Lessons from our #plasticfreemarch experiment.

At the end of February, my husband and kids came home with a documentary, “The Clean Bin Project,” in which a couple decided to compete for one year to see who could create the least amount of garbage.  We watched it together as a family.  We were inspired as a family.  We decided a year was too long a commitment and opted for a month of plastic free.

To be clear, we were still using plastic that we had but the goal was to limit or eliminate plastic coming into our lives.

We were not 100% successful for a few reasons:

  1. The organic milk, although sold in reusable glass jars, comes with plastic lids.
  2. Although we bought many products at our local no waste grocery store, there were several that we bought from them in bulk (gluten free pasta and flours) – these came in large plastic bags.
  3. We were caught unprepared on our second day out at a restaurant with family and did not even think about the plastic that was about to appear with our meal – straws, single serve containers of condiments, and take-out containers.
  4. Our children were away for part of March Break with grandparents. We can follow strict guidelines in the home but did not enforce these guidelines on others.
  5. Travel for work proved to be very challenging for my husband and he admittedly worked on reducing his plastic consumption instead of eliminating it.

Despite the above mis-haps, what transpired over the next 31 days has opened my eyes to a global problem far beyond what I imagined, has bonded us as a family and has started conversations locally and globally thanks to my desire to document our month on Facebook.

Here is a summary of some of our struggles, lessons, and a few tips for inspiration:

  1. It is not an easy feat! – On the last day of February, the day before we began, I walked into a local health food store. I was shocked.  There were about 10 things I could buy in the store without having containers for bulk with me.
  2. It takes planning! – Grocery lists were made for each store we would have to visit (no longer could we shop at only one), menus had to be flexible to adjust for ingredients that could not be found without plastic and we had to go without certain foods like fresh berries which you can only buy in plastic in the winter months.
  3. It slowed us down – in a good way! – We cooked together because shelling peas takes time and is easy enough for a 2.5 year old to help with.  We baked together because almost all treats come prepackaged. And made meal plans together, grocery shopped together and ate whole foods as that was the only option.
  4. It sparked conversations! – As a family we talked about so many interesting topics: food, waste, recycling, and menus. I began posting on Facebook, mostly for my own record of what we had done, which started conversations with friends across the globe – England, Australia, Edmonton, Windsor, and our home town of Ottawa.
  5. Participating as a family made it possible! – Because the whole family was on board and because grocery shopping took a bit more time, the kids had to come along. They all of a sudden understood why there were no berries, no cucumbers and no flavoured yogurt.  In fact, at the grocery store my middle child looked at the dairy isle and announced that we could not buy anything.

The experiment is officially ending March 31st but can it really end?  I have been changed and my family has been inspired.  We will continue to eliminate plastic, decrease waste, and work on living more conscious and sustainable lives.

Our April challengetracking the garbage we create.  Because if you don’t know what you are doing, how can you change it?

Here are some of the resources that have been helpful:

  1. Zero Waste Home – Bea Johnson
  2. Zero Waste Home – https://zerowastehome.com/
  3. Plastic Free Life – https://myplasticfreelife.com/

For those in Ottawa, our grocery shopping resources so far:

  1. NU Grocery Store – take time to check in out before shopping – it takes some prep
  2. Hintonburg Marche – will wrap meats in paper or in your own container
  3. Produce Depot – lots of loose fruits and vegetables to fill your own bags with
  4. Superstore – for plastic free lettuce
  5. Farm Boy – for boxed frozen berries
  6. Strawberry Blonde Gluten Free Bakery
  7. Ottawa Bagel Shop – be sure to ask for no bag to store your bagels
  8. Aladdin Bakery – not for those who are gluten free but a great little bakery that uses paper