I heard for the first time about The Plastic Free July Challenge a few days before July. And it took me just a few seconds to say: Yes Im doing this.
Before this month I already had my own reusable coffee mug, I always took my own reusable bags for shopping, before I had a reusable cup I always tried to order in a ceramic mug to drink in house (I actually hate to drink coffee while walking 😉 or said no the lid for as long as I can think. But I didnt really thought about all the other plastics, so its been quite a learning and eye opening month for me.
I definitely learned a lot about the human consumption behavior. The easiness/the convenience is the number one thinking for many.
Ive been to an event and talked to a few people about reusables and coffee to go and I heard things like: “my bag is to small for a reusable mug” or “I really wanted a coffee this morning so I needed to take away because I was running late”(off to an event where you could get as much coffee as you liked and for free).
I learned that people want stuff now and if they cant get it they are getting annoyed and are freaking out sometimes. Isn´t that a kind of addiction behavior?
They even want to choose between every kind of products in the supermarkets or bakeries just a few minutes before the shops are closing, what causes all the food waste everyday because the supermarkets try to offer everything all the time.
They don’t think about anything else than themselves (feeding birds with bread because they like that, don’t thinking about if its good for the birds, eating cake with single use forks because, yeah why, it doesn´t even taste good right?) because its easier to throw it away?
A big problem is the to go trend. Because businesses don’t want to step back because people want to take everything away.
And even Starbucks is so different from country to country.
Warsaw: real reusable cutlery,
Prague: reusable plates but plastic cutlery, and everywhere you must order a ceramic mug because if you dont you will get a to go cup also for having it in house.
And cold drinks? I had no cold drink in an coffee shop for a long time, because of the amount of sugar and because they always get served in a plastic cup. And thats the cause everywhere in every Starbucks and other coffee shop chains worldwide!
I learned about myself that even if I like to make something with Brokkoli for dinner, I dont need Brokkoli if they are pre packed in Plastic. I am a free woman, I can eat whatever I can get without plastic, just be creative and less stubborn and buy other stuff thats unwrapped. And you know what, if you find a plastic free Brokkoli once in a while it will make you so much more happy and grateful 😀
Its crazy how people are crazy about the veggie plastic bags. Im not using plastic bags for veggies and fruits since so many years. And there are so awesome alternatives out there. so easy to make your own veggie and fruits cloth bags. And then if you look around you in a supermarket, on a farmers market: they put everything in bags. The bananas, one pepper, one apple, a melon!
What I learned while traveling plastic free:
- On first sight if you arrive in a new country, you can see if a country has deposit on bottles or not! Its crazy! And so easy, I cant understand why there are a few countries with bottle deposit and so many without. Its a proven „thing“ and easy to follow.
- It’s easy to avoid plastic bottles in countries where you can drink tab water. But if you can’t, and you don’t have a filter for your reusable bottle its not possible everywhere to find water in glass bottles, it’s gonna be really hard. And nobody should avoid water if your thirsty because of the plastic. But: you can always ask for water refills in coffee shops, in many countries without save tap water you can buy reusable deposit gallon container. In some countries you will find water in reusable glass bottles. In some you don’t. From now on I will always check every corner in supermarkets to see if they have water in glass if I can’t refill my bottle somewhere. And if you fancy a lemonade, the good once are in glass bottles here in Europe. The bad ones, try to get them in cans rather than plastic. The chance that aluminum will get recycled is way bigger.
- I learned that in some countries (Lathvia, Lithuania, Poland) they have bulk options for nuts, cookies, candies, but you need to take your own paper bags or reusable bags with you. The offer mostly plastic bags because these are not banned in too many countries.
- Even if you don’t speak the language, on most farmers markets they understand if you say strawberries please and giving them the reusable container or the cloth bag.
- There are plastic free options everywhere in Europe where I’ve been so far. Maybe not everything, but most things. And zero waste stores are opening everywhere, and farmers markets are everywhere 🙂 So its possible to make a lot of happy choices in the daily life. If you checked where you can make them it gets easier and easier!
- I learned that everywhere they are crazy about drinking out of straws! Ive seen girls drinking their beer with straws.
