At the end of 2017 I had a radical dream that woke me up and set off a cascade of actions in my life. In the dream (bare with me, it won't take long) I was eating a large bowl of cereal. In the cereal was a plastic case of the powder makeup I used at the time, as well as a pair of plastic sunglasses. And I ate them. Bowl after bowl of cereal filled with plastic. I woke up feeling nauseous, and all day I was physically repulsed by the plastic all around me. You probably are aware of the toxic effects plastic has on our bodies and the incredibly devastating effects plastics are having on the planet. Articles such as this one from Environmental Health News are eye opening and informative. However, even though I was informed, I was still acting in a partial trance, blind to the plastic trail I was leaving every day. Yes, I was in the habit of bringing my reusable water bottle and coffee mug with me daily and used reusable bags for groceries. These are great first steps. But they were a really a small fragment of what I could do.
We have so much power to make change in our lives every day. Every decision you make is a chance to make the world a better place.
The day after my plastic dream, I looked in my fridge and found organic vegetables wrapped in plastic. In my pantry there was organic maca and cocoa powder in plastic bags. In my closet, clothing made of plastic. In my shower, all natural vegan shampoos and conditioners, in plastic. All natural dish soap and clothing detergent, in big ol plastic bottles. You get the idea. This dream woke me up. I changed.
Look around you right now. Where are the hidden, or not so hidden, plastics in your home or office?
A few days after, our family gathered in the groovy art and fishing town of Todos Santos, located on the pacific coast in Baja, Mexico for two weeks to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the New Year. We were barefoot almost the whole time. We were tossed and smashed by the waves. We watched sun rises as pelicans glided over the service of the turquoise water. We witnessed hundreds of freshly hatched leatherback turtles make their way across the sand and into the tumbling Pacific under the golden light of brilliant sunsets. These weeks of being rocked in the salty shore dump and toasted by the hot sun were humbling and expanding. I have spent a lot of time in nature, experiencing moments of tremendous joy, awe, and wonder. I've also experienced overwhelming waves of deep sadness and remorse. They take me to my knees. My commitment to decrease my plastic footprint increased each moment on that trip.
We flew home on the first day of the year. January 1st, 2018 was a super moon, and I watched her magnificence rise and reflect the radiant sun onto our planet from the plane window. Tears streaming down my face, grateful for this incredible wake up call.
So far in 2018, my husband Andy and I have made a lot of changes in the ways we live and consume. Here are some of the changes we have made so far, and my intention is to continue to share the journey with you and be a resource for you. I would also LOVE to hear how you are making changes to decrease your impact on the planet. I have been thinking of it like this:
Decrease your impact (small 'i') so you can increase your Impact (BIG 'I'). What is good for the planet is good for you.
Here are some of the ways we have made changes around food and decreasing plastic consumption and YOU can too!
Take your own bags to the store, and don't put any bags in those bags.
What this means is that you bring your reusable bags to put your food in. Then don't buy anything in plastic. Here is what we do and you can too!
1. Fruits and Vegetables. Chose only those that are not packaged, and don't put them in a plastic bag. You can put the produce right into your cart or basket. If this squicks you out, then you can bring smaller cloth bags to put the produce in. If you have a farmers market you can frequent, even better because you will get fresher produce without stickers on it!
2. Bulk food. At all the places we buy bulk there is an option to weigh containers and then fill them so you don't need to put the food in plastic bags. I use mason jars or cloth bags to buy bulk nuts, beans, legumes, rice, grains and flours.
3. Bread, tortillas and the like. If you eat bread it's pretty easy to get it plastic free. Whole foods and other places usually have fresh full bread loafs that are not wrapped, and you can bring in your own cloth bag or napkin to wrap it in. I have been making all our bread and tortillas. It's surprisingly easy and fun! I will be writing my unique recipe soon, but here is bread recipe to get you started. I also make tortilla dough once a week and we make the tortillas with the taco filling or beans and rice we are eating so we have fresh tortillas--YUM! Again, my recipe will be here soon, here is one for now.
