Plastic is gross.
You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Plastic kills millions of birds and fish every year, plastic gives us cancer, plastic draws on the earth’s oil and gas supplies. Plastic is the Number 1 enemy of the environment. And it’s totally unhygienic. Have you ever noticed that food, which has been kept in a plastic container, tastes weird? Or that it tends to take on the smell of your dishwashing detergent? Gross.
So why on earth do we still use it so much?
I find that trying to maintain a life that’s as plastic-free as possible is an exciting challenge. It requires more organization and imagination, true, but that activates your brain, and forces you to make conscious choices everyday, which forces you to be in the here and now, which makes you feel good.
I come from Switzerland, a country where plastic-free conscience is still not as widespread as one would wish, but where it is very easy to find ways of going green. And as much as living in my current home of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, feels like living in paradise - the weather is fantastic, it’s safe, people are friendly, etc. – living the plastic-free dream is another story.
But thou shall not despair, dear friend. There are countless ways to respect mother earth no matter where you are, without having to spend a fortune or waste hours a day on finding the best options.
Let me share with you the 8 commandments of my plastic-free life:
- I shall always bring (enough) reusable groceries bags to the store.
And choose items that are wrapped in paper or a recyclable carton as much as possible.
- I shall avoid going to big supermarkets for food as much as possible.
This one is actually my favorite. Although I still haven’t taken the time to learn how to make my own detergent, toothbrush or shampoo, most of the things that I eat can be found at the farmer’s market. Lucky enough there is a fantastic one just a couple of blocks away from the house, that’s open every day, and which is also a wholesale for nuts, seeds, salt, spices, quinoa, rice, etc. There too, I always bring my reusable groceries bags, and glass containers for the seeds or nuts that I buy. Going there makes me feel like I live in the country or on a farm: people talk, the quality of the food they sell is fantastic, it comes from local farmers, most of it is organic, and it’s really cheap!
- I shall learn to say no
At the supermarket, sometimes I find that it is a struggle to get the people who help you put your groceries in the bag understand that you don’t want any plastic bags AT ALL (no, not even for the tomatoes). So I shall remain strong and nice, even if I have to say no 4 times. This applies everywhere – always say no to plastic if it’s possible.
- I shall make my own food.
In a country where eating out is literally part of the culture, it can be hard to resist the siren call of fast food. Eating on the street easy, fast, and cheap; but I can’t stand the idea of being constantly served in Styrofoam boxes, with plastic cutlery and plastic glasses. Lucky me, I love to cook. So I always try to make my own food, and take it to work in the same lunch-bag I’ve been using for two years, in mason jars, glass tupperwares, glass bottles and other reused glass jars. This also allows me to save money for eating out at restaurants where I know I will not be served in plastic.
- I shall always carry my glass straws with me
It’s cute, I have a nice little case for it and it weighs nothing. When I ask for a drink, I shall remember to say “no straw, please”, and simply use mine instead.
- I shall always carry my travel smoothie mug with me
Mine is pink and green and beautiful and made of stainless steel, and I can use it for cappuccino, tea or my daily smoothie. Some coffee shops even give you a discount if you bring your own container!
- I shall invest a little bit more money at first
Sometimes I run out of glass containers and at the time of buying a new one, I gasp when I see the price. So I shall remember that this is a price I will only pay ONCE, it will be amortized quickly, and it’s a vital step to take for the environment.
- I shall be more disciplined
I shall not be lazy and run to the store everyday, but actually think of a grocery list. I have now taken the habit of writing it as soon as I notice I need something during the week and take time on weekends to go to the market. I shall remember to take the reusable bags, glass drinking straw, and my mug. Sometimes I’ll even use my phone to set an alarm before I leave the house. But in the end it becomes a routine and it’s become part of my life, so it just flows.
Giving in to plastic is easy, because it’s fast and cheap. That’s probably the most common reason and the source of all the problems caused by plastic.
Abiding to the commandments of a plastic-free life requires time and consciousness. At first I thought it would be hard. I had to learn to cook, for starters, and learn the tricks that save time (cooking more, and freezing it for later, for example), I had to think more (where to go for food, remember to take the bags and containers etc.), but it’s really not that hard, after all.
With consistency and practice, I soon realized that I love to cook, I no longer spend time in supermarkets, I spend more time outside, talk to people more, spend less money, help the community, eat better, feel better about myself, and have gained a deeper knowledge and awareness of how important it is to maintain a sustainable life. It’s a blast and totally worth it.