My plastic-free week

Reusable shopping bags (Photo by Raechel Bonomo/NCC staff)

Reusable shopping bags (Photo by Raechel Bonomo/NCC staff)

June 6, 2018 | by Raechel Bonomo

When I made a pledge to myself to go a week without consuming any single-use plastic, I thought it was going to be a breeze. I was under the impression that if I simply declined the five-cent bag at the grocery store I would be in the clear. I kept telling my co-workers, family members and friends that a plastic-free week would be easy, and much easier than the seven days I went without eating sugar.

Little did I know that by the end of the week, I was eating crow on plastic plate as I found going plastic-free was harder than anticipated.

Read about how my week without single-use plastic went, below:

Sunday, April 8 – Meal prep day

Every Sunday, I make the six-kilometre round-trip walk to my local grocery store to buy my food for the week. I usually bring with me a large, reusable bag to carry my groceries home. I always start my trip in the store’s produce section, where I stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. On this day, as I carefully selected my avocados (which is truly a skillful task; ask anyone who makes their own guacamole), I instinctively reached for the roll of thin, low-density polyethylene bags sitting by the produce bin.

Despite being banned from grocery stores in Victoria, BC, these bags are still available in Toronto stores.

Before ripping off a bag to put my avocados in, a mental image of Ms. Truchbull from Matilda popped into my head and gave me a mental slap on the wrist. Instead, I simply put the avocados in my cart, opting to skip out on the single-use plastic bag and to let them live in freedom before they become dip.

Monday, April 9 – But first, coffee

On Mondays, I’m thankful for the 9th-century Ethiopian goat herder, Kaldi, who is credited for discovering coffee after noticing how much energy his goats exhibited after eating beans from a coffee plant.

On my way to work, I stopped at a coffee shop for my morning Americano before starting the day. As I went to order, I realized that, although they serve their hot drinks in paper cups, the to-go lids are plastic.

I had two choices: skip the coffee and make my way to the office in a zombie-like fashion and consume the less-than-optimal brew there, or go lid-free and risk spilling the overly priced, piping-hot liquid all over myself and possibly on the pedestrians walking rapidly towards me on the street.

I opted for the latter. Sorry people, I’d rather risk third-degree burns than drink the office coffee.

After a delicate walk, I arrived at work unscathed. Once there, and once finished my coffee, I filled up my reusable water bottle and got on with my plastic-free day.

Tuesday, April 10 – The cucumber incident

Cucumbers (Photo by Raechel Bonomo/NCC staff)

Cucumbers (Photo by Raechel Bonomo/NCC staff)

One of my favourite go-to snacks is a sliced, English cucumber with salt and pepper. It’s simple, easy and better than eating a bag of potato chips when I’m feeling snacky. During my lunch break at work, I took a quick walk up to the grocery store in search of the vegetable in question to create my afternoon snack. As I walked down the aisle, I came across a pile of English cucumbers, and, to my surprise, they were all wrapped in plastic! I try and buy my produce from local farmers' markets when I can (and when the weather permits), so I was taken aback to see the pile of plastic-wrapped produce before me. Instead of the English variety, I opted for a field cucumber, which was plastic-free.

According to the Cucumber Growers Association, the plastic wrap around the vegetable is to help prevent damage during transportation from the grower to the supermarket and to keep it fresh in the consumer’s fridge. While I can’t contest the former, the latter problem can be solved by putting the cucumber in a container, which is what I did, to great success.

Wednesday, April 11 – Plastic to-go is a no-go

After a busy day, sometimes take out is the best dinner option. I met my partner downtown to grab a bite to eat at one of our favourite take-out restaurants that has a few seats. We went to find a seat to eat our dinner at and as I went to grab some napkins and something to eat with, I realized the restaurant only had plastic utensils available for use. Luckily, I had with me my metal fork that I used at lunch and I was able to eat my noodle dish ― not a great food to eat with your hands.

At most take-away restaurants, only plastic utensils are available. According to the Clean Air Council, the amount of paper and plastic utensils used annually in the U.S. is enough to circle the equator 300 times!

Although it’s a bit of an inconvenience to carry cutlery around with me (travel/camping folding utensils are the optimal choice), I have room in my purse if it means I’m doing my part to minimize plastic.

Thursday, April 12 – Plogging for plastic

The latest trend in running, called plogging, has been occupying my newsfeed for weeks now. Originating in Sweden, plogging combines jogging with picking up litter. As an avid runner and lover of nature, I knew I had to give this a try. And what better time to do it than during my plastic-free week.

After work, with gloves on and a plastic shopping bag from the communal portion of my office’s shared kitchen in hand, I laced up and ran to a local park. Through social media use/plogging, I’ve been following fellow runners who’ve tried plogging. I was surprised by how much trash they picked up during their workout, until I set out on my own plogging adventure.

Fifteen minutes into my run, my bag was full of other plastic-based recyclable items. Not only was I astonished by how much litter was on the ground, it reinforced how much of our plastic consumption is unnecessary. Bottles, bags and packaging can be replaced with reusable solutions made either from sustainable plastics (such as those found in reusable containers and water bottles) to metal to other recycled materials like renewable bamboo or glass.

Friday, April 20 – Packing in the savings

Bento box (Photo by Raechel Bonomo/NCC staff)

Bento box (Photo by Raechel Bonomo/NCC staff)

Another work week has come and gone. I now have a handy-dandy reusable cup for my coffee (which saves me a bit of money every time I use it, thanks to in-store incentives) and have packed my lunch in a reusable container and brought it to work from home in a small, reusable bag. Bringing my lunch instead of purchasing it (which is often where I see the most single-use plastic in the office) not only saves the planet, it saves me money too!

Saturday, April 21 – Reflection on my week

It’s safe to say that I learned a lot this week. From how much single-use plastic humans use, to easy ways to limit my own plastic use. I’m going to continue to limit how much plastic I’m using and throwing out and be more aware of my impact on the environment.

Raechel Bonomo (Photo by Chase Wastesicoot)

About the Author

Raechel Bonomo is the manager, internal communications at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Read more about Raechel Bonomo.

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