Monday, 29 February 2016

Lent Plastic Challenge: Days 14 - 20

Our tiffin carrier
What with it being a busy week and having settled into my plastic-free life the posts have slowed down a bit.  There have been ups and downs but thankfully more of the latter than the former.

Days 14-17  I continue to struggle with seemingly unavoidable plastic.  There's the hidden variety - the inner coatings of tins in particular.  I imagine they're there to prevent the contents of the tin corroding the metal, which is a good thing, but is it the only solution?  I declined a plastic sheet to protect the tracing paper I bought on Tuesday, but one of the pens came shrink wrapped in plastic film.  The other didn't.  Why the difference?  Then there's the unsolicited plastic, like the straw in the glass of water I ordered in a burger bar on Friday evening.  I didn't need it but it was too late to save it from the bin.   On the other hand I have been reminded that eating waste free results in a healthier diet as most fatty/sugary snacks come wrapped in plastic.

Day 18  We travelled up to London to take part in the Stop Trident march and rally, and needed a plastic free picnic to carry with us.  Mark's bread and cookies in paper bags and apples from our veg box were easy enough.  But the tin of tuna revealed a suspicious looking lining and the paper wrapper on the Ooh! Chocolata bar was backed by something other.  We couldn't buy the bottled drinks I might have chosen.  Fortunately we have a couple of canteens which we filled with water to last us through the day.

When we arrived home late and too tired to cook we were able to use our tiffin container to collect a takeaway from the Thali Cafe, plastic free except for the tiny tub of chutney that came with the starter.

Day 19  There was a shared lunch after Quaker Meeting.  Having spent the previous day in London I hadn't had time to shop for or cook anything to take so I popped in to Lidl on my way.  Supermarkets are shrines to plastic.  It was a struggle to find anything I could buy.  I finally decided on a a bunch of vine tomatoes and an avocado (which turned out to be under ripe!).  It was very depressing to contemplate how much plastic shoppers were buying and how much of it would be in the bin by the end of the day/week.

Top tips
  • Be gentle on yourself.  Living completely plastic-free is a tall order and one which very few of us will ever achieve.  Doing your best is better than doing nothing at all.
  • Avoid supermarkets.
  • Never give up!  

Monday, 22 February 2016

Lent Plastic Challenge: Days 11, 12 & 13

Day 11:  Our Saturday morning shopping trip produced mixed results. I needed fresh mint to dress a salad I was making on Sunday.  I was able to salvage enough sage leaves from our herb garden but the mint has died right back.  Our local greengrocer sells naked bunches of parsley but every other herb is presented on a polystyrene tray swaddled in cling film.

The butcher's assistant was happy to sell us sausages wrapped in a square of paper, but insisted on weighing our mince in a plastic bag.  It's still preferable to the plastic trays sealed with plastic film I'd have found in any supermarket, but I may need to consider buying mince in larger quantities and freezing it in smaller portions.

Our weekend paper revealed hidden horrorss.  The Guardian's magazine comes in a plastic bag, as did this month's copy of Country Living!

Day 12:  A fairly uneventful day on the challenge front.  Apart from the mint, my contribution to my choir's shared lunch was a plastic free roasted vegetable salad.

Monday's packed lunch

Day 13:  Inspired by Noriben, a Japanese film I saw at the weekend, I dug out one of my bento boxes and filled it with brown rice, roasted root vegetables, homemade turnip pickle and dried apricots.  Of course the box itself and the silicone cake holder I used for the pickle are plastic, but they're reused many times and eliminate the need for single use varieties.

Top Tips
  • If you can't buy an item plastic free then buy it in the largest manageable quantity.
  • Packing your lunchbox closely bento-style cuts down on the need for disposable containers. 

Friday, 19 February 2016

Lent Plastic Challenge: Days 8, 9 & 10

Help!  I've been plasticked!
Day 8:  When I find myself  cooking and eating alone I often take comfort in one of my favourite dishes - boiled egg curry.  I'm sure that even the thought of it will put some people off, but I love it.  However, when I emptied the tin of tomatoes into the pan I was horrified to discover that I had encountered one of the dreaded plastic lined tins that Nicola Holderness had warned me about earlier in the week.  Too late to do anything about it and I have to admit that it did nothing to impair the deliciousness of the sauce.

Wrappers from potatoes?
Day 9: You may remember my apprehension regarding the restocking of loo rolls.  Well, it turns out that our local Southville Deli stocks Essential toilet tissue packaged in polymers made from renewable sources such as potato starch, which is even GM free!  They are, of course, more expensive that the supermarket equivalent but I reckon I save in other areas so I'm not going to quibble over it. 

Single use plastic free fish supper
Day 10:  One of the joys of shopping local and independent is building up a relationship with traders.  Today was only the second time I'd shopped at my local fishmonger, aptly named The Fish Shop,since I started this challenge, yet he remembered that I wouldn't be wanting a plastic bag for my delightfully pink salmon fillets.

