Author Archives: Gina

Plastic Free Food Shopping

March 27th, 2011 | Posted by Gina in FOOD SHOPPING | PLASTIC FREE TIPS - (7 Comments)
One of the many benefits of living plastic free is healthier food choices. In general, wholesome natural foods are more often available in plastic free packaging than highly processed foods and buying takeaway isn’t really an option (with the exception of pizza). Whether you do your grocery shopping at supermarkets, independent food retailers, farmers markets, healthfood or organic stores, these following tips are easily applied:

Keep approx 5-10 re-usable bags in the boot of the car (or enough to carry twice your normal shopping in case you have a splurge one week), and a small fold up bag in your handbag so you’re never caught out needing a plastic carry bag. The main discipline here is to waltz the bags straight back out to your car as soon as you’ve taken the last item out so that you are never in the situation of needing a plastic carry bag.

Produce can be loosely purchased without the need for individual plastic bags.
When selecting fruit and vegetables, place them directly in the basket or shopping trolley. There is no need to place them in individual plastic bags, and checkout staff don’t seem to mind as long as you assist them by placing all items together eg all apples in a cluster, all kiwifruit in the next cluster and so on. If you don’t like the idea of loosely placing produce in the trolley, purchasing reusable produce cloth bags is another option.
It’s best to wash fruit and vege before eating. If I have time I do it all at once when I return from shopping using a large bowl of water and a vege scrubbing brush – plastic free coconut fibre brushes as well as other household cleaning brushes can be ordered from the Redecker range
If you are based in Melbourne CERES Environmental Park have a Fair Food program where you can order local organic produce boxes which are delivered to “Food Hosts” scattered around the city & suburbs. The food boxes don’t contain any plastic (unless you order any special additional shop items), and may offer you convenience if you are very busy and live or work near a Food Host. For more info

Nuts, seeds, oats, grains, legumes, pulses, beans, dried fruits and ready made muesli are regularly available in bulk buy and can be placed in paper bags from healthfood/organic stores, co-ops, and some farmers markets, but this does get a bit trickier to purchase plastic free from a supermarket. I have to travel close to 25 to 30km each way to reach a bulk buy place and I buy enough to last me a month or more so I don’t have to travel so often.

Elgaars yogurts are currently available throughout Tasmania and Victoria and are being distributed nation wide shortly. They come in different flavours and sizes and are housed in a glass jar with metal lid. They refund you 40 cents each time you return a jar to participating stores. As some facebook followers have mentioned – it is apparently quite easy to make your own yogurt too. I’ll be giving this a go for sure over the coming weeks!

Choosing to eat natural butter over highly processed margarine is a great way to avoid plastic containers. Eggs are in cardboard containers and many co-ops & healthfood stores welcome you returning empty ones for re-use. There are so many tin foods – seafood/fish, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, pulses etc. Thankfully most family sized chocloate bars are packaged in cardboard or paper & foil (yay!).

Milk is readily available in cartons and if you can see the carton labelled as “PurePak” made by Visy then this can definitely be recycled. If it is a “Tetrapak”, then you need to check if your council does recycle this or not but most do. Some companies such as Elgaars is selling milk the good old fashioned way – in glass bottles. Jams, honey, mayonnaises, tartare sauces, salsas, pickled/preserved foods such as gherkins, olives etc all have some brands that offer them in glass jars with metal lids and easily found at major supermarkets. There are also options to buy sparkling water, juices, sodas, wine, beer etc in glass, cartons or aluminum cans.

I have shaken and rattled almost every cereal box in the isles of supermarkets to ‘listen’ for a plastic free cereal (they do make a different sound!). The only one I have found is Uncle Toby’s Oats, and Uncle Toby’s Multigrain Oats.
You can use these oats for porridge, or to male your own muesli by adding dried fruit and nuts.
Some bulk buy places sell different varieties of cereal, which is a good option if you fill your empty cereal containers or paper bags with it.

