I have officially been plastic free (give or take one or two items in my shoebox collection) for an entire week. Despite a fear of sounding like an AA announcement, I do consider this as a pretty great accomplishment, especially seeing the sheer amount of plastic that plagues the consumer market. Still, this achievement has not come easily. I don’t enjoy sounding like a broken record whenever I have to explain the reasons to why I can’t buy that packet of crisps or chocolate bar I really, really want. Thinking about it, this would be a very good challenge for anyone wishing to cut back on bad snacking habits!
Despite relative success, I am starting to question whether cutting back on some of my favourite things is worth it? What can I actually achieve? I remain quite muddled in this sense, however, I hope my standing-point becomes clearer as the weeks pass. Taking advice from the experiences of plastic-free advocates and also sceptics, I hope that I can shed light on whether plastic-free living is worth its sacrifices.
So what have I learnt so far?
I have realised that my love for shopping has extended to this challenge and I need to be more careful in the way I approach these additional costs. In true honour of this challenge, it would make sense to re-use as much as I can and so in any instance where I already own a suitable item, I will try my best to fight temptation and not purchase an alternative. This goes the same for not buying into every wonder product I see on websites or on my Instagram feed. I do realise that I am just one person and even a small change is a huge achievement in reducing my plastic-footprint. Looking at the bigger picture, this current spending should save me money in the long run, as I can continue to reuse these products for potentially years to come. The initial spend is understandably daunting, but I am interested to see where this challenge goes and if it is worth investing into.
Looking back on the first week of this challenge I am faced with a dilemma. Do I continue to purchase a new alternative every/other month to slowly eliminate plastic products, where and when I can? Sure, this will allow me to budget for my new eco-savvy spending habits, whilst pleasing my new plastic-free mentality. Or am I simply buying into another consumerist trap, believing that my most recent purchases will change the world when politicians and business owners who hold the power refuse to incite real change? This may seem like a pessimistic turn to my otherwise positive outlook, but it is easy to become engrossed in the passion of this challenge without taking time to look into the opposing arguments. This week I definitely and unknowingly, became engrossed in this challenge. It required taking the time to sit and write this, to question what I will get out of this challenge and more importantly to what extent does the environment reap the rewards of my efforts? I aim to ask myself this question with every plastic-free decision I make.
HIGHs and LOWs
A positive outcome of this challenge so far is the feeling I receive from finally taking action and changing my habits. It might sound strange but I have really enjoyed refusing plastic and taking a stand with every purchase, for something I am passionate about. I am well aware that this novelty could wear off very soon so I will enjoy it while I can.
A definitive low point during this week has been an increasing awareness that the majority of items I have gone to reach for, have a film of plastic around it – marking that really enticing packet of sweets out of bounds. It is also clear that I cannot completely eradicate plastic, as it is the case that there are simply not enough eco-products to provide an alternative to every household item. This realisation presented a moment of clarity and time to exhale a sigh of relief, as I know now that even the most committed to a plastic-free lifestyle cannot entirely eradicate this material from their existence. I understand that I am not a perfect machine and this makes me feel much better about when I eventually cave into a sweet treat and that is okay… because I am only human.
OUTLOOK FOR WEEK 2
Despite a realistic turn of opinion, I continue with a positive outlook towards the week ahead. I enter into my final weeks as an office assistant and I am working every weekday this month. This gives me the opportunity to practice some plastic-free lunches and experiment with what I can produce from my fridge, instead of buying a tempting Tesco meal deal which lies just moments away from the office window.
In my enthusiastic haste, there are a few products I have already purchased ready for review and so one or two of these should be ready to post in the next week. These will hopefully provide a better idea of what I’ve been doing and a clear understanding of what ‘worth-your-while’ options are available for people to try. I would also like to research and write a post to help improve my own understanding of plastics and contribute an easy to read guide on what we can recycle and what we cant. This will hopefully provide some background into why plastics are so harmful and the reasons behind my taking on this challenge. I hope that by focusing on some basic changes rather than a huge and pricey overhaul, whilst improving my understanding of the issues around plastic, can help to determine where I land on the scale of debate.
A blog which has opened my eyes to the need to keep a wide and balanced perspective when reducing your waste is ‘The Zero Waster’. I will continue to keep this realistic mindset with me during this challenge, especially when tempted with the many inventions and novelties of the eco/organic market.