Top Tips

  • It's impossible to tell from the outside whether a tin is plastic lined, so make a note of which brands are plastic free.
  • Check out local stores.  Sometimes what you're looking for is closer to home than you'd imagine.
  • Make friends with your local traders. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Lent Plastic Challenge: Days 6 & 7

This week's Not Quite Plastic Free veg box!
Day 6:  It was back to work after the half term.  On Sunday evening I boiled up a big pan of ribollita (following Nigel Slater's classic recipe) for a plastic free work lunch.  Hurrah for the staff room microwave!

Nicola Holderness, who is documenting her progress with this challenge on Twitter @njholderness, alerted me to the possibility of plastic linings in tin cans.  Yikes!  Will have to check next time I open a tin of tomatoes or beans - by which time it will, of course, be a bit late.

Day 7:  Today marked the arrival of our fortnightly veg box , including a bundle of purple sprouting broccoli in a plastic bag!  I'm going to have to have to recycle it.

Top Tips

  • A panful of soup can provide lunch for a few days.  
  • Share your plastic free experiences with your friends and follow others on social media.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Lent Plastic Challenge: Day 5

Day 5:  There was a shared lunch after Quaker Meeting this morning.  I made one of my favourites, a Spanish tortilla.  It survived my spilling it onto the work surface as I attempted to turn it over, and was safely transported in a reusable container.

Top Tip

  • Think ahead when you're attending a shared meal.  A home cooked pizza, tart, salad or dip avoids the need to buy a plastic-wrapped alternative from the supermarket.  If time's short (as it often is), a loaf of bread or some fruit from a local shop will always be welcomed.

There being not much else to report I thought I'd post a link to contiki's survey for you to check your plastic impact.  I'm pleased to say I scored Low but, as I'm learning this Lent, there's always room for improvement.  Have a go yourself here.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Lent Plastic Challenge: Days 3 & 4

Chickpea Flour & Almond Biscuits
Day 3:  I had a few Quaker friends round for a meeting in the evening and baked a banana cake.  Then I remembered one of them is coeliac.   Normally I'd have bought a gluten free alternative from our local deli but was sure this would involve a plastic wrapper, so I searched the internet for biscuits made with chickpea flour and found this one.  Trying out new recipes on other people is always risky but I needn't have worried.  I flavoured them with ground cardamom and rose water and sprinkled them with poppy seeds.  They were delicious, reminiscent of the 'ladoos' I ate as a child in India.

Day 4:  We remembered to carry empty containers when we went shopping this morning to avoid plastic bags in the butcher's and fishmonger's.  I was a bit wary of asking to use them but they were both happy to oblige.

Top tips:

  • Bake your own biscuits and cake.  They'll probably cost less and taste better.
  • Buy fish and meat from local independent traders and carry your own containers.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Lent Plastic Challenge: Days 1 & 2

If you want to shop plastic free you need to be prepared

I wasn't intending to give up anything for Lent this year.  But then I picked up a tweet from City to Sea Bristol encouraging people to give up single use plastic - bags, wrappers, cups etc - the kind that cannot be reused and go straight into the bin.  Being a sucker for challenges, and having just returned from Cornwall, where I'd been shocked by the volume of plastic waste washed up by the storm, I signed up on the spot.

Day 1 - Ash Wednesday:  We had friends round for dinner and I'd decided on an aubergine and potato curry, dal and rice.  I found most of the vegetables in one of our local greengrocers but had to go on to Lidl for unwrapped aubergine, and abandon the fresh coriander garnish.  We'd had to cancel our doorstep delivery while we were away so I needed to pick up a couple of pints of milk.  I tried a number of shops but couldn't find any variety that didn't come packaged in plastic, even if it was just the lid on a tetrapak.  So I had to give in and buy a 2 pint bottle.

Day 2:  The easiest way to stay plastic free is to buy nothing.  At this point I should point out that the challenge only applies to stuff bought in Lent.  Much of the food on my shelves, the clothes in my wardrobe, the toiletries in my bathroom etc came packaged in plastic.  I've challenged myself to seek out alternatives, if they are available and, if not, to make my own ... or consider doing without.
Looking ahead, we're shortly going to run out of toilet tissue.  An initial recce has turned up only one possible option - an Andrex 2-roll-pack wrapped in paper.  It's in Poundland alongside 4/6-roll-packs for the same price.  All the others, including one by EnviroSoft, are packaged in plastic film.  I have, however, been given details of two shops where I should be able to lay my hands on a plastic free loo rolls.

Top Tips

  • Buy your fruit and vegetables from a local greengrocer where you're more likely to be able to buy single unpackaged items.
  • Invest in reuseable shopping bags.  I use an Onya Orignal and and an Onya Weigh for my fruit and vegetables.
  • Have your milk delivered.  We use milk&more who are undoubtedly more expensive than any of our local supermarkets, but it keeps the milkman in a job and eliminates plastic.  A little while ago milk&more did threaten to switch from glass but happily there's been no sign of this yet.
  • Grow your own herbs.  I've had mixed results with this.  Rosemary, sage, bay, thyme and parsley have all thrived, but I've failed dismally with two of my favourites, basil and coriander.  Asian stores are the best bet for unwrapped bunches, generally at much lower prices than supermarkets.
  • Ask for advice and share your experiences.  It was a tweet that prompted the recommendations on where to find loo rolls.