PLASTIC-FREE AND ON THE VERGE OF VEGAN

Life Changes After Plastic-Free July



There's that saying that it takes one month to make something a habit and after plastic-free July, I definitely agree with that. I'll be telling you about the changes I made, food eliminations, discoveries, challenges and unexpected result of how going plastic-free puts you on a new dietary path that is not only good for your body but also our environment.


I stumbled upon this challenge scrolling through Instagram of all places and was immediately interested. At home, we try to be mindful of what we buy and had already made certain changes to decrease our plastic consumption so I thought this challenge would be a great way to take it one step further.


You can always do more


Up until this point I was in the habit of reusing grocery plastics for bagging produce rather than grabbing a new one every time. Thanks to the implementation of a soft plastics recycling system by Recology San Francisco I was also recycling soft plastics from packaged grocery items purchases. It's better than nothing but I still felt guilty seeing just how much soft plastic I was accumulating each week.

It is so easy to incorporate these changes into your routine, so I highly encourage everyone to start with simple steps. If you can get a few more uses out of a plastic bag that you already have, it will make such a difference. Let's face it, the single-use obsession is just not sustainable; it has created an over-use culture in which we now have more plastic than we know what to do with - plastics are seriously polluting our environmental.


Going plastic-free takes you unexpected places.


I didn't realize how much my diet would change with the plastic-free challenge. All of the changes are good of course because by going plastic-free you are removing much of the processed foods from your diet. It doesn't get much better than that. But it also meant excluding fish, sliced bread, yogurt, and cheese just to name a few. After doing so you start to realize that by avoiding plastic, our diets very easily approach vegan. If that scares you just remember how polluting plastics are to our environment and you'll quickly get over that. And, don't worry, most eggs come in recyclable packaging.


It's a crazy that most eco-friendly options often fall into the vegan category and it is very difficult to avoid plastic without changing where you shop. The grocery stores that I once thought were "better" such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are still littered with plastic packaging so the best bet for successful plastic-free shopping is bulk grocery stores because even loose produce can be hard to find at our typical grocery stores.


Buying Habit Changes


Items Cut Out of Diet

  • Sliced bread

  • Cheese

  • Fish & Poultry

  • Packaged granola, crackers, pasta

  • Frozen vegetables

  • Milk

  • Yogurt

Bulk Items

  • Fresh bread with paper wrapping

  • Beans, legumes, lentils

  • Oil

  • Granola

  • Quinoa

  • Flour

  • Rice

  • Pasta


Before this challenge we were getting our rice, quinoa, oil, granola, and sliced bread from Costco and though it's a type of bulk shopping, most items are packaged in plastic, and that just doesn't cut it.


For bulk shopping I go to Other Avenues located in San Francisco Sunset District. It's a great worker owned co-op grocery store with bulk grains, beans, oil, coffee, snacks, and even peanut butter. I recommend bringing jars and containers from home. I also realized that we could save money by getting our coffee from the local bulk grocer instead of the Beanery or Henry's House of Coffee which were the local cafes I used to go to for beans.


For honey, we discovered that the local florist shop, Brother's Papadopoulos located in the Sunset District, carries local honey from Sacramento. It has become the go-to place for honey.


Discoveries:

  • You have to alter your diet if you are serious about giving up plastic. My diet became almost vegan during the challenge.

  • I did not generate much trash the entire month.

  • I developed long-term focus on reducing plastic consumption.

  • Too much of our grocery items are unnecessarily wrapped in plastic.

  • Vegetarian protein alternatives are very harmful to the environment from the perspective of packaging, it's all in plastic!

Challenges:

  • Visited Sun Fat Seafood Company in the Mission District of San Francisco to get some fish for a camping trip. Communication was tough because most of the employees don't speak much English so I couldn't clearly communicate that I brought my own bags and ended up with the fish in plastics. What did we do before plastic?!

  • I don’t buy lunch at work but I could see how it would be a big challenge for those who do. Just from observation, much of our to-go meal options are packaged in or require some form of plastic.


It's a challenge to be 100% plastic-free but we can learn and change our habits when we try.


It's definitely a not easy to exclude all plastic from your life; I guess that's why it's called it a challenge. You must be willing to make sacrifices, change habits, and question the "norms." Even if you decide not to go completely cold turkey after the challenge, any new habits that come out of plastic-free July will be well worth it.


While there are some changes that I am sticking with 100%, it's not everything and that's ok. When it comes to soft plastics, my goal is to avoid them as much as possible because the recycling process it is so complicated. Other hard plastic items, like milk and yogurt, I am fine using because I have to be realistic about what makes sense for me from a recycling and dietary standpoint.


It's all about balance and making the effort because let's be real, we're not perfect. But by trying we can make a big difference and if we're lucky, our actions will have a positive impact on someone else in meaningful way. The point is to step out of our comfort zone, try something different, see what sticks and hopefully at the end you see things differently and make lasting changes to your consumption habits. Once you do it you'll wonder why you didn't make changes sooner.

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