We’re one week into the 1 Million Women Plastic-Free Challenge and I’ve already failed. More on that in a minute.

I first want to mention that I don’t expect to be perfect during this challenge. For me, this is about challenging my everyday habits and getting uncomfortable. It’s about noticing the plastic in our lives and our home. And it’s about finding alternatives – and hopefully using them.

There are several ways in which I’ve made positive changes too! But first the failures 😉

Day 1 – Bye bye plastic-free

Unfortunately I failed on the very first day!

Garbage bags for our nappy bin

We have a toddler, and unfortunately, despite the best intentions, we haven’t followed through with our Elimination Communication aspirations. So he’s still in nappies. We use cloth nappies where possible but as he’s grown that’s become less convenient – so we still have a nappy bin. I plan to change this.

Much to my dismay, on Day 1 of the plastic-free challenge we needed bin liners. This wasn’t something I’d anticipated or planned an alternative for. So off I went to buy them.

The rest of the week

Here are the other areas that posed a challenge…

Glasses sleeves

During the week I had my hair coloured. Without thinking, I asked for those little plastic sleeves you put over your glasses to protect them from the dye. As I removed them it dawned on me – this is a single-use plastic!

Next time – I’ll plan ahead, and instead of working or looking at my phone whilst getting my hair done, I’ll simply plan not to use my glasses! Relaxing + not using plastic = win-win!

Baby spinach

I did actually get semi-organised over the weekend and planned meals where I could minimise plastic. I knew baby spinach would be a challenge but I hoped to find it either at our farmers’ markets or in the supermarket as loose-leaf. Neither eventuated, and I ended up buying the plastic bag of leaves.

Next time – I’ll consider an alternative for the recipe, OR ensure our grocer stocks the loose leaf before we go shopping.

Chicken

I occasionally get chicken for my toddler to eat (I’m predominantly plant-based but he does eat some meat). On this shopping trip, I bought him a chicken breast. I didn’t really see a way around having it put in a plastic bag. However – I did ask at the deli if they’d accept a container I’d brought from home and – much to my surprise – they said Yes.

Next time – I’ll bring my own container.

Soy milk

Before beginning this plastic-free challenge I hadn’t even considered that alternate milks don’t qualify as plastic free… they have a little plastic lid! I didn’t think ahead enough to plan an alternative (and I do not plan to make my own milk just yet).

Next time – I’ll see if I can find a carton or alternative container at the supermarket.

Nappies

As I mentioned above, we’re still unfortunately using disposable nappies. I plan to get some cloth nappies (second hand) and toilet train my toddler ASAP.

My wins!

Despite the above, there are several ways this plastic-free challenge has helped me recognise and begin to adjust my habits.

Fresh food

Sometimes fresh food comes in plastic bags, and we don’t really question it. This week, I refused to buy items that came in plastic until I found plastic-free alternatives (such as bags of potatoes and onions, like some stalls sell at the farmers’ markets). There are two other specific examples.

Green beans – at the markets, I asked a stallholder if he had green beans without the plastic bag. He didn’t, but he offered to open a bag and transfer them to a paper bag for me. He promised to reuse the plastic one.

Bread rolls – at the bakery, the two bread rolls I bought were placed into a plastic bag. I asked the server to please move them into paper, and she happily agreed.

Snacks and nuts – at the supermarket, I bought soy crisps, cashews and walnuts from the bulk section, instead of in plastic packets. This section has ziplock plastic bags for use with these items. Instead of that, I grabbed three paper bags from the mushroom section and used those instead!

Planning ahead

I know there are items I’m going to have to buy in the near future, that usually come in plastic. These include dry lentils, rice and pasta (all of which are staples in our home). I’m sourcing alternatives (via health food stores/ bulk stores and potentially Asian grocers for the rice).

Undoing some of the wrongs

Something I usually try to do anyway – but am even more conscious of because of this challenge – is pick up rubbish I see around the streets or in nature. The other day a plastic bag blew past me as I was walking our toddler in the pram – I turned around and chased it until I caught it and put it in the bin! I went out of my way to pick up a straw and find a bin for it. I picked up a lollipop stick, and a flattened plastic bottle that was lying on a stormwater drain (just in time!)

These are small gestures, but they feel like a little step in the right direction, like it’s one tiny thing I can do to help the planet. Plus it’s helping move the needle back when I make a misstep!

There’s more to plastic-free than being plastic-free

There’s so much more to this challenge than refusing single-use plastic. It’s bringing up the issues of convenience, the cost of ‘doing right by the planet’, where our priorities lie, the idea of slow living and so much more. There’ll be another post about that in the coming weeks!

Do any of my learnings strike a chord with you?

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