Plastic Free July 2018

We’re not fully embracing Plastic Free July and I’m feeling very guilty about that. We can’t be the only family who find eliminating plastic, even just single-use plastic, very, very hard? I mean, it’s so much harder than running a sustainable wardrobe or choosing to eat organic food, right? I’d love to cut back much more drastically but we don’t seem to be getting that far.

On a more optimistic note, I’ve used this month to make some meaningful swaps and to be more mindful when out and about. I guess for us it’s Be More Aware Of Unnecessary Plastic And Try To Consume Less During July in our house. Whilst more pragmatic, it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

One of the best discoveries by far has been Charlotte’s Cupboard.

Charlotte’s Cupboard are a Sussex based packaging-free shop on wheels. I visited them a few weekends’ ago at Hassocks Market where I bought some flour, porridge oats, hazelnuts and vegan chocolate crispie bites.

The goods. Just the ingredients we needed, in the small quantities we wanted, in our own reusable containers from home. Cost: about £3.50.

Inside Peggy the Van.

I spoke with the owner, Charlotte, who’s incredibly passionate about her business: her vision to reduce plastics and unnecessary packaging; to help fight food waste; and to make her service accessible. We talked about our shared frustrations – for me organic vs plastic wrapped; for her – not being able to stock refillable olive oil. I asked about all the different things they stocked and their home delivery service. Whilst I’d love to buy from their van on market days, I just know it won’t always be possible. She explained their home delivery service to me and I felt embarrassed that we hadn’t tried it sooner (I’ve known about them for a few months now). I wondered if it would be clunky or tricky or expensive. But nope, it’s super easy and very efficient.

Our first delivery arrived this morning in Peggy the (zero emissions electric) Van and everything ran like a dream. Charlotte dropped the box off and explained everything to The Husband; The Husband brought the box in before dashing off on the school run; I decanted everything into jars and stashed the packaging and box with our empty Barcombe Nurseries veg box. Both ready to be returned and reused.

Our first order.

Our first order is a small one. At the moment we’re starting to replace store cupboard items when we run out and I’m trying to buy ingredients on a weekly basis. I’ve been running our pantry cupboard down and it’s taken ages because it was fit-to-bursting with grains and pastas and all sorts of things bought for one-off recipes or on offer. There was quite a lot of out-of-date foods that needed to be binned, all in plastic packaging, and it was an uncomfortably wasteful exercise.

I thought that this week would be a good opportunity to try some new things. With Charlotte’s Cupboard you can buy in smaller quantities than at the supermarket, which makes trying new things a lot less wasteful. We’re trying out a sauerkraut seed mix, bran flakes (for the girls) and vegan coconut milk chocolate.

The website is easy to use, receipts are sent via email, you’re given a time slot (you don’t have to be in), it’s not expensive, your goods turn up in paper bags, which you decant into your own containers and then leave out to be reused at your next delivery. We even received some free bulgar wheat because it’s Plastic Free July. This will be the first of many deliveries. I’m so impressed.

Lovely handwritten note with our order. You really can’t beat the personal touch when it comes to service.

Here are some of the other ways we’ve been reducing our plastic consumption this month:

1. Mooncup and Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Baby Soap

F24039DC-CD3E-4ABE-9A82-98E9F9560E60We bought this bar of soap to replace liquid hand soap in our bathroom. It comes wrapped in paper and is a really pleasant soap. Everyone in the family likes using it. I haven’t tried it in the shower yet, but once we’re through our shower gels I think I’ll give it a whirl.

I’ve finally, after a decade of poo-pooing menstrual cups as “too gross”, invested in a Mooncup. No more tampons for me; period-admin was much easier this month. I wish I’d made the switch years ago, I really do.

2. Chilly’s Bottles

C4EEAFC5-B60B-4752-9443-ED9C529D13F1Chilly’s bottles keep liquids cold for up to 24 hours and warm for up to 12. I’ve gone for a rose gold bottle; The Husband went for neon orange. Mine feels very glamorous and I’ve loved taking it around with me this weekend. But most of all I’ve loved having super cold water to hand. I still love my Jerry Bottle but it doesn’t keep water very cold in very hot weather or if left in a hot car. I’ve had really unpleasant mouthfuls of warm water a few times this summer and have had to buy replacement bottled water on a couple of occasions. Not cool. Hopefully my Chilly’s bottle will put an end to this.

3. Bee’s Wrap

9F94B95C-DCEA-4B23-A804-1ABF21C7DAADWe’ve invested in a pack of Bee’s Wraps to replace clingfilm. I’ve been looking at these for a while but have held back as an assorted pack of 3 (small, medium and large) is £25. They’re not cheap. But actually, we’ve used them every day for over a week now. My verdict so far: good. Not as convenient as clingfilm but so much more sustainable, so a worthy switch. I’m sure we’ll acquire a few more in the future. These would make an excellent present for an eco-minded friend or relative.

4. Local Organic Fruit and Veg Box – add in those seasonal extras

CA016167-9175-495D-8422-EBBE5870F168I’ve added extra seasonal items to our Barcombe Nurseries veg box, such as strawberries, avocados, lemons and peaches. None of these come in any plastic packaging, which is just brilliant. I can’t say the same is available at any of our local supermarkets. It’s the only place where I’ve found berries in non-plastic punnets too, so I’m glad I’ve taken the time and effort to add in these seasonal extras each week lately.

5. Packed lunches

For me, it’s being unprepared that leads to most single-use plastic consumption. Taking a delicious home-made lunch with you in a preserving jar is a great plastic-free option. Not to mention cheaper (and possibly healthier too). Keeping salads simple is key, you need maybe 5 or 6 ingredients and make sure any fiddly prep is done the night before so it’s just a case of slinging it all together before you go out. Add a fork from home, pre-filled water bottle, piece of fruit and you’re done. Bon Appétit!

6. Glass jars

Glass jars are really handy for all sorts of things. I’ve used them as spare drinking glasses, non-plastic food storage containers, paint mixing and brush washing vessels, cutlery storage and to display small bunches of flowers in. Keep a whole bunch of them and stop buying unnecessary plastic storage containers!

7. Homemade lollies

Admittedly, we’ve had quite a few boxes of lollies in this very hot weather and whilst out and about. But we’ve been using our Zoku lolly maker (bought last year) after school and have made some delicious and healthy lollies during the heatwave. They take just over 5 minutes and you can control exactly what goes into them. The girls love helping too. The lolly pictured above is half vanilla flavoured milk and half strawberry, honey and Greek yoghurt smoothie, topped with chocolate sauce and sprinkles. Aren’t they… fab 😉. No single-use plastics or rubbish generated from these; you use the sticks over and over again; and you can keep the clean lolly unit in the freezer, so it’s ready to go when you want it. We should definitely use it more often as it’s a great way to get some extra fruit into children and an easy way of getting children more involved in food prep.

So that’s it. No, it’s not been plastic free here but we’re definitely on the path to reducing our plastic waste. Let’s see how we’re doing next year. Maybe we’ll even take the pledge. Gulp.

Have you taken part in Plastic Free July? How have you found it? What’s been an easy switch? What have you struggled with? Have you found a local zero waste shop or service? I’d love to hear from you!

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