- Ive seen the biggest problem in cities are the party areas close to rivers or beaches. Because most people dont care while sober, they care even less while being drunk.
- I also learned that even though theres a European Union, they have different waste managements (no compost in Prague, no recycling bins in the house in Riga, Recycling in Warsaw but no compost either, mostly no recycling bins in public places, just once in Vilnius (Lithuania) in a Shopping Mall. And I think, we should become a Union and get deposits on bottles and a proper Recycling management everywhere!
So have I been successful during my plastic free july challenge? Yes!
Have I been 100% plastic free? No, but thats ok.
My plastic this month:
- Toiletpaper came in Plastic wrap. Yes, I know you can order them paper wrapped online or buy them in some stores, but if you dont have an address and no shops around and you dont want to pay a fortune for toiletpaper, that is the only choice for now…
- I ordered a coffee for my reusable cup but the barista used a throw away cup because my cup was to tall for the espresso mashine, he then poured the coffee into my cup and threw the other one away :/ …
- I got a straw in a bar in Tallinn. I ordered a drink without a straw and the bartender said no I cant because the drink needs to get stirred with a straw. I made big crazy eyes and said that I dont want that, I have a spoon to stir if I want to stir, but she returned: No I have to stir the drink, and there she went, straw into the drink, 1 second stirring, straw went into the bin. Frustrating!
- I had another Straw Accident in Vilnius, Lithuania, when I ordered a hot drink in a healthy food restaurant (actually because I wanted to avoid the straw mistake from the beginning;). I dont know why, but I got a hot drink with a straw. Because its been a hot drink I didnt even ask for “no straw please”.
- In Prague, (Cheque Republic) we ordered breakfast in a nice looking and modern cafe. And then the jam came prepacked in plastic.
- And I bought 3 Mozzarella and one Tofu in packaging.
- I didnt buy but I ate an pre packed ice cream.
- We used one plastic garbage bag in a bus for the garbage, normally we use the big bin in a bus, but unfortunately they had none.
- And then unfortunately when you travel you will have tickets or luggage tags that are lined with plastic. We had a few bus tickets in Warsaw they were plastic lined I think and one Luggage tag for the bus from Riga to Vilnius.
- My boyfriend who didn’t participate but is always willing to do his best had three plastic bottles (two free water bottles in the bus, one orange juice at Starbucks), a salad to go in Warsaw (sometimes the healthy food choice is only available in plastic 🙁 ), Sausage in plastic wrap, an unexpected dip coming in a single use container, 2 Magnum Ice Cream and 3-4 greek Joghurt Container because we couldnt find any in a glass jar.
I am not perfect but are avoiding so much more than most people I met an my travel so far.
Its about doing your best, its not about living 100% overnight, thats just not gonna happen and would only be frustrating and you might just stop because you cant reach this goal.
Most people cant be a 100% plastic free, but if you look around, choose a different grocery store, choose to reuse and refill wherever you can, and avoid all the single use plastic stuff, you can achieve so much!
So no bad feelings if you cant make it a 100% plastic free forever and if you fail inbetween.
There’re a lot of things you cant control, so don’t be mad about things you cant control, like the straw stories or being served a plastic prepackaged jam portion.
Being mad about things you can change or control? Yes you may do so , or just change what you dont like 😉
Will I continue with my plastic free journey? Hell Yeah I will.
If you´ve seen trashy beaches and rivers because you are aware and sensitive about your environment, you cant close your eyes and say: “Well thats life, I cant do anything, there too many people who dont care.” Well yeah, exactly, thats why Im trying to make a difference! Because I care! And I can make changes!
And thats what I tell people if I ask about a plastic free option, I say ” Hey, I am on a plastic free mission/challenge, is it possible to fill my own container?Use my clothbag/Paperbag, etc.(while buying coffee I told the woman behind the counter that I am on a plastic free mission, and she said no problems, we have paper bags).
I havent been in a situation yet that somebody said no you cant. So if you experienced this, please let me know how you are trying to explain why you dont want to use plastic, and how people react.
So I guess that will be my lifelong mission: Mission Minimalistic Plastic Waste. I tell you, if you are on this road once, there is no turning back 😉
How was your Plastic Free July? Any Tips, thoughts, fails, success stories you like to share?