I’m writing this at the top of an aqueduct in France, and while it may seem like a weird place to start writing a piece about plastic-free living, looking out over all of the tourists and the absolute beauty of a park, it got my creativity flowing. Seeing just how efficient and inefficient things are here in France got me thinking about plastics, garbage, and everything going green.
It’s hard when you’re traveling to be sustainable. Extremely hard. But, I’ve noticed my habits changing (and those around me) each time I leave for a trip. It’s also taken me a long time to get to this imperfect spot. There are so many other travel bloggers out there who are way better at living a more eco-friendly life than I am, and of course, I’m doing better than others. What we all have in common is that we’re trying.
From an outsider looking in, and definitely through most of my instagram-feed, my house may look like a blissful little plastic-free oasis. But, it’s not. While my house doesn’t have any plastic wrap, a feat that was beyond hard to get to and kept having me reach for more, I still end up using ziplocs. Mainly, it’s because I’ve so many. And, because I like to freeze veggies from the garden so I can use them all year-round.
Rarely will I use a plastic fork, unless I’ve forgotten to say that I don’t need one. Then, I stop worrying about the fact that I’ve a plastic fork and just use the damn thing; what’s done is done and wasting it is going to help anyone.
I only use a plastic straw when I’ve a migraine (and thus a reusable doesn’t work the same. Perhaps a silicone one will work once I’ve run out of my hoard of plastic straws) or I become so used to most restaurants not giving them out, I forget to ask for none.
We only use bamboo toothbrushes unless we’re given a plastic one for Christmas. I will reject the free toothbrush at the dentist’s office solely because it’s made from plastic, now. Something that is weirdly a struggle, because FREE.
I use mainly bar soap for everything, but I still have a plastic bottle for my conditioner, one liquid soap dispenser and dish soap, even though I also use a dish washing block, something that is proving to be a little harder to switch to than I imagined. I use soap nuts/berries bought at Bulk Barn in a reusable bag and make my own liquid soap.
I’ve started buying candies and treats and easy things from Bulk Barn and keeping them in jars, getting rid of the whole need for plastic packaging. Do I still buy treats that are palm oil free in plastic bags? Absolutely. Do I still buy chips or pretzels that have no other option but the bag they come in? Yes.
I didn’t lay out the list above to brag, but to point out that we are doing A LOT to cut down on waste, be it plastic or otherwise, and yes our recycling is taking longer and longer to build up than it used to, but it’s still there, we’re still creating waste.
Getting to this point didn’t happen over night and it definitely didn’t happen in a month. I didn’t push myself to a breaking point in order to go plastic-free for a month, limiting myself to a single mason jar of garbage. Instead, I implemented new habits every time I realized how much plastic I was using.
This took over a year. And, I’m still not perfect. Far from it.
The above are things that I do in order to cut down on plastic. But, I still buy bottled drinks every so often even though I carry a reusable water bottle. I still get take-out containers from time to time. I still buy berries in plastic containers. Maybe, eventually, once my trees and bushes grow I’ll just have to dip into the freezer instead of the grocery section. Maybe by that time I’ll have enough reuseable freezer bags and containers I won’t use any ziplocs to store them. For now, I’ll continue buying berries from time to time giving my body the antioxidants it so craves.
Plastic-free living is trending all over the place and it’s great. It’s getting people to think more about how much plastic they bring into their house and throw away and it’s getting companies to take another look at their brand and how they want to be known.
But, it can also be extremely stressful to the everyday person. The obsession with going completely plastic-free, even with toys and furniture, has gone over to the deep end. There are countless plastic items that, yes, are made of plastic, but which have stood the test of time. If you take care of something, it’ll last (or, at least, it used to when it was made better). Just because it’s plastic doesn’t mean it’s 100% evil. If you’ve a plastic toy from your childhood that you’re now giving your child, is it wasteful? Of course not.
Instead of stressing out about trying to do it all so perfectly all the time, do things imperfectly. Do what you can and keep building. Stop using single-use plastics, but don’t beat yourself up over it if you end up using a straw by accident, or forgot to tell the restaurant you didn’t need plastic cutlery. It’s okay. Eventually, these changes will become habits and the habits will stick and soon you’ll wonder why you even used plastic wrap in the first place.
It’s been months since I’ve had plastic wrap in my house and I don’t miss it, but it took me months to stop missing it. It was hard to cut down on something you so readily used for years. It’s why I always advise keeping whatever you’re getting rid of on hand while you make the switch. Eventually, it’ll become normal not to use it.
So, next time you end up with a plastic grocery bag instead of your reuseable one, or you forget to check out the type of take-out containers an establishment uses, relax. The fact that you’re even thinking about it is great. Let’s all be a little less judgmental (hard for me, I know) while we change our habits to better our planet.