The Single Shopping Trip Challenge

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I keep catching glimpses and mentions of people taking the No Plastic in July challenge.

NO plastic?

Could I do that? For a month?!

From where I sit, at this very moment, it strikes me that the keyboard I’m typing on is plastic.  Other plastic that I can see right now is the cover on my house thermostat, the pens in the cup on my desk, my daughters little treasure organizer, the baby’s jumper, the tray that holds my husband’s paints, the baby’s booster seat, the gate we use to block off the kitchen, 2 water bottles, the liner in the trash can, the alarm clock…….

That isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.  If I were to walk into the kitchen there would be countless more items made out of plastic that I use every day – several times a day.

No.  I could not live a month without plastic.  At least, not without going completely “off the grid,” which I’m not prepared to do at this point in my life.

When I read the actual challenge for myself it was a little less drastic than the complete elimination of plastic.  They are actually challenging people (Australians specifically, but I’m sure they wouldn’t object to a few of us crazy Yankees stepping up to the plate as well) to attempt to buy no single use disposable plastic in July for:

  • 1 shopping trip
  • 1 day
  • 1 week
  • 1 month

So thought about that – a single shopping trip.  And I was floored by the realization that I couldn’t do even that.  I wouldn’t be able to buy bread or milk or eggs or those really fabulous cookies they sell in the Meijer deli.

In our house, we re-use or recycle as much as possible, but that doesn’t change the fact that all of that plastic is being created.  Petroleum is being leached out of the earth – at what cost to the environment?  How much energy is needed to create all these plastic items?  How much is used, even to recycle them? How many of them end up in the landfill, or worse, on the side of the road somewhere or out in the ocean?

Earth Carers, the group that put this challenge out, has certainly opened my eyes to how very cavalier our society has become about the use of this product that is so harmful to our planet in so many ways.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t think all plastic is evil.  For certain things, especially medical uses, it’s an amazing, helpful creation.  But do we need SO MUCH?  I have been trying hard to think of ways to reduce, but I don’t have a lot of great ideas.

For example, I could buy bread from the bakery (wrapped in waxed paper instead of a plastic bag) but then I can’t get the fabulous organic spelt bread I’ve come to love.  I could bake my own every day but… well… there’s a reason it says “LAZY hippie mama” at the top of this page.  I’m just not that committed yet.

However, for the second day in a row, I find myself saying, “buying local makes more sense every day.”

If I buy from a local dairy (assuming I can find one) I can get milk, butter, etc in re-usable containers. (I’m told you can do this at Whole Foods Market as well, but we don’t have one of those near us.)  If I buy local produce it won’t be wrapped in plastic.  If I buy eggs from a local farmer I can have them put in a container I bring with me.  Not to mention all that local stuff is probably going to be of an infinitely better quality than the supermarket brands.

I really am curious… I know that some of you are far more experienced at the crunchy lifestyle than I am.  How do you reduce your plastic use?

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6 responses »

  1. One shopping trip without plastic – this is a new challenge for myself that I’d like to see if I can accomplish. Great post, and thanks for sharing!

  2. I’m so careful about recycling that I even put my toenail clippings in the compost pile. But not buying products encased in plastic? That’ll be a worthy challenge. And if I can’t avoid it entirely, at least I’ll try to be more aware. Thanks for another terrific earth-loving post.

  3. I actually wrote about this last fall…http://nuannaarpoq.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/household-hacks/

    My thing isn’t to eschew plastic all together, but to stop using disposable plastics as much as possible, to reuse those disposable plastics that I do end up with for as long as possible before recycling them, and to buy the nicer, longer-lasting (and biodegradable once it finally kicks the bucket) non-plastic alternative as it can be afforded, when the previous cheap plastic version breaks.

    Some of the highlights: buy stuff in cans or glass jars whenever possible, go to a butcher and request paper wrapped meats if they don’t use them already, buy bread at a bakery and BYO bag (paper or cloth), use wax paper, and foil instead of plastic wrap, take your own cloth bags for produce, use powdered detergents and bar soaps that are packaged come in boxes, try to choose the boxed option over the plastic, go no ‘poo for hair care. And…when you do end up with disposable plastics: buy big containers in bulk (I guarantee you can find a use for them) and refill a smaller container for use, also buy things in plastics you can easily reuse–yogurt containers= “tupperware”, bread bags=sandwich bags, dish soap containers=squirt guns and paint dispensers, etc. There is other stuff you can do, like make plarn or fuse plastics to make your own bags or even rain coats…but unless you are super-crafter, its probably not your thing!

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