I won’t lie, shopping plastic free can be challenging. Last night Sarah and I had a conversation about the differences in our shopping habits. She feels as though I try hard to purchase all the things we did before starting life without plastic. Sarah’s approach is quite different – she has just accepted there are things that are really hard to get without plastic, and has managed to cut them out of her life (or make delicious homemade versions – mayonnaise and crackers come top of mind) .
There are certainly pro’s and con’s to each method. The most obvious pro for Sarah’s theory is that she has accumulated ZERO plastic, with the exception of things that have been given to her. This is very impressive, if my math is correct Sarah has gone no less than 71 days without collecting any plastic – an accomplishment to be sure (one she doesn’t mind rubbing in my face when the opportunity arises).
But I have felt from the start of the project that if we change our life completely – depriving ourselves of things we like – we will have a really hard time convincing others to live plastic free. So I continue to challenge myself to get things that we used to eat at the grocery store – think cheese, seafood, bread and cookies to name a few. I have had some great successes, but as our plastic bin will attest, I have also had some giant failures – plastic coated butcher paper, and some plastic wrap from a cheese incident I’d rather not talk about (it was a bit of a scene…)
For me, its all part of the thrill of the hunt. I enjoy going around to small businesses, telling them what we are trying to do, and really hope that they will accommodate my sometimes difficult requests. Its fun because it has opened my eyes to businesses I would have never thought to visit before, and I like to think that by engaging in conversations around reducing plastic we are making some real change. Its a whole new way of enjoying life – no longer do we just go to the supermarket and buy everything without interaction. We buy our breads from a bakery, our meat and seafood comes from some very knowledgeable butchers, and our veggies from the small green grocers around the city. It is the way I always dreamed of shopping, the way I think we used to do it.
But lets be honest, there isn’t always time for such a romantic version of shopping. And folks I promise you that it is when I rush, when I go without a plan, that plastic mistakes happen. I seem to have about one of these meltdowns a month (I know two months – a small sample size), but they are times when I don’t want the thrill, I just need to get something, and I need to get it now. This was the case mid-February when Sarah’s birthday rolled around. We had planned an elaborate fondue potluck, and preparation was going great until day off when I needed cheese. I had to run, the clock was ticking, and I planned for a one-stop shop – its all time would allow for. So I went to a business that is usually quite good for plastic-free stuff, and began my shop. First on the list – cream cheese, we had bought it before and it was fine, so I added it to the basket (only to discover when I got home that name-brand cream cheese has a plastic layer under the cheese). Then to the deli for the aforementioned cheese escapade that ended in both a scene and a plastic wrapping on the cheese (pretty sure I said I can’t have plastic 35 times). Lastly some olive oil – a planned plastic purchase, but plastic none the less. Upon arriving home I had more than doubled our plastic bin, all in one trip – all because I didn’t have time to hunt.
The take away messages are these – the thrill of the hunt is great, so long as its a hunt you want. Also plastic-free shopping is dangerous when you don’t have a plan. Bring your bags, your containers and your wits every time you plan to go shopping, you’ll need them all!