last year in july, i jumped on this whole notion of “plastic free july” thanks to my cousin’s inspiring instagram posts (shout out to brittney). i had just watched “a plastic ocean” on netflix and literally found myself bawling and distraught over the whole thing. immediately, i called my husband in tears saying we would be going plastic free. we all know the status of plastic in our oceans and we’ve all probably seen the pictures of birds with guts full of plastic. my heart was broken and i could blame nobody but myself. i had to do something about changing my ways of consumption so i immediately stopped buying things in plastic. plastic free july was a fun challenge that quickly grew into a tiring endeavor. but i was motivated and when i set a goal, i accomplish it as perfectly as i can with my perfectionist personality. after taking on the plastic free july challenge, i couldn’t just go back to my old ways. i have seen too much, learned to much, and felt so much better about how i was living in modern society. it takes extra time and research, but once you find your routine and things that work for you, it’s a very rewarding experience.
when i began my journey, i started at the grocery store. what’s the first thing you see when you walk into whole foods? STRAWBERRIES! those beautifully bright red juicy bulbs stare me down every-single-time i go grocery shopping. i love berries but they always come in plastic bins. i couldn’t even buy them frozen for my smoothies. how could i be healthy without berries? but then again, do we really need fresh fruit all year around in every single time zone? (a possible rant for another post)… one cool thing about the valley i live in, is the good ‘ol roaring fork swap group on facebook. to my surprise, i quickly found a local woman selling organic strawberries right down the street from my CSA! weekly, i would get most of my shopping done at whole foods, then stop by her house before going to my CSA. with my glass container in hand, she would fill me up with the tastiest strawberries and raspberries freshly picked that morning! not only was i able to get my strawberries, but i got to see her beautiful property, play with her adorable pups, walk through her garden as we picked other veggies together and she would surprise me with little treats she made. even though i would spend $2 more than i would at the store, i developed a relationship with a local farmer, making the fruits taste that much sweeter.
the next issue was meat. yes, i am a grass-fed/organic/free-range meat eater… but buying meat usually comes in plastic. so i started bringing my glass jars to the butcher to get the meat from behind the counter. but then i started to think about where this meat even came from? could i trust it’s sources and how big of a carbon footprint am i making? so i stopped buying meat at the butcher and now we only eat bison from a local rancher whom we know. albeit, the meat is packaged in plastic and that is a regulation ranchers must abide by. i briefly considered veganism but that was fleeting. i am an athlete and even though i watched “Game Changers” i feel like my body needs a small amount of animal protein. SO yes we make an exception and we eat meat wrapped in plastic – but – we have dramatically cut back on our consumption to 2-3 lbs a week between 2 people. this is enough to give us the nutrients our bodies need.
i became that girl at the grocery store with all the glass jars for the bulk items. EVERY SINGLE TIME i go grocery shopping, i get a compliment on the jars. people love it – the cashiers maybe not so much. i weigh all my glass jars at home, put a sticker on them with the tare, and always make sure to bring enough when i go shopping. i even treated myself to a new canvas tote that has pockets to hold the glass jars so they don’t clank together daring to break. honestly this is 100% better than dealing with those flimsy plastic bags that would tear and spill lentils all over the conveyor belt (yes this happened). and since they were already in the glass jars when i got home, i wouldn’t have to mess with trying to pour wild rice into a pot of boiling water with a flimsy plastic bag, getting rice everywhere. PLUS, everything stores nicely in my refrigerator (and looks tidy)! unfortunately, the bulk section at whole foods here only offers so much. but when i visit family in longmont, they have an amazing bulk store where i can get so much more! now, when i head to the front range, i make it a point to stop by the bulk stores there to stock up on oils, soaps, and everything else i can’t get here.
there will still be things that i cannot get locally and must be ordered online. the biggest thing in our house is salt. we must have quality salts in our diet and we reason this is an exception. we buy the largest bag of salt we can from a reputable source and it will last us several months. shopping online is so easy and convenient, but we are making better efforts not to do so and buy everything we can locally. we still struggle with amazon packages. somethings just must be ordered online – given our remote location. unfortunately, amazon sends items in plastic bags (and if not in bags, in boxes with plastic bubble films) that has a recycling symbol on it that says “return to store”. while it makes you feel ok since there’s a recycling symbol on is – the reality is, no stores around here accept them and the recycling center can’t take them. SO we are collecting all of these “recyclables” and plan to send them back to amazon – we just hope amazon will dispose of them properly. check and see if there is a place near you that will acutally take your amazon “return to store” packaging (and let me know so i can send mine to you). you can follow this link and put in your zip code to see. it will give you a list of possible locations. call them to be sure. also, when you buy from amazon, try to make one big purchase so it is all delivered together or choose to deliver on your amazon delivery day.
