Here’s my published article in ACF’s Habitat magazine (March issue) on A Plastic Free Year.
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!