Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The plastic-free challenge - part 5

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
Two weeks ago we wrapped up the fourth week in the plastic-free challenge. What have we learned in the past four weeks of trying to reduce the single-use plastic? :-)
The plastic-free challenge - part 5
The plastic-free challenge - part 5

But first; how much plastic waste has been reduced in the last month?

Before starting the challenge, our "average" household plastic waste weighed 2,1 kilos. 

The last bag in the plastic-free challenge weighed 301 grams. In total, we have generated 1,1 kilo of plastic waste!

We're somewhat proud of reducing almost 50% of the single-use plastic. A reduction of one kilo might not seem much right now, but it will in the long run if we keep up the good work :-)
Week 4: Our plastic waste  - plastic-free challenge
Week 4: Our plastic waste

What have we learned?

The plastic-free challenge has certainly made us more conscious about how much plastic we generate in the house. We're only two in the household, so think about how much plastic waste a family of four generates!

Every week we have been keeping tabs on what kind of single-use plastics we introduce in the house. This has helped us focus on areas where we can shop smarter and better. Lettuce, pasta, cheese and meat are all regular culprits.

At first, it was frustrating walking into a grocery store with the focus on shopping plastic-free. Both of us would just stare at the shelves, glancing at the products and mumbling "holy crap". Instead, we visited Turkish grocery stores where you'll find lots of bulk veggies. We chose mostly products without plastic packaging, but avoided chocolate, chips, ice cream and even meat the first week.

Afterwards, we went easier on ourselves. Sure, we wanted to take the challenge seriously, but sacrificing our regular Friday night with chips and chocolate... I mean, that would take the fun out of the challenge. It'd be all work, and no play. And my boyfriend who loves BBQ - should he skip the meat entirely because it's wrapped in plastic?
zero-packaging supermarket in Berlin - Original Unverpackt
A zero-packaging supermarket in Berlin - Original Unverpackt

We live in Oslo where the selection of bulk and zero-waste products is pretty discouraging, for the time being. There are a few shops here and there, but it requires lots of traveling between different neighborhoods. Time that we don't have. I miss a store that has it all! Not just bulk vegetables, but also everyday living stuff, like the store I visited in Berlin last week (Original Unverpackt).

Going plastic-free can be expensive (unless you're a vegan)

We saved money on certain bulk products, like vegetables, nuts, seeds and laundry detergent. Bulk cheese and meat on the other hand is more expensive than the regular plastic versions, at least here in Norway. Even with a decent salary, we can't afford the bulk versions every week. Maybe once a month, but that't pretty much it.

Some things will never be zero-plastic

I'm talking about my medicines, unless I outgrow my allergies and develop some kind of superhero health and don't get any headaches or stomach pains. Our personal habits are also a problem. Both of us use Swedish tobacco, which unfortunately, hikes up the plastic waste. In case you're wondering... none of us is considering quitting. Not yet, at least ;-)

Our steps to plastic-free living

Shopping: every time we went grocery shopping, we brought reusable shopping bags, reusable produce bags and a few containers. With this super plastic-free kit, we reduced the amount of plastic bags in the house. In fact, we were starting to run out of plastic bags in week three and ironically, had to purchase some for our residual waste. It was a shitty day.

Kitchen: harvesting kale, lettuce, swiss chard, carrots and radishes from our vegetable gardens, have definitely reduced the plastic waste :-) Learning that lettuce always comes with plastic packaging at ordinary grocery stores, we will definitely look into growing lettuce indoors.
Harvesting white satin carrots
Harvesting white satin carrots

Read: A newbie's guide to planning an urban vegetable garden.

Gardening glossary from A-Z.

Otherwise, we have bought lots of bulk vegetables, oat flakes, nuts and seeds. We also found a place where we can buy bulk cherries. And later this month, we're going to forage for wild berries :-) Pick lots of berries and then freeze them in containers.

Since we baked a lot (read: my better half baked), we didn't buy one single bread during the challenge. Another thing I'm proud of is the home-made sandwich spreads: kale pesto, sun dried tomato pesto, vegan cream cheese and nutella spread.
Home-made sandwich spreads and round breads. Here with vegan salami.
Home-made sandwich spreads and round breads. Here with vegan salami.

As major consumers of popsicles, we decided to make them from scratch. Making popsicles was much easier than I thought, and you can add whatever you want in the mix!

Bee's wrap was a success in the kitchen and we'll continue to use it as an reusable alternative to plastic wrap.

Bathroom: Making hand soap was also very easy to make, and instead of buying a new bottle of liquid laundry detergent, we filled up the old bottle with a bulk version. There's this one awesome store in downtown that sells bulk fabric softener, shampoo, hand soap and more. Fortunately, the store is pretty close to where I work, which makes it easier for me to stop by and refill old bottles :-)

As an alternative to regular menstrual pads that contain plastic, I use Natracare's sanitary pads that are plastic-free, biodegradable and compostable. I could have used a menstrual cup, but frankly, I'm not quite there yet ;-)

Living room: instead of receiving paper magazines in plastic wrapping, I chose the electronic version :-) It was a quick e-mail to the company and they replied the next day, saying that it was not a problem. We live in an electronic world these days, so your favorite magazine should also be available online.

Continue to read:
The Plastic-free July challenge - ways of reducing plastic in your everyday living.

Crash course to eco-labels.

Eco-conscious living in the city - where to start?

Have your say about what you just read :)

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