4. Milk. Choose milk in glass bottles. Often you can return these for a few buck to the store, or at least recycle them. As far as milk alternatives, I have chosen to get organic fair trade coconut milk in plastic-free cans. You can make your own nut milks like this!
5. Cheese and Meat. My husband loves cheese, and while I don't eat it for a variety of reasons, he does. We have been able to get cheese without plastic by going to the deli. Kindly let the deli human know that you are making an effort to decrease your plastic consumption, and ask if they wouldn't mind helping the planet out by wrapping it in butcher paper instead of plastic. Don't be shy! You are the consumer! Frequent those places that accommodate you and vote with your dollar to support places that make it easy for you to decrease your waste. You can store it in the paper or transfer it to these food wraps You can also do this for deli meat, ground meat, steaks, and seafood from the meat counter if you are a meat eater.
6. Opt for condiments in glass. Once I committed to stop bringing in plastic to our home, I realized how pervasive it is. Hummus, salsa, and our kryptonite GARLIC SAUCE --all came in plastic. We have found ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, and all other condiments in glass containers. Or we don't use it anymore. Most of the stuff in plastic containers isn't good for us anyway, because it's usually full of sugar, additives and preservatives. What's good for you is good for the planet!
7. Skip anything in plastic. I am relieved to have eliminated the option for plastic because it simplifies my food decisions. I used to grab a bag of potato chips (organic, sweet potato, cooked in coconut oil--so I could feel OK about it) and toss it on top of my otherwise wise food choices. Now it's easy to skip the stuff that's no bueno for us. You may feel a little deprived of comfort favs, at first, but know that the planet is greatly benefiting from your choices. SIDE EFFECTS may include: your pants fitting looser and your skin glowing brighter!
EATING OUT and ABOUT
PACK YOUR OWN LUNCH AND SNACKS
1. Always bring your reusable water bottle. There are so many places to refill your water bottle while you are out and about, at work, at the gym, at a friend's place. The planet is waking up to the devastating effects of single use plastic bottles. My hope is that soon it will be socially unacceptable to casually sip from the deadly single use bottles. Set and an example everywhere you go by bringing your water bottle with you all day every day. You can chose stainless steel like this one!
2. Bring your reusable coffee/ tea mug with you everyday! Make your own coffee or tea in the morning and put it in your reusable one before you leave the house! I love this little guy, but you can get a bigger mug if you want. Bonus-- they will keep your hot beverage hot for hours and most won't leak.
3. Pack your lunch in plastic free containers. There are a number of great containers that you can use to pack sandwiches, salads, left overs, and snacks for your day. I love to put things in mason jars or stainless steel containers. These stainless steel containers are great! I put my lunch in a plastic free lunch bag, with an ice pack, so that I can have a fresh and healthy lunch at work.
2. Bring your Bamboo Utensil Set with you everywhere. You wouldn't leave the house without putting on your shoes and hope to pick up some disposable sneakers while you were out and about, right? Same goes for your fork, spoon, and knife! (And for me, chopsticks too!) Bring a set of these awesome tools with you daily.
1. Bring your own clean container into your favorite spots for take out, kindly let them know that you are making an effort to decrease your plastic consumption, and ask if they wouldn't mind helping the planet out by putting your fav dish into your container instead of the styrofoam, plastic, or plastic lined cardboard container they usually use. If they won't, order the dish 'for here' and then transfer the food into the container. AGAIN--Don't be shy! Frequent those places that accommodate you and vote with your dollar to support places that make it easy for you to help the planet. If you are getting a beverage, hand over your clean coffee to go mug and make sure you SKIP THE STRAW! If you use a straw for sensitive teeth or you just love sipping through a tube, check out this groovy one! (And to clean it, check this out.)
2. BYO Utensils! Use the awesome bamboo utensils you have with you all the time! Make sure to kindly ask the folks you are ordering from to not put plastic utensils in with your order!
