Three life hacks from one Calgarian trying to go plastic free

Manashri Shejwalkar isn't an expert but a year and a half after deciding to cut back on waste, these are the best tips she has to offer anyone trying to do the same.

Manashri Shejwalkar decided over a year ago to cut back on waste

Manashri Shejwalkar isn't an expert but a year and a half after deciding to cut back on waste, these are the best tips she has to offer anyone trying to do the same. 2:12

Manashri Shejwalkar remembers lifting the lid of her black bin and peering in at the piles of plastic bags crumpled there, discarded.

She sighed in disgust, thinking, "I don't want to do this anymore."

So instead of simply moving on with her day, she made the decision to try to stop using her black bin altogether, and her blue bin as little as possible. 

It's taken Shejwalkar a year and a half to get to where she is now on what she calls her "zero waste journey," and she says she is far from perfect. But if she can help someone else start to recognize that things need to change, she says she will have ultimately fulfilled her goal. 

The three areas she found she could reduce the most waste were: 

1. Personal hygiene products

Shejwalkar found eliminating shampoo and lotion bottles went a long way in cutting down on waste. She doesn't go without the products but she found alternatives with zero- or limited-waste packaging. Soap and shampoo bars she buys, while other products she now makes at home. 

She is still experimenting with lotion recipes, but she is particularly fond of this recipe for body butter from the website Live Simply. It's primarily made of shea butter. Then to replace creams and lotions for her face, she has found using this recipe for a face oil has been particularly good for her. (Again, this isn't zero waste but Shejwalkar says it is less waste and what there is left is primarily glass now.)

A switch to shampoo bars and soap bars gets rid of a lot of plastic bottles. (CBC)

2. Household cleaning products

Shejwalkar also found many of the plastic bottles she's still having to discard fall under the household cleaning category. So she's started making her own cleaner, which also makes use of her old citrus rinds. And while that new solution has replaced three or four bottles under her sink, she also makes a DIY air freshener using water and essential oils

3. Grocery shopping in a plastic-conscious way

One of the first things Shejwalkar did when she decided to cut back on waste was to get mesh bags to replace the produce bags you see at the grocery store — not the classic plastic carry-out bags, but specifically the bags you put your tomatoes or your oranges in. 

After that, she found that shopping at some of the main grocery chains meant many products she couldn't get without a plastic bag or container, so she made the switch over to Bulk Barn for many items so that she could bring glass jars and other plastic substitutes.

Cloth bags can be used for many food items, from apples, to dry pasta, to lentils. (CBC)

Pasta noodles go in a cloth bag, lentils and beans go in a jar. She carries an extra container with her so the cashier can account for and discount that weight at the checkout.

Calgary supports

Shejwalkar says sometimes she feels like a stick in the mud when she brings up the issue of single-use plastics with family and friends. But she says she won't be discouraged by people who think it's a waste of time, either. 

"If everybody thinks that way, then how are we going to move forward as a generation, right?"

Shejwalkar admits she's far from an expert and she got her start by looking at social media groups and other supports in Calgary. They offer ideas for how to eliminate the trash from everything from diapers, to Q-tips, to dryer sheets. 

Manashri Shejwalkar buys most of her produce at any grocery store but finds Bulk Barn lets her get rid of a lot of the waste from her routine. (CBC)

With files from Monty Kruger


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