The more convenient the food option, the more likely it is to come in a plastic container. It’s mid-July and the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup team is entangled in plastic dilemmas for this year’s Plastic Free July. Here are some of the top dilemmas that each of us are facing, from the mundane to the extraordinary, what’s becoming clear is that Plastic Free July doesn’t just challenge us in simple choices, but challenges us to make changes in everyday lives and how we relate to plastic.
Kate, program manager, tackles plastic free camping:
Almost everything about camping seems to involve plastic, from tents to backpacks to water bottles. Food needs to stay dry and secure, which often involves plastic. The more convenient the food option, the more likely it is to come in a plastic container. And I’ve yet to find a way to pack out backcountry garbage without plastic.
Still, I try to reduce the amount of plastic we use when camping. I use lightweight metal drink bottles; accumulate, wash and reuse large ziplock bags; and when weight is less important, pack food items in glass mason jars, although this doesn’t really work on long backpacking trips.
Susan, outreach specialist, is an admitted recovering, “free-sample-a-holic.”
The word “free” carries a strange magnetic pull, and sure, samples have no cost to you, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. How much plastic was used in the production process of those tiny packets? In packaging the item to ship? I know better now, but I am still haunted by these ghosts of plastic past.
Individually wrapped single-use lotions, hair products and face creams sit tucked away under my bathroom sink collecting dust. Most of the time I can ignore the allure of a “free” sample, but it’s a challenge I still face.
Sarah, recruitment coordinator, makes her own yogurt and has her own vegetable garden, but is sidelined by “unintended plastic.”
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try “unintended plastic” still makes its way to you. At some events, the entrance ticket is a plastic wrist band. When you’re at a restaurant and you ask for water without a straw, but the server forgets and brings one anyways. A friend unexpectedly gives you a gift wrapped in plastic. A sandwich comes with a plastic toothpick.
Plastic really is everywhere and is taken for granted, so it comes down to making the best decisions you can when you can, but accepting that it won’t always work out and that’s okay too.
Jean, communications and marketing coordinator, trips up with take-out:
One of the biggest dilemmas I face every year is eating out. I pack my own utensils everywhere I got, but the real challenges are take-out containers and food wrappers.
Using plastic take-out containers usually mean that there is less of a chance for food to leak out, particularily soups and curries. It can keep food fresh longer and makes it easier to transport when you’re a bit klutzy, like me. So what have I done? Rather than bring my own reusable take out container, the solution for me has been to slow down and eat in at restaurants whenever possible. It’s making me focus on experiencing and enjoying the food I am eating, while reducing my plastic footprint.
Tanya, volunteer engagement coordinator, is the plastic-free resident guru on her year without plastic:
I love making crafts and have a box full of craft supplies collected over the years. It dawned on me while making jeweled clothes pins for a friend’s bridal shower that the glue used in my hot glue gun is plastic. Hot glue guns are the most convenient piece of equipment for any crafter, but what alternatives are there for plastic free glue? In the meantime, I will be looking for hot-glue-free crafting alternatives.
What are we learning as a team? As with any plastic free challenge, preparation is key – getting organized and doing our research about what plastic free options exist. It’s about recognizing that some moments will be harder than other to go plastic free, and realizing that to change our habits around plastic, we also need to change our overall attitudes around convenience and start thinking outside the box when it comes to being outdoors. The results of a plastic free lifestyle can be far reaching.
Blog post submitted by Jean Fong, communications and marketing coordinator with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a joint conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and WWF Canada, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited and supported by Ricoh Canada.