Female Customer Shopping At Farmers Market Stall

How to live a plastic-free life

There comes a time when it’s hard not to take action when you’re slowly being driven mad by the environmental and social injustices of the world. This was me. As a lifelong nature lover and a sustainably minded person, I’ve always taken steps to reduce my environmental footprint, but a feeling began to grow inside me that I had to do more. And, as a mother of two young children, I realised I needed to be the person I wanted my children to be. After all, actions speak louder than words.

I didn’t know how to satisfy this feeling at first because I thought I was already doing everything within my means. So, as any 30-something-year-old does, I googled. I started searching for voluntary opportunities but, instead, I found Plastic Free July: a challenge to refuse all single-use plastic for one month.

The idea instantly appealed to me because it was something I could do without spending large amounts of money and it wasn’t going to take me away from my Home or family. It was really just about changing the way I shopped (or so I thought), yet it could make a huge difference to my family’s environmental footprint. I’d also attended a presentation six months earlier on the problem of plastic in the ocean and was shocked by how extensive the issue was. It felt like I was meant to do this, so I started immediately — a month early — and couldn’t stop when the challenge ended.

Learning how to make food and personal-care products from scratch has been the most time-consuming aspect of pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle — but also very satisfying.

During Plastic Free July, I became aware that it was possible to pursue a zero-waste lifestyle as I was finding many of my plastic-free solutions involved no waste at all. I decided to work towards reducing all my waste. Now, one year on, my family produces just one handful of landfill and one bucket of recycling per week. I’m very proud of this given that we live in a rural area and not in a city with easy access to specialty stores.

How has it been possible? I take my own containers to the butcher and delicatessen, collect loaves of bread in my own cloth bags from the baker, use reusable produce bags and carry reusable cutlery, a stainless steel straw and water bottle, a cloth napkin and a reusable coffee cup to avoid disposables when out for the day. We sometimes visit farms to collect produce like berries, and we try to grow our own food. I also visit stores that have bulk-food dispensers to collect my oil, nuts, flour, vinegar, dried fruit and so on in my own bags and bottles.

I do have to go to about five different stores in three towns to cover all my basic needs, but I tie these trips in with my other tasks and buy enough to last me a month or more. Some food and personal-care products I can’t find unpackaged or plastic free, so I make them or go without. I’ve found a solution to almost all our needs and, if there are things we are going without, we’re not missing them.

Learning how to make food and personal-care products from scratch has been the most time-consuming aspect of pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle — but also very satisfying. Most things are very easy to make once I know how, but the making and baking does require more time. I’ve come to believe that food is something we need to value and make more time for. We need to slow down and be more mindful of the impacts of our choices. If we continue to focus on convenience and the cheapest option, we will continue to damage our health, animals and the environment.

I didn’t start this lifestyle because I had lots of spare time; I made specific decisions about how I wanted to lead my life and guide my family to better reflect my values. I’m so glad I’ve done it because the rewards have been more than I expected.

For me, it’s meant that I can stand up for what I believe in and be a role model for my children. For my whole family, and especially me as I do most of the shopping and food preparation, it has led to us:

  • Eating healthier and knowing exactly what’s in our food
  • Feeling physically and mentally healthier
  • Gaining new skills and knowledge
  • Becoming more creative and resourceful
  • Reducing clutter around the house
  • Saving money
  • Focusing on experiences and fun times
  • Connecting with like-minded people
  • Doing less harm to the environment

I’ve been amazed by how far my not so eco-conscious husband has come on this journey with me, and it’s because there’s so much to be gained when you get past the fleeting feelings of deprivation while you change your habits. The kids have stunned me with their capacity to understand why we are doing this and to make good choices.

I think the key to our success as a family is that we allow our children to have their own thoughts and values, and encourage good decision-making rather than dictate what they must think and feel. And, really, striving for plastic-free and zero-waste living is about careful and intentional consumption. It’s a way of protesting against a wasteful society and saying we can do better. If we all make better choices as often as possible, we can make a huge difference with our individual actions.

Tammy Logan

Tammy Logan

Follow Tammy’s journey on her blog Gippsland Unwrapped, gippslandunwrapped.com.

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