the last thing i will mention about foods … JOIN A CSA! seriously it’s really cool to meet your local farmers who are working night and day to provide nutritious organic produce. from spring to fall, we drive to the farm and get a large share of vegetables for the week. and if you can, try and grow your own stuff! i am working hard to plan and save up for a vegetable garden of my own. if you don’t have the space outside, get creative with your walls and shelves inside. some people in LA are getting really fancy with their indoor growing systems. find inspiration on pinterest or instagram. there are ways! and if you really must buy things from the store, just buy things without packaging. it’s really that simple. when you learn how to cook using basic ingredients, you will appreciate your food that much more and feel good about yourself. plus, buying things not in packages WILL SAVE YOU MONEY!
one of the coolest parts about this whole mission was building a compost bin with the hubby. we used to collect our food scraps to be brought to the landfill and composted, but the trips to the landfill with stinky waste in the car was not a pleasant ride. we now had the space to build our own bin and compost our own food. and since we knew we would be building a vegetable garden in the spring, having the extra compost would only add to the life of our soil. now we are able to walk 30 yards from our kitchen door and dump our scraps of food into a bin that will turn our compost into food for our soil. ahhh the circle of life is so rewarding. if you don’t have the means to build a compost bin yourself, there are companies that will come collect your compost right from your curbside! and if you can’t find that, i guarantee there is a place you can bring your compost to. call your local landfill. consult google. don’t be lazy. here, let me help you.
the last part about my plastic-free mission was to not see plastic or advertisements in my home – so i upgraded my essentials. beginning in the bathroom – i stopped buying disposable razors and got a metal safety razor. i changed my soap, shampoo and conditioner over to bars (that was a process), i made my own lotions (careful not to buy the ingredients in plastic), i even changed over to a reusable q-tip! (still not sold on this idea). i went as far as to stop buying toilet paper – but quickly changed my mind on that idea. so we make sure our toilet paper is made of recycled paper and doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. as a woman, i have found a process that works for me when aunt flow visits. menstrual cups and thinx underwear! let me know if you have questions. after i felt my bathroom situation was up to par, i moved onto the kitchen. really the only thing there was dish soap containers and scrubbers. i replaced our scrubbers with natural loofahs that are biodegradable and our dish soap is watered down dr. bronners. another exception that comes in plastic. i haven’t been able to work around this. it is something you can get in bulk in major cities but we just buy the largest tub we can and that has almost lasted us a year. we will reuse the bottle somehow. i already make my own cleaning solution (literally 1-1 water and white vinegar with a splash of everclear and lots of essential oils – i like to use lemon and eucalyptus). we began making our own windshield fluid. we stopped using paper towels and just use reusable dish rags (this one was hard for my husband). i now make my own almond milk, almond flour, nut butters, and granola. you can really find plastic-free alternatives to anything. seriously, google is my bible.
now i know i’m not perfect, hence this is my “low-waste” lifestyle. i still purchase recyclables in glass which are heavy and can have a large carbon footprint. i still have to buy things like batteries and light bulbs that have their own needs for recycling. but i strive to be more sustainable in every way. i purchase used clothing – always trying to opt for more sustainable materials. buying used isn’t always easy but it is the first step in finding something you feel you need. if you can’t make it yourself or find it used, buy it new but buy it local and from materials that are not toxic to you or the environment. find sustainable sourced goods. and if you must throw something away, try to re purpose it. or sell it. or give it away. if it’s still of no use, recycle it if possible, then trash it. but don’t let the trash be your mindless pit of throw aways. take a visit to your local landfill. look at the mounds of crap and recognize your contributions. learn about composting. know what can be recycled and how to do it properly. put in the effort and you will feel so much better knowing your impact on this planet you call home.
please reach out to me with questions, comments, tips, tricks, or concerns. thanks for reading!