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In the beginning, there was no plastic...

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

Two generations ago, there was an abundance of local farmers supplying people with meat, dairy and vegetables. People were thrifty, they made, grew and foraged. Have we unlearned this natural way of life?

My family started our journey by preparing for Plastic-Free July. Along the way we watched countless documentaries, read numerous blogs and articles and submerged ourselves into environmental news stories and politics. This blog summarises what we learned as well as how successful our plastic-free month was...

Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home

"We cannot change the past, but we can focus on the future. The future of Zero Waste is what we teach our kids as much as it is what we plan on leaving behind. And we, the adults, have a choice to make: to either pass down heirlooms to our kids or to give them the knowledge and skills to help build a sustainable future."

As anyone knows who has embarked on a similar path, the endless questions at the beginning seem like a thirst that's impossible to quench. For every question we had on plastics, the research generated a barrage of new questions. There was even a period where hopelessness about the future swept in, and a feeling of responsibility that we had blindly contributed to this problem for most of our lives and not realised the impact it could have. Most confusing, was why, as a consumer, we had never been presented with the opportunity to shop or consume any differently to "the norm".

We diligently recycled each week and were conscious of our water and electricity consumption, we walked and used public transport where possible, but these efforts suddenly seemed minor next to the efforts being made by others and organisations like the Marine Society imploring people to do more and to simply refuse single use plastics.

How did we become so blind to it?

Looking back at how simply people lived only a few decades ago and how we were now striving to return to that way of life - there was a realisation that in living the way that we were; working as much as possible to afford more stuff, cramming in kids activities, chores and errands with little time for hobbies or family outings - convenience had crept in and showed us a quicker way to feed the family, clean the house and dress ourselves! The fast paced life that we all seem to live now has changed everything that came naturally to our survival. Instead of beating ourselves up for the years of buying bottled water and impulse snacks we focused on the positive changes we could make for in our little family, right now.

After signing up to Plastic-Free July last May, we committed 100% to fulfilling our promise to the planet and once your eyes are open to the plastic problem, it becomes very difficult to return to mindlessly shopping in supermarkets for food gift-wrapped in plastic! Even if the outer shell of a product is made of cardboard, the likelihood is that there's a non-recyclable plastic bag inside just waiting to ruin your plastic-free day!

What is there to eat?

Finding an alternative place or method to shop is imperative when embarking on a plastic-free lifestyle. The most frequently asked question in our house was "what is there to eat?", however, once we discovered our local farm shop selling organic passata, stock cubes and coconut milk our local market selling fresh organic bread, fruit, veg and eggs - we were well on our way to completely replacing the way we shop with much more enjoyable, local, organic and feel good alternatives.

During our research, we even found an organic raw dog food supplier using compostable containers and wool thermo-packaging. We were well on our way to becoming a more sustainable family, creating less and less waste as the weeks went on and learning to create new meals from things we would usually have considered scraps.

Jim Morris Hicks, Healthy Eating, Healthy World

You know what's unique about us? We are the only species out of the millions that does not live in harmony with nature.

Some random things that happened since embarking on a more sustainable way of life; material possessions stopped interesting us and we no longer felt pressure or "inspiration" to shop for clothes, gadgets or toys. I became acquainted with my 35 year old face and decided in order to make existing make-up products last as long as possible, I should have more make-up free days and just get used to my bald face! We became uninterested in tv and movies - it somehow seemed overindulgent to need to constantly reward ourselves with entertainment that took up so much free time and stopped us interacting with one another on a deeper level. Reading, researching, learning, having new business ideas, playing with our kids, more disposable income, better health, tidier house, tidier mind, not to mention extra feel good factor are all benefits we have experienced from living a simpler and less wasteful lifestyle.

Get Inspired

We were inspired by others that grow, cook and eat wholefoods, those who are part of the zero waste movement and those with plastic-free and minimalist lifestyles as well as environmentalists and government initiatives. It's important to say that no one is perfect and if you are on this journey too, it doesn't matter when you started it, just that you decided to change in the first place. Remember not to beat yourself up when things go wrong as well as understanding that even just doing a little bit here and there is better than doing nothing at all, so keep being inspired and inspiring others with your new way of life and maybe one more person will rethink the way they consume too.

Here are some of the resources that may be helpful, hopefully they will inspire you too!

Authors and blogs - Bea Johnson, Kate Arnell, Blue Ollis, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Shops - Earth. Food. Love Totnes, HISBE Brighton, Infinity Foods Brighton, Charlotte's Cupboard Burgess Hill, Riverford deliveries from Devon, Hatu London, Zero Waste Club online shop

Documentaries - The inconvenient truth, The inconvenient sequel, Blue Planet II, Before the flood, In defense of food, Chasing coral, Chasing ice, Misson blue, A plastic ocean, The true cost, Minimalism, What the Health, Rotten, Cowspiracy, Food choices.

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