It is currently Plastic Free July and it is the first July that I’ve been aware of this. Although my family is generally very aware of environmental protection and disposables, we weren’t introduced to Plastic Free July until 2017.
Since I can remember, grocery shopping was always done with our own cloth bags which continue to build up over time. We also have always had a compost bin in the garden and disposed of all our food waste in there. I grew up with little fast food and an attitude against all these chain companies who use cheap ingredients and employment to create products of little quality.
All these fast food companies like McDonald’s or Burger King use a lot of packaging for their takeaway food. Recently, I accompanied some friends to McDonald’s and all I could see was the plastic cups given for each drink or ice cream, the individual packaging for each burger and a lot of chips and even plastic containers for chocolate sauce. I realised that any form of takeaways, especially fast food, goes through a huge amount of packaging every day and consumers don’t even think twice about it.
A couple of months ago, I became aware of the Zero Waste movement. Basically, it’s about living without sending any waste to the landfill and reducing your recyclables and plastics by reusing things and rethinking your lifestyle. Since I first got to know of the Zero Waste movement, my mind kept listing plastic used in everyday life and wherever I went, plastics caught my attention. For example, I thought about buying lunch at uni and how one of everyone’s favourite foods, namely sushi, has a single-use container for each customer unless of course, they bring their own.
I began thinking that it is actually very easy to reduce your own waste drastically if you set your mind to it. Bringing your own containers for lunch, or even packing lunch at home can reduce the amount of packaging that comes with buying food somewhere significantly. Also, taking a refillable drink bottle with you is a great idea. I always shop with my own shopping bags. They’re so much more durable and comfortable to hold. I’ve also taken to shopping at a bulk food store with my own paper bags and containers. I’ve also taken initiative by refusing plastic straws at cafes and only ordering drinks if I am going to sit in and drink from an actual cup, rather than a takeaway cup because I haven’t managed to get myself a reusable coffee cup yet.
A big bonus that comes with reducing plastic and waste is how much you save. Packing your own lunch and using a refillable water bottle are both more economical than always buying food and drinks. Eating out less and therefore making meals is cheaper and much healthier as well. So there are some other benefits too, not just being kind to our environment.
I learnt a lot of this from The Rubbish Trip (https://therubbishtrip.co.nz/about/). They’re a young couple who have been Zero Waste for almost 2 years and presenting talks around New Zealand about their journey and how to reduce waste. So inspiring!
As a current university student, I’m finding some things quite challenging about reducing my waste and plastics. Currently, my goal is not Zero Waste but I know that in future, I will definitely aim towards that. However, I am still trying to reduce the amount of rubbish and recycling I produce. I’m finding it challenging without a home compost bin as my flat does not have a garden. Also, as a vegetarian, I have not been able to buy important products for my diet such as tofu and tempeh without packaging. I have tried making my own milk out of pumpkin seeds though and next on the list is almond milk and it was very easy and delicious.
My adventure is still continuing and I’m finding out new things all the time. There is also a real community out there of people doing similar things. I would love to hear your thoughts, experiences and ideas in the comments!