It seems as if I have been living my whole life Plasticless because now, two years after deciding to reduce my production of waste to nearly zero, everything what I do is totally effortless and I feel happy.
In this blogpost I'm taking you trough my journey, hoping you might have encountered the same questioning, problems or feelings. For those who are still doubting about starting this lifestyle, my explanations will most likely give you a deeper insight. I will probably also write other articles that will go even more on some aspects of this post, otherwise it will become way too long.
Why did I go Plasticless?
My choice to take up this lifestyle has definitely been driven by awarenesses for environmental issues. We are living in a society that allows to waste resources and to have wasteful design and fabrication strategies. We tend to solve each problem by creating even more objects, that are almost not biodegradable and compostable (like concrete, plastics, composites, etc..). We don't even know what to do with all those objects after their use cause only 5% of plastics world-wide are recycled. The rest ends up on landfill or oceans.
Abundant evidences clearly shows that the speed of worlds economic development in its current form, relying on the rapid consumption of natural resources, cannot be maintained. Micro-plastics are found back in our food via the water we're using, causing cancers and other health issues. Plastics affects our environment, our health, our habitat, our animals. Blablabla, you might have read this ecological talk a thousand times...
So, reasons enough to just STOP consuming them by taking actions.
I clearly remember that evening when my ex-boyfriend and I come home from shopping, and were so desperate about filling our bin with only plastic packaging. We agreed to change our lifestyle. That's where the story started.
How did I start in the beginning?
Nothing harder than changing a culturally rooted habit! It takes time to adapt and to be aware of the small positive actions you undertake.
I started by doing online research, but at that time I didn't find any real good resources in Brussels, except from going to the bio-shop and market. Today, you have different package-free shops where you can find almost everything in bulk at one place.
I started with the food, the easiest to begin with. I always take my own tissue or sometimes paper bags to the shop or market. Nearly all vegetables, fruits and dry food (like rice, pastas, nuts, etc...) are available in bulk at for example Marché Bio des Tanneurs. For all the other food (tahin, pesto, seitan,...) that I can't find at the market, I buy them at the bio-shop in glass jars. I reuse all the jars by filling them with the dry food.
For the household, I need to admit it was a bit more difficult. At Le Lion, Dille & Kamille, Natural Corner, etc.. I buy everything which has to do with cleaning the house. Basically, I realised you don't need a different cleaning product for every part of your house: bicarbonate+ soap +water will do the job for nearly everything. The liquid for the dishes, the toilet and for the washing machine are refilled in my old bottles at Natural Corner or Chyl.
Beauty products is the thing I'm still struggling the most with. Make-up is always packed in plastic, except for some products at Lush. I'm not wearing a lot, only using make-up on special events, so I still have all my products from two years ago and I re-use some from my grandmother. Luckily it's not that difficult to make them yourself too. The same goes for soaps, shampoos, creams, conditioner, scrub etc... either I'll make them myself with coconut oil and honey as main ingredients, or I'll buy them at Lush.
What is the most difficult I didn't found an alternative for?
As I just mention above: make-up. But also medication, although I found a pharmacy in Brussels that is willing to make some medication themselves and I'd just have to bring my own container. It's even possible to bring back your unused medication at the pharmacy so they can treat and recycle it in a proper way.
I also find it hard when I need to buy IT stuff, house decoration or office stuff. You can't find everything second hand, so sometime I'm making an exception for my work. As an architect, I'm using print-cartridges for the printer for example which are programmed by the fabricator to not be refilled. Only original print-cartridges will function to my biggest frustration. My stuff to draw is also made out of plastic, and the same goes for my mac, my phone, headphones etc...
When I get a letter or unwanted publicity, usually the envelope will contain plastic. Unfortunately, I can't send those things back (actually I should, just for fun), and even putting a sign on the door to refuse publicity isn't always effective.
And my solution for toilet paper isn't satisfying me too, it says on the packaging that it's biodegradable but actually it's not composting properly. So at the end I still need to throw it in a garbage bin.
How do I consume when I'm travelling?
When I travel to cities, usually the first thing what I'll do is check out if in that city you have zero-waste and bio-shops. Usually, it isn't that hard, if I don't find a zero-waste shop to just go to the local market. I'll always take some tissue bags with me because they can be handy for caring other things too.
When I'm travelling to immense myself in nature, I'll be very well prepared in advance with cooked food, bread, almond paste and other basics. I did this already several times, cause I enjoy so much to survive with only minimal things. For short trips, my different meals will be prepared in advance and I'll put them in glass jars. It's a bit heavier to carry in the backpack, but worth to warm up a home-made meal after a long walk in the forest.
Recently, I walked alone for several days in the Swiss Alps without making any waste. Breakfast and dinner where usually included in the Alp hotels, and for lunch I had my typical bread slice with almond paste or pesto (every lunch for 10 days). For more energy I had also nuts and oatmeal, which I bought in advance. Since I knew that on my path there were very few shops, preparation was crucial and at no point I suffered from being hungry. I was amused to live a minimal lifestyle during those 10 days.
If you're interested to know more about travelling zero-waste, let me know in the comments. Then I'll write a post dedicated to this topic.
What do my friends think about it?
Some of them sometimes feel a bit guilty when they buy something in plastic if I'm around. For some reason they'll apologise, which is a bit uncomfortable for me because I don't blame them anything for living the life they choose.
Most of my friends are now used to it. When in the very beginning they would ask a lot of questions, now it seems so normal. Some friends will tell me about what they're doing to reduce waste and I love those discussions.
At home there is a simple rule: when friends come to my place with garbage, they'll need to also take it back cause I have no bin. When I'm at their place, I'll respect their habits.
How is living plasticless influencing my relationship?
I did start this lifestyle together with my ex-boyfriend. We were both stimulating each other and looking for solutions. We had discussions on what we would eliminate as plastic in our lives. If you have someone to support you, my advice is to start together with someone rather then alone.
My current boyfriend is himself also actively reducing food-waste, so we're on the same level of comprehension although he uses plastic. I don't want to force him to change his habits, it's not an issue for me. I also understands the efforts he makes in reducing plastic waste. Fighting food waste as an entrepreneur is already a big deal. We form an interesting duo fighting food and plastic waste. He told me that sometime when he is in the supermarket making the groceries for us, he field also guilty. I'll write about feeling guilty, because it's a topic that often comes back.
I'd don't have the feeling it influences my relationship in any way.
How much waste have I produced the last two years?
I didn't really counted the grams or kilos, because I moved about 5 or 6 times during those two years. When moving you always realize that you're still keeping some things that became totally useless but you don't want to put it in the bin. Lets say that in the two years I maybe have filled one trash bag of my own waste.
Since one year I'm keeping a small container of about 15 x 15 x 10 cm, in which all my trash is stored.
Will I ever make plastic waste again or stop this lifestyle?
NO. Should I comment on this question? Even when live evolves, getting kids, having animals, living abroad, becoming older,... Maybe that maturity will make me less radical, at least that is what my father told me, we will see.