Plastic Free July: Week 3

I did a couple shops this week. First my usual shop at my local farmers’ market, where I get all my fruit and veg, as well as bread, cheese, and eggs. I get my partner’s meat from a local butcher.

I also went to a bulk food store I hadn’t been to before, that was not too far from me. I heard it was a great place to get washing powder, which is what I’d run out of this week. On top of that, it turns out it did a lot of snacks and treats in bulk, as well as flour and lots of gluten free products.

One thing I’m finding difficult is making the treats last. I think I need to portion them out into smaller jars, so I don’t just end up eating a whole massive jar of veggie chips or what have you in one go. Right now, the thing I am struggling with the most is how much plastic we are still accumulating, even when making all these changes. While a lot of it is plastic that is slowly being phased out, it’s still kind of disheartening to see. Hopefully the amount of single use plastic will slowly dissipate over time.


Plastic Free July: Week 2

This week was hard.

Nick and I love pre-packaged snacks, potato chips in particular. Nick is also really specific about his morning ritual of a cigarette and a carton of iced coffee. I’ve never seen him go more than a day or two without one, so asking him to go a whole month was probably a bit much for him. He lasted ten days before finally cracking (or getting caught with one), bless him.

I deleted my week two shop photo off my phone, forgetting I wanted to blog it, but I have it posted on my Instagram here. Results were mixed this week; while we successfully managed to get all our food without plastic, including ham and tofu, it wasn’t without hiccups. A miscommunication with our local butcher meant that plastic bags were used to then put Nick’s meat into the container, which kind of defeats the purpose of the containers in the first place! It was kind of frustrating, but you can only just kinda try better and be clearer about your purpose next time.

I did make a really awesome orange and almond cake this week though, using oranges from my parents’ tree, eggs from my boss, and leftover almond meal from my homemade almond milk. I didn’t bother drying out the almond meal beforehand; the result was an incredibly moist cake (albeit a very precarious one to get out of the cake tin).

I’ve been looking at non-food related plastic items in my household too, and trying to think of ways to minimise/eliminate them. So far this week I’ve replaced toilet paper wrapped in plastic with paper-wrapped and 100% recycled toilet paper, plastic single-use feminine hygiene products with reusable ones, as well as a stainless steel straw and a reusable glass coffee cup. Given that I am pretty conscious of how poor I am, it’s going to be a slow process replacing everything, and some things, like my plastic storage Tupperware, for example, just seems more sustainable to leave alone as is rather than replacing. But so far I am really enjoying this process of reducing my footprint and my waste output as best as I can, and getting rid of unecessary plastic in my household.

Also, cake. Cake is pretty good too.

Plastic Free July: Week 1

This year I am (unofficially) participating in my first ever Plastic Free July! Unofficial as I didn’t sign up on the website or anything, just decided to do it. I feel like I’ve been environmentally conscientious for as long as I can remember, probably starting with being obsessed with Captain Planet as a kid. Wanting to help the environment steered my career choice when I decided to study Conservation Biology at university, as well as fostering my natural interest in science. 

Through every stage of my life, I’ve felt like I always did my part in helping the planet. I never littered, I recycled when and where I could, and refused disposable water bottles where it could be avoided. But as time goes on and I get older, I’ve been thinking more about living ethically, and in particular about food waste and sustainability; things like where our food comes from, how it is obtained, how it is packaged, and so on. I went from buying whatever was cheapest to buying only free range meat, and when it became apparent that free range legislation in Australia did little in the way of enforcing free range conditions, I stopped eating meat altogether. But while being vegetarian or vegan is often touted as the only way to effectively reduce problems associated with food waste and animal cruelty, it too is rife with its own set of problems. Plant-based protein sources are often packaged in ridiculous reams of plastic (as well as being sourced from overseas), which in my mind effectively negates many of the environmental benefits of  engaging in that lifestyle in the first place.

So, what next? In recent months public awareness has taken a significant shift, with programs such as War on Waste highlighting issues and putting the spotlight on wasteful packaging and consumerism. Packaging and plastic has been at the tip of my consciousness for a long time, but it has always seemed too hard an issue to tackle, too many things that would have to be given up. Towards the end of June, seeing it crop up so much in social media, I finally decided to see if I could do it. 

Looking just at food, I looked at what our weekly shop consisted of, and what we could do to eliminate plastic. While I’ve been veggo for a couple years now, my partner still eats meat in a big way, so the first step was finding a butcher that would be willing to use tongs to collect meat into supplied containers. Luckily, our local butcher was very accomodating. I’ve always collected fruit and veg loose and carried in green bags, so that was no big deal. I’m lucky in that my local farmer’s market also has great options for bread and cheese, and so these were also no worry to collect in my own containers and use paper bags for. My biggest problem has been my protein, and my plant-based milk. Our household overall has a huge problem with pre-packaged snacks, particularly savoury snacks like potato chips.

Tackling my items was a bit harder. First, I had to find a bulk food store that was convenient for me, that did food loose and without packaging. I chose one that was on the way to my sister, who I was planning on visiting anyway. Then it was deciding what to get and finding jars/containers appropriate for that item. I got a few lentils and pulses in big glass jars, and a Tupperware container for almonds to make almond milk. I also got a small jar of savoury soya crisps. All good, or so I thought.

Turns out I needed a much bigger jar for the soya crisps.

By the first afternoon, I’d eaten all the soya crisps. Mistake. By mid-week I already missed my savoury snack hit (terrible, I know). Determined to not cave on my first week of PFJ, I grabbed what remained of my packaging free cheddar, a fistful of chives from my balcony (about the only thing still alive in my pitiful balcony garden), and looked up a recipe for savoury biscuits. Turns out there’s heaps online. I used this one, adding a sprinkle of paprika and extra salt. They turned out really good, if a little short (probably from over-working the dough). It was just what we needed to get us to the second week of PFJ.

I’m really excited about this project, I haven’t needed to step into a major supermarket at all this week and it has felt incredibly liberating. I feel like PFJ is very achievable (although I just did my weekly shop yesterday and I have already eaten all the soya crisps again). Bring on week 2!

1st Birthday Bike Cake

I made a bike cake for a first birthday last month! At the request of mum, I made it dairy free with as little sugar as possible. I used a double batch of this Teresa Cutter Naked chocolate cake recipe, then added sugary icing on the top, as well as some chocolate rocks. That way, kids not used to so much sugar could just scrape the icing off (or rather, the parents could).

We made the cake a bike theme due to the birthday boy’s love for bikes and all things with wheels! The bikes are just toys that we placed on top. I also used crushed Oreos (which are dairy free) to make the dirt track on the cake.

Overall, this was a lot of fun to make, and I’m really happy with how it turned out!