Mmmm. . . crunchy peanut butter! Both crunchy and smooth peanut butter is available in a glass jar and metal lid from the Macro Organic range at Woolworths, and it’s only around $4 – great value. 😉

Sunrise on Channel 7 Australia’s number one breakfast show – March 2011.
A 4min feature discussing the reasons why and the guidelines for living 2011 as a Plastic Free Year.



ACF Habitat March 2011

March 1st, 2011 | Posted by Gina in MEDIA | PUBLISHED ARTICLES - (1 Comments)
Here’s my published article in ACF’s Habitat magazine (March issue) on A Plastic Free Year.
Published on the ACF Website in March.

I vow to live plastic free for a year (part 1)

A personal challenge.
By Gina Prendergast.

2010 was a great year for me. I landed a job I love, completed building my first house, met a wonderful well balanced guy (rare, I know!) and my family and friends are generally well and happy. I was brought to tears twice and both times I was watching images of how plastic is harming our world, partiacularly our oceans. Two documentaries The Garbage Patch (BBC, 2008) and A Sea Change (Niigii Films) brought my attention to the under-recognised yet ubiquitous issues facing our planet; plastic debris in our oceans and the devastating, biological impact of plastics on marine life and the human food chain. We are incredibly dependant on having a healthy ocean. I had to do something. So, inspired by the wise words of Gandhi I decided to be the change I want to see and vowed to attempt living a year without virgin plastic.

What is my challenge exactly? Here are the guidelines:

• Do not purchase or be gifted virgin plastic.
• If there is no virgin plastic free alternative to a product I need/want, I must try and source it secondhand/pre-loved, or purchase a post-consumer recycled plastic or plant based alternative.
• If I do (unwillingly) purchase or be gifted virgin plastic, I must keep it for the entire year – no plastic is to enter the waste stream (even the recycling bin). At the end of the year, this plastic will be weighed to determine my plastic footprint for 2011.

Not a lot of planning went into this. I figured the best way to start was do just that, hopeful the right information and resources come my way at the right time (I’m a master at wishful thinking).
The first week of the challenge was a bit emotional. I hadn’t until this point realised how much I enjoyed yogurt, cereals and relied on the scrummy breads in the freezer packaged in plastic. I looked longingly at my moisterisers and cosmetics not quite sure if I could find plastic-free replacements.
In the second week I went to Indonesia for two weeks. I was accepted into ACF’s The Climate Project Asia-Pacific Summit, held in Jakarta. I cancelled my in-flight meals to avoid using plastic cutlery (I couldn’t take my own knife and fork on the plane for terrorist fears). My big concern was buying drinking water housed in plastic bottles, but on arrival I was delighted to discover the airport and my hotel had free drinking water to fill my stainless steel drinking bottle. It was only when I was traveling cross country by bus, train and ferry to Bali that I had no alternative but to by 2×1.5 litre water bottles. In addition to a few straws that had accompanied fresh fruit juices I brought the bottles home with me to be kept for the year. These babies can not enter the waste stream!
Back home in Melbourne has become a joyous, satisfying time. I have begun to find absolute happiness in the most simple of things, like discovering Elgaar’s organic yogurt served in a glass jar with a metal lid. I am literally smiling ear to ear from this discovery!
Honey has been easily found in the same manner and some toughie’s like purchasing hair conditioner has became a reality when visiting CERES Environmental Park (Melbourne) where I can fill my empty honey jars with bulk buy organic conditioner. I can also purchase oats, nuts and dried fruits in paper bags to make my own muesli as well as fresh baked bread.

Not consuming plastic means I have to be more organised and the added benefits of this challenge include my healthier food choices. Natural wholesome foods tend to have less plastic packaging than processed foods. I’m consuming less and my wallet loves it.
Friends are stepping up to the challenge. At my ‘Plastic Free Birthday Picnic’ we used china plates, glasses and utensils and my (unasked for) gifts were plastic free and wrapped in tea towels and ribbon to avoid tape.
My next challenge is finding a plastic free razor before I gain the reputation of being a hairy hippy!