Observable Benefits of Plastic-Free July

We are on the tail end of Plastic-Free July. Tory was reflecting on how he was initially cynical about the experiment and worried it would turn me off to environmentally beneficial endeavours in the long term. As we’ve mentioned before, there are many ways to work around plastic free July without truly removing plastic. We were nervous about the scarcity would give us a bad taste towards environmentalism but we’re within a week of the end and it hasn’t really felt that way. We’re missing the quick-meal convenience of prepackaged pasta and bread and we both felt pretty passionate about the paper-wrapped chocolate bar we got at the grocery store the other day, but overall, we’ve brought our own bags and cups, found alternatives, DIY-ed new things, and started making local veggie markets and nearby farms our go-to grocery shopping stops.

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Some observations:
– While actively trying to avoid plastic, we still accumulated more than expected
– Although we didn’t intentionally buy plastic this month, we still threw out lots of it from previous purchases in June
– The garbage generated from this was a constant reminder that committing to this for one month doesn’t solve the problem
– Plastic is pervasive. We ran into a lot of surprise plastic – a free balloon given to Camille, friends bringing over food or gifts, straws and cups and plastic bags thrust upon you for convenience sake even when you said no thank you…
– We spent significantly more on a few specialty items, like coconut oil, because it was a high end imported product in a glass bottles instead of the local Thai stuff sold in cheap plastic – shipping a glass bottle across the world is much less sustainable even if it’s plastic-free, so it’s a good reminder that the letter of the law sometimes misses the point
– If this was longer term, we’d need to find a source for bulk bins for dry goods that Thailand doesn’t seem to offer, because we definitely relied on our former purchases of packaged dried beans, lentils, nuts, granola, toilet paper, pads, castile soap, etc.

But, we were surprised at how much we were able to impact things that felt out of our control when we brought a new level of formality or intentionality to our daily life.

Some observable benefits:
– Our cupboards look really good sans plastic
– We finally built in habits of bringing to-go cups, canvas bags, water bottles and straws
– We’ve stopped eating junk food and take out (never did find a secondhand tiffin carrier)
– Our food doesn’t need preservatives in it because it’s not packaged for a long shelf life
– We’ve pretty much opted out of the global economy this month, mostly buying fresh and local options
– Not using plastic is a big motivator for making our own goodies from raw materials – not only are we reducing packaging but we’re avoiding chemicals in our food, excessive food miles, and for the most part, it’s been significantly cheaper

Looking forward, we feel excited to continue this momentum in a way that will actually see decreases in plastic being thrown away in our lives, not just push the purchases into the months before and after. There are a few things we’ll stock back up on this month but we also want to consider reducing our use of glass and aluminum, or waste in general.

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We’re happy that we won’t need to be legalistic about it anymore – for example, choosing the peanut butter from the woman at the farmer’s market that’s sold in plastic containers instead of the brand name glass jar imported from the US. Or maybe eventually seeing if our blender can handle peanuts! This was a great exercise and gave us confidence to try things we would have written off as too much work or too difficult without the constraint. This month we collectively added growing and harvesting our own spinach, diy sugar leg waxing, churning our own butter, and making fresh pasta noodles, to our fledgling repertoire of homesteading skills.

The more we can buy from local farms and grow ourselves, the less waste goes into landfills, and the closer we are to better aligning our beliefs and lived values. It will always be a shifting goal but it was a great exercise this month and it built in confidence that we can make real changes that benefit our lives in multiple ways. We weren’t successful in avoiding plastic entirely but we did fundamentally change some of our major food habits in ways that feels sustainable for the future. July didn’t end up feeling that different from other months after a while which seems like the biggest success.

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Tory’s Butter Churning Setup

 

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