So you want to reduce your plastic waste, eh?
Sackville woman shares lessons from six months of trying to live plastic-free
If you're looking to cut down on the plastic waste you generate in 2020, Karin Aurell has some tips for you.
The Sackville woman challenged herself in June to go a month buying as little plastic as possible.
And she hasn't looked back.
"It was just one of those silly epiphanies," Aurell recalled.
She had forgotten her reusable mug and was standing outside a coffee shop holding a disposable cup when she was hit by a wave a shame.
"All of a sudden I felt incredibly embarrassed and I thought, this is crazy. I don't want to do this ever again."
Aurell embarked on a mission that has changed the way she buys just about everything — from yogurt to windshield-washer fluid.
She's shared her progress on social media.
In the beginning, Aurell said, she received lots of help from others who had already made changes to reduce the garbage they generate.
Now people are turning to her for advice.
Here are some of her top tips:
Don't try to do everything at once
It can be discouraging to think you have to get rid of all plastic immediately, said Aurell, unless a person is "as obsessive" as she is.
There are three simple things she recommends that don't change a person's life much at all but which can make a big difference:
- Use a reusable coffee mug instead of disposable ones.
- Consider alternatives such as Soda Stream and tap water in a refillable bottle before buying a beverage in a plastic bottle.
- Bring your bags to the grocery store.
Find supportive vendors
A quick trip around the grocery store will give you the impression there's not much you can buy that doesn't have plastic packaging — aside from produce and a couple of kinds of cheese.
But Aurell said one of the most interesting things she's learned is that many stores are perfectly willing to use packages you bring with you and some — especially market vendors — are willing to provide custom packaging.
She calls the pork vendor a couple of days ahead, and he'll wrap her order in wax paper.
The German baker gives her her bread in a paper bag.
She takes her own containers to the fish market, the deli counter, even the grocery store salad bar.
"Nobody has a problem with it," Aurell said.
"I've been met with so much more acceptance than I expected."
Decide what you can't do without
Aurell said the biggest challenge was realizing it wasn't possible to avoid plastic entirely.
She made a list of things she wasn't willing to go without.
She now makes her own yogurt, ice cream, cereal, granola bars, windshield-washer fluid and cleaning products.
She stopped buying chips and other packaged snacks, chocolate bars, fresh berries that aren't locally in season and frozen vegetables. She eats popcorn instead and buys some other snack alternatives that are sold in bulk.
And she makes exceptions for plastic caps on glass bottles, stickers on fruit and vegetables and items she doesn't have to buy very often that are hard to replace, such as Thai curry paste.
Plan your shopping in advance
Aurell said she plans her shopping much more than she used to.
And she brings the "appropriate receptacles" with her.
"It almost means that I can't shop without planning ahead," she said.
"I'm taking it really far. I think it's a little much for a lot of people … but some of it's super easy."
For example, she always has a couple of bags in her purse for produce and groceries, and she often carries a container for incidental needs, such as bringing home leftovers from a restaurant.
Be prepared to experiment
Aurell tried all kinds of shampoo bars and still hasn't found one she really likes.
For toothpaste, she's using a product she buys in bulk that looks and feels like regular toothpaste.
There are also recipes online to make just about any product you can think of.
"I think everybody has to find the place where they're comfortable," she said.
Don't throw out your plastic
Aurell said it was never her intention to completely eliminate plastic from her life.
She still has plenty of cleaning products, for example, that haven't run out yet.
"The plastic in my house is valuable at this point."
She plans to use the plastic bags and containers she already has for as long as they hold up.
With files from Information Morning Moncton