3. Use your coffee/ tea mug. I love to get an almond milk cappuccino at my local coffee shop before hitting the farmers market Sunday morning. We all have our favorite pre-work, or pre-workout caffeinated, or non-caf, beverage. But getting single use coffee cups with plastic lids everyday adds up big time. So grab your reusable one before you leave the house every morning!
3. Ask for no pizza tables. You know that little plastic white table in the middle of take out pizza? As a kid I used to love them because they worked so well as playmobil tables (did you play with those growing up?!?). But they don't serve me or the planet. Ask them not to put that little non biodegradable marine hazard on your pie.
4. Skip it. I used to grab food on the go in an attempt to sooth my anxiety. Deep breathing or car dancing works much better. Often times we grab things on the go because we are stressed or want an emotional pick me up. When you are out and about and a hunger pang hits ya, make sure you really need to detour and grab something. Do you have just an hour till you're home and can nosh on something healthier for you and the planet? Can you grab an apple and some almonds to bridge the gap? You can make a healthier choice by drinking some water, blasting some sweet tunes, and waiting till you are in reach of real food!
DINING and DRINKING OUT
1. Skip the straw! I mentioned a great site above that outlines why straws are so harmful for our planet, especially for marine life. When you order a drink at a restaurant you must deliberately ask for no straw, because it is automatic for the bartender to put one in most cocktails and non alcoholic drinks. Get your reusable straw here!
2. Ask for the bottle. Lots of places, especially if they aren't high end restaurants, put sides of sauces and dressing in small plastic dishes. For salads, ask for a bottle of olive oil and vinegar, or a few slices of lemon, instead. Ask for the bottle of ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, instead of just a side of it.
3. BYO Leftover containers. Just like you pack your dinners at home in reusable containers, do the same when dining out. Bring clean plastic free containers with you when you go out if you think you will have leftovers.
PARTIES, PICNICS, and GATHERINGS
When you are going to a potluck, a barbque, or another gathering it's likely you will be faced with options that are less than stellar in the decrease plastic arena. Make changes, then make conversation around the changes you are making, and inspire your friends and family to take charge and make change in their lives!
1. BYOB and BYO cup to put that beverage in! Often when you go to potlucks or barbeques the host tries to cut down on dish duty by having a stack of those heartbreaking red solo cups. Yikes. Those cups took a lot of energy to make, transport and package. And they are going to be around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, clogging up our landfills and oceans. So, bring a bottle of wine to the party (with a real cork not a plastic one!), as well as a cup to put it in. Sometimes I bring my stainless steel tumbler to the party, or my reusable coffee mug.
2. BYO Plate, bowl, and utensils. Again, often when people host or when groups gather there are non-reusable plate, bowls, and utensils placed out in an effort to cut down on dish duty. When you go to a BBQ or potluck, bring a dish to share as well as your own dishware, like this set and these utensils. Or spark some conversation by using this cool little spork! My sister, who is a kick-ass ultimate frisbee player, uses a frisbee to eat off of. She's awesome.
3. Talk about it. Walk your talk when you gather. Make a dish that is made from plastic free ingredients, in a glass dish, with a wooden or stainless steel serving spoon. Don't be obnoxious, but also don't stay silent. Engage in conversation if you are approached or asked about your cutlery. Choose to eat the things that are not in plastic- so no Doritos or even the veggie tray if it is in plastic.
You quietly vote with every bite and every sip you take.
That is all for now. I am going to continue to update you with other changes we have made in other facets of our life, like how we are washing our clothes and bodies, what beauty product changes I have made, and the clothing that I am wearing. Also, I will write an article soon about how to have a plastic free period so stay tuned for that ladies! I would love to hear from you. How have you started to decrease the plastic in your life? What tips do you have for me and Andy as we continue our plastic-free journey? What questions can I answer and how can I support you? Leave your comments below! I look forward to having a great public conversation around the Plastic Puzzle. Let's solve it together! Be the Change you want to see in the world.
Love to all.