Things I Still Buy In Plastic, And Why I'm Ok With It
There comes a point in every zero waster’s journey when their self critic chimes in. When the voice inside your head tells you that you are failing at zero waste because you are still using some plastic and still producing some trash and there’s no way you’ll ever have an instagram-worthy mason jar of trash.
It can be both inspiring and discouraging when you scroll through people’s social media feeds filled with beautiful pictures of their plastic-free lifestyle. But, as many zero wasters will tell you, a 100% plastic-free, trash free lifestyle isn’t truly attainable. Zero waste is a goal, but it’s not a about about being perfect. So if you’re on the journey to zero waste, take a deep breath and remember, you’re going to produce some trash...and it’s ok!
I myself am guilty of highlighting the beautifully curated aspects of my zero waste lifestyle, while minimizing the areas where I produce trash. Perhaps I’m somewhat ashamed, or perhaps I’m worried that others will judge me, but I try to not be too hard on myself and celebrate the wins. When I think back to my former, trashy lifestyle and how far I’ve come, there’s a lot to be proud of. I’ve come a long way and our family of three (four including our dachshund Lola) produces very little trash.
Today, I want to share the areas of my life where I still use plastic to let you know that you’re not alone. Yes, I’d like to find better alternatives. But I’m ok with where I’m at and I strive to be a little better everyday. If I had a mantra for zero waste, it would be “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”
So here they are, a few things I still buy in plastic since going zero waste:
Medicine: Medicine, it’s important stuff. I think of myself as a pretty earthy, holistic mama and try to avoid Western medicine whenever possible. But sometimes I get bad headaches and need Advil. Or I feel myself coming down with a cold and need supplements. During my pregnancy, I tried to buy most of my vitamins in glass jars, but there were a few that came in plastic ones. To me, health comes first in my hierarchy of needs before zero waste.
Contact Lenses: I found out I had bad eyesight in 6th grade Math when I couldn’t read the whiteboard. I mostly wore contacts through my adolescence up until going zero waste. I’ve switched to primary wearing glasses, but I still like to have some contacts around for special occasions and when I want to dress up. Luckily the plastic container and foil lid they come in are both recyclable.
Gluten-Free Flour: While I’m not a celiac, I feel better when I’m not eating wheat. And, I LOVE to bake. I have found gf flour in bulk at Rainbow Foods, but it’s not my favorite brand. I love Cup4Cup created by Thomas Keller because I think it most resembles regular all-purpose flour and it’s excellent for making pizzas and baked goods. It comes in a plastic bag and I did contact the manufacturer to see if they might offer it in paper in the future. No dice. I take the plastic package when I’m done, rinse it and recycle it at our local grocery store plastic drop-off.
Tortillas: My husband and I REALLY love tacos. We make them at least once a week and they’re awesome for a impromptu dinner. We buy the most amazing corn tortillas at our weekly farmer’s market, but unfortunately, they’re wrapped in plastic. We did ask the woman if there’s any way she could carry some without plastic so we could take them home in our own container. She wasn’t about it. We did buy a tortilla press and plan to try making our own. But in a pinch, I’d happily buy the farmer’s market tortillas.
Cheese (sometimes): I’m a vegetarian, but I still love to eat cheese. We try to buy our most of our cheese package-free in a f=glass conatiner and are able to do so for the most part at our local Whole Foods. Unfortunately, some cheeses come wrapped in plastic, such as goat cheese. I dream of us having access to a package-free fromagerie, like they have at the French markets. Unfortunately, our society is not there yet.
So, there it is. My less than perfect plastic purchases that don't fit into my "zero waste" lifestyle. I want to continue to be open about ways that I create waste, because I think it offers a more honest and realistic look at the journey to zero waste, and hopefully inspires others to do the same. What are some areas that you still struggle with on the journey to zero waste?
If you buy the Cup4Cup in 25lb bags on Amazon, the bags are paper. There is minimal packaging so I’ve found it to be a good solution to that dilemma. I love baking too!
Love your blog! I agree that GF flour is way easier to digest. I started making my own from chickpea and brown rice flour with potato/tapioca starch there’s an amazing recipe I use every time in the book DIY Vegan. I found the book at the library-I don’t have the recipe on me right now but I highly recommend it! All the ingredients are found at local bulk store and it’s SOO simple. <3
Contact lenses are recyclable through TerraCycle! Check it out: https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades/bauschrecycles
Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been thinking a lot about where it’s going to be most difficult to cut out plastic, and contact lenses and certain supplements are there for me too. I’m wondering what you feed your dog and if it comes in a plastic bag. I have two dogs and unfortunately every 6 weeks I have to purchase a large plastic bag of dog food. I don’t have the funds to cook them meals and would prefer to keep feeding them their beloved pellets :)
Thanks so much for this!
I have found a way to recycle contact lenses if you are looking for that option! http://www.bausch.com/our-company/one-by-one-recycling
Been striving for zero-waste for 11 years. We too have a tortilla press – the best. In a pinch, our local taqueria will fill a cloth bag with chips & tortillas as well as a glass jar of their housemade salsa.
As far as cheese, we eat very little but sometimes go in on a cheese wheel with friend. Alternatively, we make raw cashew “cheese” from raw cashews in bulk section.
Medicines are a hard one, I agree. Especially when you have children. You can buy elderberries in bulk and make your own syrup. Some stores sell tinctures in bulk.
Thanks for the post and I hope these suggestions are helpful! Take care, Robin
Thanks for being so honest! I relate to most of those on your list and I agree – we have to triumph in the small changes we make along the way to minimal or zero waste. As we cheer each other on and gain ideas from others, we see just how far we can keep going and how we can inspire others along the way too. Keep up your awesome work! :)