After a week of going plastic free, I can begin to explain the amazing change that we were able to make in just a short period of time. Our trash and recycling has reduced significantly and we’re make much more conscious decisions about what to eat and where to get it from.
A lot of the lifestyle in Barcelona already leads to be be less wasteful. Most apartment are equipped with washing machines, but not dryers and everyone is used to using drying racks to manage their laundry.
Almost all supermarkets and stores charge you if you would like to receive a plastic bag with your purchase and encourages you to bring your own bags. And I’ve been bringing own bags to the supermarket since 2006 when I was studying abroad in London. And to this day I still use the same bag for the supermarket.
If I’m caught without out and I purchase a bag at the store, I reuse it as a garbage bag for our bathroom. So it will absolutely always get a second life. If not a third.
But despite the small things that we already do to reduce, reuse and recycle, Alex and I felt that our waste situation was getting way too out of hand. So we challenged ourselves to our first week without using plastic, as a start. Our next step will be to cut down on paper products.
Here are ten tips that helped us to be successful this past week:
Don’t purchase unnecessary items just to go plastic free
My first thought this week was how am I going to handle this challenge when going to the fruit stand and the supermarket. I went to amazon and immediately started looking up products that I could buy to bring products home after doing our grocery shopping.
Then I had a second thought. This doesn’t have to be costly to be effective. I have many reusable bags, I just need to take them and a tupperware with me and all the problems are solved. Being plastic free shouldn’t be expensive.
Recycle and reuse any glass packaging
Personally I like buying items packaged in glass because I love reusing the containers. I don’t like the ideal of buying a million mason jars just to be able to store your food. Why not use the jars that you already have at home.
They are high quality and with just a little work you can remove the labels and make them feel like new.
Tip for removing the labels: Grab your blow dryer and heat the label for a few minutes, the label will usually peel right off. And if you have any residue left grab a rough sponge and clear off the rest.
At some point you may have too many containers, so it’s worth keeping control of this. Buy only what you need.
Be willing to go to smaller, local store
At home we treat cooking like being Michelin Star chef, so there was no big change for us in going to many stores to find the items that we want.
We love our neighborhood because it affords us the opportunity to shop locally for many items not commonly found in the supermarket and without packaging.
Because we generally shop in smaller stores it is much easier to find plastic free products or ask to receive your goods without plastic.
If you can’t find stores in your area, just do a quick google search. It’s likely that someone has already done the research for you.
Don’t throw out your current plastic
Part of going plastic free for us was not to create additional waste. We still ate the things we have in the house that have plastic. We just didn’t replace them with new ones.
We also will keep all durable plastic items (toothbrushes, tupperware, cooking utensils, etc.)
The point is not to get rid of everything in the house that is plastic, but to make sure things are more durable.
It is a grave misconception that this means creating more waste by throwing away everything that doesn’t comply.
Take the time to do the shopping
Going waste free or zero plastic like we did, will absolutely add to the time you need to do the shopping.
Living in a larger city made this easier for us. If you want to make the difference there is not doubt that you need to put in extra effort.
If this is not your case, make sure you plan ahead so you don’t get caught without time and options. And at least if you do find yourself in a bind, be inventive with your meals and you can still make it.
Try to find things as close to your home as possible to ensure that you will sick with you plans to go plastic free.
Everything is accomplishable if you have a plan
Thinking ahead about our favorite foods and how to find them plastic free.
Walking around our neighborhood gave us the opportunity to seek our new places to shop where we could find the products that we wanted without the single use plastic.
We used this information to make a plan for what we want to purchase and were vigilant in sticking with it.
Alex and I made a date with each other to do the shopping together so that we could keep each other honest and on track.
Always carry a reusable bag. Usually we end up shopping when we least expect it and might find ourselves without what we need. I have a small shopping bag and reusable water bottle with me.
At work we have a full kitchen where I have utensils ready to go. In the past I would carry my own set of cutlery in a small case that I never would have to waste plastic utensils.
I have two small reusable plastic bottles for olive oil and vinegar. And I even carry a pair of wooden chopsticks with me for if we get sushi and I don’t have to waste throw away pairs.
Don’t be afraid to ask to hold the plastic
You might feel a bit embarrassed at first to ask for your goods without plastic. But after a week of doing this I can tell you that people were more impressed at the effort we were making than we could have imagined.
They applauded our efforts and make the changes necessary to help us reach out goal.
Don’t be afraid of how you think people will respond. In the end they might just end up surprising you.
Don’t settle just to be plastic free
Another reason you might not achieve your goals will be if you just accept the non-plastic items and don’t put in the effort to find what you really want and need.
Settling will make you complacent and in the end might make you switch back to what you were doing previously.
It’s okay to switch up your eating habits until you find what you want. But keep a look out always for your favorite things so you won’t feel like you are making a greater sacrifice than you need to be making.
Don’t over purchase just to find plastic free items
My last piece of advice is not to purchase just for the sake of purchasing. It can be heartbreaking to go into a supermarket and find that there are very few things that you can purchase there.
Use it as a lesson to find new places to shop.
Don’t over purchase items in glass bottles and infinite amounts of veggies that you can’t consume before they go bad.
I hope I was able to give you some good advice and inspire you to go plastic free. I’ll keep updating the blog with our journey. I hope you’ll keep going along with us. Here about why we decide to go plastic free here.
You might also be interested in these posts:
- Plastic free home: Tips for making your home a no plastic zone
- Zero waste swaps for manageable new habits
- A greener kitchen: 5 easy and cheap switches