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Monday 6th July

crackersOne of my biggest sources of plastic waste is crackers. We eat a lot of them – the little round rice ones and the big fat square ones. And of course they all come wrapped in plastic! The trays of the little rices ones can be recycled because they are made from PET and are marked with a number one in the recycling triangle on the bottom. Still, there’s a reason why recycling is down near the bottom of the waste hierachy triangle, and reduce and refuse are up the top – and that’s because recycling can’t solve the problem of the amount of plastic waste we’re creating.

With Plastic Free July squeezing out the plastic wrapped crackers at the source, it’s time to look for an alternative. I’ve long been meaning to try making a cracker that gets the family thumbs-up, and last night I had a go. These are full of sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews and sesame seeds, with a boost of flax seeds and chia seeds to hold them together. And the best thing was they did hold together – even to the point where I could imagine them surviving a crumble-defying trip to school in a lunchbox.

However, before taking on the school trip, they first have to pass the taste test. The initial verdict from my panel of two was that they tasted pretty good. But they found a downside to my home-made version. “The trouble with these Mum, is that they would fill you up too much. Crackers aren’t meant to fill you up!” No, bought crackers don’t have enough nutrition to fill you up, they just fill up your rubbish bin. That’s a good reason to perservere with my quest to find the perfect home-made cracker.

I based my crackers on this recipe from Bite magazine and one from a recent Dish magazine. Am happy to share if anyone would like it.

Friday 3rd July

milk bottle smallI met some new plastic-free buddies today, at a plastic free morning tea hosted by the fabulous crew at Alexandra REAP. The best thing was hearing people’s tips and stories of their adventures so far. We were given a “goodie bag” – an origami newspaper bin liner with a diary for our plastic free month and a reusable lunch wrap from 4 my Earth (perfect for rubbish free school lunches, more on that another time).

My favourite tip of the day was from Ruth, who had a solution to the fresh milk dilemma raised by quite a few people. She buys dried milk powder and makes a bottle up the night before in a good old fashioned milk bottle. She discovered that her famiy was fine with the taste on a camping holiday, and kept the habit going to avoid the plastic bottles stacking up. She even brought some extra milk bottles with her for anyone who wanted to trial.

I’m not sure how my kids will take to the taste, but several people said if you make it up the night before (without anyone seeing) no-one knows the difference. Shhhh, don’t tell my family. I figure it’s worth a try, seeing as milk is on my “red” list (meaning I don’t have a way to buy it without single use packaging).

I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple of days when we run out of the 2 litre bottle in the fridge. It’s a bit sad to think that just a few years ago, we were happily putting the refillable milk bottles out at the gate and fresh milk was one of the easiest products to buy without plastic. So much for progress.

Wednesday 1st July

chicken necksI went shopping yesterday and before Plastic Free July even started, I had a win. Just by asking, I managed to drastically reduce the amount of plastic I’ve been taking home to feed the cat. Plastic and cats are two words which shouldn’t go together, and no I haven’t been feeding the cat on plastic. But I have been feeding it on chicken necks and organs from the supermarket, and of course they come on meat-trays wrapped in plastic.

I buy them in bulk as you never know when you’ll find them in the meat fridge. It would be sad if the cat went hungry; especially for the birds. If meals are missed or are too small for her liking, the cat tends to make the point in a very direct way. So for the sake of the birds, I always have a good supply of chicken necks in the freezer.

The downside of this system is the amount of rubbish it creates. We end up with a pile of bloody meat-trays and plastic destined for the rubbish (making me feel really guilty). And the trays are guaranteed to leak on the way home from the supermarket, meaning I always have to take a plastic bag from the supermarket to put them in. Which kind of makes a mockery of the reusable bags I take with me to the supermarket.

Up until now, I’ve never actually tried find a solution to this annoyingly messy and guilt-provoking problem. But yesterday in the supermarket, with plastic free July about to start, I finally got the courage to ask one of the butchery staff if I could take my own packaging. The answer was no, pretty much as I expected.

Oh well, I thought, nothing to lose. So I asked if there was any other way to buy a large quantity of chicken necks without so much packaging. Next thing I knew I had a 5kg box of chicken necks in my trolley in the original packaging they arrived at the supermarket in – just a cardboard box and one plastic bag.

It absolutely made my day (probably revealing me to be a minimal packaging geek.) So simple, so much less plastic and waste, so much easier, and all I had to do was ask. Thank you Plastic Free July, for freeing me from my own mental barriers.

Tuesday 30th June

Tomorrow I’m going to start Plastic Free July. Today I’m going shopping. I’m in a dilemma. From tomorrow, I’ve committed not to take home plastic designed for single use. The dilemma –  would it be unethical to stock up on things that I’m really going to struggle without. What about the standard items that my kids don’t seem to be able to live without? I could buy enough crackers and gluten free muesli to survive the month, but isn’t that defeating the point?

So, I think this is fair – today I’m going to buy things packaged in plastic, but no more than I’d normally buy. After all, most things that are packaged can be made yourself with some googling and a bit of time. And is there anything that’s plastic wrapped that we can’t really live without?

To feel a bit more organised, I’m going for a mental stroll through the pantry to see where our biggest problems are going to lie:

Green – easy, already buy without plastic or make ourselves:

Fruit and vegetables, bread (lucky to have a neighbour that makes sourdough bread who delivers in brown paper bags or naked – the bread that is), coffee (another local brand in brown paper), kim chi, baking

Orange – doable, currently buy in plastic but could probably find a way to buy without or make myself:

Grains, nuts, seeds, flour, porridge, almond milk, crackers, muesli, humus, meat, spices, pasta, washing powder, dishwashing powder, ice-cream

Red – difficult, can’t see easy way to get hold of these without plastic:

Nori, milk, noodles, cheese, chicken for cat, toilet paper, chips