I don’t think there was an ‘A-ha’ moment when I decided I’d had enough of being part of the world’s plastic-waste mess and began to look seriously at cutting it from our lives. It was more of a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ for us.
As a busy working mum of three under-eight, I’d had thoughts about what we could do. Then life got in the way and that was that. It wasn’t like we weren’t doing some stuff … we had a compost, my husband got his coffee in a KeepCup, we used reusable grocery bags.
Then a few months ago, I saw that photo. The one of a turtle being strangled by plastic packaging from a six-pack of beer. Heartbreaking. I thought, ‘The person who drank that beer probably didn’t think the packaging would maim a turtle’. Then I realised that we – the world – literally can’t go on with our current system. We’ve got to do more, much more. We’ve got to take ownership for waste and not think it’s someone else’s problem.
Righto, but just how do you go about changing the throwaway habits of a lifetime?
I did what any nearly 40 year old pretending to be a 30 year old would do, I started up an Instagram account @one_lady_fighting_plastic. I figured I could get inspiration from others on a similar journey and keep myself accountable. I went to my pantry and fridge and hauled out all the staples, put them on the table and took a bird’s eye photo. Every one of those 35 items, from pasta to baking powder, was covered in plastic (except the couscous). ‘Damn you, plastic’, I thought, ‘I’m not going to let life get in the way this time, I’m going to make changes’.
Cue to today and our family of five are on our way to seriously minimising our waste. And you know what? It’s not as painful as I thought it might be. In fact, I feel lighter for it. I’ve met some cool people in the community and indeed, am pretty darn proud of how Hawke’s Bay serves people who want to shop with a lighter footprint.
So, how do you start? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of plastic packaging, but here are some simple steps to begin with, that are super-satisfying as they involve kicking the evil poster children for single-use plastic to the kerb!
Get a good supply of reusable grocery bags, made of cotton, linen or jute so you can avoid plastic shopping bags. Don’t make the rooky mistake of buying a whole load of the $1 ‘reusable’ Countdown bags. They are made of synthetic, i.e. plastic, and break easily.
Invest in a decent reusable water bottle. If you are anything like me, it will become like a trusted friend, and travel with you wherever you go. Not only are plastic water bottles a horrific scourge on the environment, a study revealed that microplastic contamination is almost universal in plastic water bottles.
Get a KeepCup to replace your takeaway coffee cup. There are many beautiful designs, sizes and types to choose from.
Once you have reusable bags, a KeepCup and drink bottle, you are on your way. The main trick is to remember to take them with you when you leave the house. I keep my reusables in the same bag, and hang them from a hook by the door.
Jenny Keown is a Hawke’s Bay-based freelance writer and mother of three trying to live a more sustainable life. If you want more green living ideas, follow her on Instagram @ one_lady_fighting_ plastic.