I tried to go plastic-free for one week and oh my god, the struggle
Weekly shop? Yeah, good luck, mate.
Plastic is everywhere. We know this. It is not a shock.
It's in our supermarkets, it's in our streets, it's in our fish when they swallow it because people keep dumping their shit in the ocean.
There is no escape, and while it's going to be a few years yet before single-use plastic is entirely no more (2021, wha?), there is no harm in imagining what a plastic-free world might look like today.
Or rather, trying to live a plastic-free life in a world that has not yet rid itself of plastic.
(*Disclaimer: this challenge focused on items that were made of or included single-use plastic, ie: plastic that was not made to be reused. Think straws, grocery packaging, bottles, plastic film etc.
It did not include reusable plastic such as lunch boxes and water filter bottles, ie: plastic that can be used multiple times and also that I already owned.)
The challenge was primarily going to concern food and drink. This I knew, I was ready for it.
I had strategically purchased the majority of my weekly shop prior to the challenge to ensure that I actually had significant food to cook myself and to bring to work for lunch every day.
Calculated? Sure. Cheating? Absolutely not.
Day 1 and 2 pretty much went off without a hitch. Had I not prepared though, I would have found myself plagued by vegetables awkwardly packaged in plastic, pasta that I could not consume, and Moojus that would tragically never be drank.
What I did buy previously had been removed from its packaging before the week started so, you know, got around that mild obstacle anyway I had to.
I cooked my bare, naked food, crammed it into my lunch boxes, and went to work as normal. Didn't need to buy anything else, didn't need to interact with any plastic.
It was, essentially, very doable.
The true struggle came on Day 3 when I tried to buy lunch from the shop around the corner from work.
I rocked up at a solid 2.49pm which meant that, of course, the deli counter was closed. Normally this would not have been much of an issue, but this week as I struggled to stay away from plastic, it was.
Here is a comprehensive list of things I could not buy for my lunch in the shop because each and every one of them contained plastic:
- Soda bread
- Cup of noodles
- Pasta ready meal
- Prepackaged sandwich/wrap
- Some sort of Spanish omelette thing that was an extortionate price but actually looked alright
Basically, anything that would actually be mildly satisfying was off-limits.
In the end I broke my let's not spend a stupid amount of money on lunch today rule and went to the un-ironically hipster cafe next door and dropped €7.50 on a dry falafel wrap.
The next day presented challenges of its own as I joined the rest of the Her team on an in-office hen do.
As with most traditional hen parties that happen on work premises, there were disposable cups, plates, and party memorabilia - none of which contained any plastic. However, there were also straws shaped like penises, which did.
The penis straw is an enigma in itself (why is it humorous and also normal to sip an alcoholic beverage out of male genitalia?), but it is also almost always made exclusively out of plastic.
Would I have succumbed to the dick had one been made out of paper, or even metal? Who can truly say for sure?
The point is that I actively avoided the plastic one and did not accidentally end up with it placed gingerly between my lips at any point during the night. Unlike the previous eco-friendly night out challenge I had set myself a few weeks back, I did not fall at the straw hurdle.
I have learned from my mistakes.
Day 5 (Friday) came and went without much incident (apart from a near miss by a particularly delicious looking bottle of water in the midst of a hangover), but with the arrival of the weekend came an abundance of new problems.
For one, attending a day festival featuring many samples of food stuffs and delicious health-based liquids is hardly worth it when most of the freebies are presented in tiny, single-use plastic cups that you'd hardly get a shot out of, never mind a decent drink.
Plastic was everywhere - in the bins, on the ground, in the hands of people who are desperate for you to try their raw vegan paleo coconut protein ball... And you, who is desperate to eat it.
Small relief came when I caved (for the fourth time) and tried to buy a bottle of water and found that the only brand being sold on site was Just Water - 500ml of refreshing goodness that came in a paper-based carton and plant-based cap.
Set me back a whole €3.00 but hey, what're you gonna do?
Day 7 (Sunday) is probably not even worth mentioning as it was an entire failure.
I spent most of my time on a long haul flight where the literal only option for water was to drink it from a plastic cup... or from the tap in the airplane bathroom.
I, of course, gave in for fear of honest to God dehydrating in seat 17G on the way to Miami. Not an ideal scenario, but one that simply begged to be experienced in the face of near and certain death.
So, overall what did we learn?
The predominant point of interest seems to be that purchasing and consuming liquids on the go while simultaneously trying to avoid plastic is hard. Like, really hard.
Sure, if you've got a bottle and some clean drinking water on hand, the world is your oyster. Fill her up and you're ready to go.
But if you're out and about, at an outdoor event, somewhere you're not familiar with, or stuck on a plane, your options are limited.
The same goes for trying to get a few cheap bits in the shop for lunch, buying a pack of mushrooms in the local supermarket, or simply just trying to live your life.
But hey, the good news is paper penis straws do exist.
During May, Her will be doing some more #ConsciousBits.
Over the month, we'll be learning how to re-use more than we buy, examining the sheer amount of waste the planet produces, and considering the many, many benefits of sustainable fashion choices.
We'll also be chatting to some people who have made sustainability a priority, while setting ourselves a few environmentally conscious challenges along the way.
Change is daunting and we're not perfect, but we can always try to do our bit. Our conscious bit.
Want to get in touch? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.