By Deanne Jones
Human behaviour is fascinating and complex. How do habits form? and/or what changes behaviours?
Research suggests convenience and social pressure are key factors in changing and/or forming habits. Others claim influences such as a personal story, a documentary, an experience travelling or a photo strike a chord within to bring about change. I believe it can be quite personal and include a range of factors that vary from one person to the next. Or maybe life just gets in the way or we simply don’t know better?
For me, being conscious about the environment has always been a big part of my life from being responsible for emptying the compost as a child to trying to be an eco-conscious mumma to my kidlets. But I must admit, I found myself perplexed embarking on the ‘Plastic free July’ challenge this year…
Day to Day
I endeavour to be a conscious consumer buying local, organic and ethical within my means and where possible on a day to day basis. I have also considered packaging and have replaced cling wrap for beeswax wraps, buy veggies in a veg box, pack my daughter’s lunch in a nude food lunch box, have a reusable coffee cup, take reusable bags when shopping and use aluminium straws.
This challenge however, astounded me! Plastic is EVERYWHERE!!! Doing an inventory on the plastic that is part of my life was overwhelming and initially shocked me into inaction. Where do I start and and how do I fit it into my busy lifestyle? From packaging on cheese and tofu to bread ties and shampoo bottles, plastic has become such a big part of our lives! BUT, it hasn’t always been the case! Plastic has only been a big part of our life since the 1960s so is still relatively new. This made me think…what did previous generations do and how can we overcome this obsession with the plastic…and ultimately simplify our lives.
“Plastic has only been a big part of our life since the 1960s so is still relatively new. This made me think…what did previous generations do and how can we overcome this obsession with the plastic”
Planning, research and motivation
I came to realise, for me, it is all about planning, research and having the motivation to follow it through. I started to follow ‘The Rogue Ginger’ (Erin Rhoad’s) blog and Facebook page and was recently gifted her book “Waste Not” from my very supportive partner. I also saw her talk at my local neighbour house. Her experience resonated with me as she wanted to revert back to what was done back in the day before dreaded plastics entered our lives. She came up with/ adapted recipes for make-up and cleaning products, she grows her own veggies and composts and also supports plastic free companies trying to do their bit. She is a mum too and is time poor, just like me!
“I came to realise, for me, it is all about planning, research and having the motivation to follow it through.”
I decided to get the wheels in motion and on Erin’s suggestion, started to note down on a piece of paper (which is hanging on my fridge) the items that have plastic and then research the alternatives. The CERES Plastic Free July Facebook page was also a wonderful research tool to ask questions and observe what others have found on their journey, and it is super supportive.
Start small and build up
To make it achievable, I decided to start with a few items and slowly build to the other areas of my life. My kids and I made a tooth paste/ powder in a glass jar, newspaper bin liners (and downsized my bin), a citrus multi purpose spray and our own rice crackers. I also purchased a cutlery wrap (that stores a knife, fork, spoon, chop sticks, straw and a napkin) to carry around with me and have added an empty container to my bag alongside my coffee cup, water bottle and fold up bag. A bread bag too was purchased to pick up fresh bread from the local bakery (saving at least 52 plastic bread bags and tags for the year)!
Having the tools and being prepared is key! One of my most exciting actions was taking my containers to our local Middle Eastern restaurant for them to fill rather than all the plastic take-away containers. They were so happy to oblige and were very encouraging of my journey! In addition, ‘The Rogue Ginger’ also mentions that it is important to avoid environmental guilt, don’t be too hard on yourself, don’t force it on others and make it fun! I think these are all wonderful tips on this rewarding journey.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, don’t force it on others and make it fun!”
I would also add, do it with a supportive friend/partner or group and give yourself time to plan. Admittedly, I started the journey midway through July and it has taken a while to process so I will continue to build on it slowly over the coming months (it doesn’t have to be just July) – my goal is to move towards the bulk purchase of staple food items (pasta, cous cous, rice etc).
Plastic Free July certainly can be challenging whether you are starting the journey or building on what you already do but it is definitely doable and worth it. For me, it has given me a renewed energy and a challenge to embark on. Most importantly, it has also allowed me to do some meaningful activities with my family to help set up new habits for now and the future.
Thanks for reading and Happy Plastic Free July! Give it a go, you won’t look back…