still be receiving the letter with their piece of plastic at the end of the month (after it gets weighed and tallied with anything else I bring into the house) because hell… carbon concious AND plastic free is even better.
You’re probably looking at that pic and thinking “ummmm… yeah the lid’s not your biggest problem there”
So yeah, that’s a big ole plastic flagon of water – so let me explain.
After a big landslide, our water supply has been drastically reduced and the entire city is now on high alert.
It's looking like we'll remain on alert for another two weeks, so after digging around in my Aunt's shed we found some plastic flagons and I took them up to the local spring to fill up in order to avoid using the town supply.
On the plus side they were recycled, not bought – but still… bit gutted.
Some almonds (to make almond milk), polenta (I’m going to go through a LOT of that), garlic, ginger, a few veges, some tinned tomatoes, some butter (I’m making a bunch of kaanga waru – steamed corn and kumara pudding – for friends and family). Some olive oil, some free-range eggs, some lentils, some cumin seeds, and a jar of the BEST PEANUT BUTTER OUT. Pics Really Good Peanut Butter (drooooool).
Came to roughly about $40 and I’ll probably pick up a few more veges from the vege truck later on in the week but this, plus my current stock, will do me for this week. Of course all of the plastic (and the olive oil bottle) was taken by myself to Bin Inn to fill up. I’m quite happy with what I got for the expense, actually – although it was dang heavy to bike back in the heat of the middle of the day. I’m also really enjoying reducing my use of centralized providers (i.e. PaknSave and Countdown) BUT… doing my shopping is now a day-long event, especially seeing as I bike everywhere.
Will just have to strategise a little better.
Being largely vegetarian helps (I’ll fold for kina, paua, or crayfish – which is, in coasty terms, a vegetarian). I don’t have to buy meat for myself… but I do like to provide some for Ella. Here’s Ella (while sunbathing next to me on the back porch)
Gorgeous isn’t she. Yes, she thinks so, too.
I had considered going to a butcher to get some meat for Ella, and had read online about other non-plastic folk who had been able to take their own containers down to the butchers and get some meat. I did a quick ring around today, and so far was only able to reach Village Butchery who was adamant that it is not possible to use anyone else’s containers for their meat as it is a health and safety issue (one which apparently quite a few others seem to be able to get around) and they have to protect themselves from customers who come back and complain about contaminated meat, when the contamination actually came from the container. I did try pointing out that there are other providers who try more environmentally friendly approaches successfully but couldn’t seem to be able to finish my sentences without being told it’s simply not possible. So I thanked them for their time and carried on… I’ll keep calling around the other meat providers in Gisborne to see if anyone can sort Ella out with some fresh meat but til then we’ll go with the paper bagged dry biscuits (some of which I’ll rehydrate and add oil, veges, and rice).
SO, yes… my first non-plastic shop. I’ve noticed before that there is a BUNCH of plastic at the supermarket (of course, it’s one of the reasons I’ve embarked upon this project) – but you know, it’s one of those things… when the necessity is placed upon you that you CANNOT purchase plastic , you can’t help but get away from the fact that a supermarket is an OCEAN of plastic. Aisle after aisle after aisle of plastic. Either completely packaged, or windowed, or lined (those sneaky tins with plastic lining grrrr they undermine my confidence in tinned food) or cardboard boxes with plastic bags INSIDE (double grrr ohhh the sneaky sneakiness).
I’m not THAT much of a sweet tooth and in any case I can make my own sweets if I really want to. What was REALLY going to break my heart was crackers – I don’t really do bread… but I DO do crackers – I’m a snacker, most especially because it’s the type of food I can eat while typing/reading/marking/planning etc.
THAT WAS UNTIL…. I had a fortunate mishap with my polenta – put it in the sandwich grill with the intention of crisping it up a little bit, forgot about it, and came back a few minutes later to a perfect little flat crispy corn tortilla it was omggggosssh yummy! Kinda tasted like cheezels – YES CHEEZELS – cheesy, starchy, additive/preservative laden guilt fodder. And seriously all it was, was polenta, vege stock, and some butter (I don’t normally do butter but had some in the fridge from a kaanga waru frenzy over the holidays). I’m about to try an olive oil version and will post the recipe and pics up.
Another thing I’ve noticed in my first week :
People have a hard time getting “no plastic”, and in fact it makes them very uncomfortable –
Like the girl at the sushi shop who simply cocked her head when I asked for my vegetarian sushi to be put straight into the paper bag (I had decided to use my lunch container to buy some brown rice but only felt like a couple of pieces of inari anyway). Me: “No plastic please, I don’t do plastic” Girl: (cocks her head like this is a language issue) “No plastic?” Me: “No, can you please just put it into a paper bag? I’m fine with that, it’s only the two pieces” Girl: “ummmm” (tongs started to shake a little)
Really… the ceiling won’t collapse if you put the damn sushi straight into the bag. Of course she’s very sweet so I just smiled and waited for her to come to terms with what was required of her.
Eventually she did, and then tried to add a little plastic soy bottle (which I caught in time, saying “no plastic”)… then she smiled and tried to seal the paper bag with cellotape (which I caught in time and repeated, again “no plastic”) and THEN… yes… she tried to put the paper bag in a plastic bag for me to take away. Yeah. She did. I caught her again and, one last time, said “No plastic”. By now she looked like she was about to freak out so I smiled as genuinely as I could to her as I paid and left. She was very sweet, and VERY unsettled with the whole experience. The next time I will be taking my own container for her to put it into which I’m sure will be a lot easier on her senses but it was still interesting watching her struggle with the break from her norm.
You know… here’s the thing that, in light of that experience and the phone call to Village Butchers, has occurred to me. We’re not just addicted to plastic – we’ve psychologically equated plastic to cleanliness and order. We’ve equated single use to hygiene and consequently to better health. It’s a perverse notion that is in conflict with indigenous models of wellbeing (where environmental health sits alongside physical, emotional, spiritual and communal health). It’s also a notion that is reinforced by the wasteful, lazy market within which we reside. Of course there are alternatives but if they are not supported or promoted then the default of plastic will continue to reassert itself in our psyche as the best, or only, option.
Here’s a REALLY interesting clip by Nikki Harré which I came across on the rubbishfree blog:
Storytelling as a means of social control is not a new discussion – BUT I like how she breaks down the psychological building blocks of our tendency to imitate based NOT ONLY on observed behavior, but also on the traces of behavior that we see around us, and the stories that we are told.
I guess that’s another important aspect of this project – the more of us take up this challenge, the less of an accepted norm plastic addiction is. The more pressure there will be on suppliers to diversify to non-plastic alternatives, and the greater a market there will be for non-plastic alternatives.
It’s easier than it was a few years ago… it’s still kinda hard. And I can’t control what you do, but I can control what I do and I want to do this. And no it won’t solve everything all at once (and gawd am I already sick of the “but what about this… and what about this…” questions) BUT – and seriously, this has been one of my most heartfelt, longlasting personal philosophies:
Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you should do nothing
I’ll try to update every week – or sooner if something occurs to me. Hey if anyone knows of a butcher in Gisborne that will allow me to bring my own container, for Ella’s meat, please drop me a message.