I Tried To Give Up Plastic For A Week And Here's What Happened
It was easier said than done.
Hi! I’m Krysten, and I like to think that I care about Mother Nature.
So, when I recently stumbled across this TED Talk given by a woman who decided to rid her life of all plastic goods, I thought, "Whoa, that's kind of wild. I think I wanna try this?!"
But what does it actually mean to live a plastic-free life? To get the scoop, I reached out Anne-Marie Bonneau, aka the Zero-Waste Chef, a blogger who's been living plastic-free since 2011.
My main question for her was: If I wanted to try to go plastic-free, how should I think about food?
"When you go plastic-free, you cut out processed food. Almost all processed food— the stuff in the center aisles of the grocery store — is packaged in plastic," she told me.
Her number one piece of advice? Shop on the perimeter of grocery stores, buy in bulk, and learn to cook. "When you cook, you cut the processed food. Do that and you’ll eliminate most of your plastic footprint."
With all this in mind, I got to work and gave myself a few rules for the challenge. I'd aim to cut almost all plastic from my life for a week — minus a few important exceptions.
I started my quest to plastic-free nirvana by taking inventory of the amount of plastic I use and encounter during a normal week.
That said, I was ready to start. The day before the challenge, I made a quick grocery run and tried my hand at making some plastic alternatives — like homemade toothpaste.
On day one, I successfully prepped breakfast, dodged plastic traps at work, and faced the struggle that is plastic-free grocery shopping for dinner while hangry.
Leaving work, I knew figuring out my dinner and shopping for the ingredients would be the biggest challenge of my day.
I strolled through the grocery store and took a moment of silence for all the plastic-covered produce and foods that were previously regulars in my shopping cart.
Two hours and two stores later, I headed home with THE barest-looking of groceries and made dinner in time to eat at the *very* appropriate time of 11:15 p.m.
On day two, I had a morning bodega emergency, made a plastic-free faux pas, and visited an IRL plastic-free shopping utopia.
At lunch, I accidentally ate my leftover soup with a plastic spoon (though it was compostable...so does this count?).
After work, I headed over to the Package-Free Shop, a zero-waste pop-up shop located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Real talk: My plan was to just find a viable plastic-free deodorant since I had been using shea butter until then and it wasn't cutting it. But I quickly got lost in the sauce of all the other odd-but-fascinating products the store sells.
On day three, I was over my limited breakfast options — so I sought out advice from another ~expert~, and found that you can order plastic-free from a juice bar.
I stopped by a juice spot expecting pity and rejection, but they nonchalantly agreed to use my glass jar instead of a plastic cup and straw.
On day four, I tried to stay hydrated with my small reusable water bottle. I also had a packaged plastic-free snack (it exists!).
Just when I thought I was seriously doomed for the rest of the day, I realized BuzzFeed added RXBARs to the kitchen's snack section — and they (apparently) don't have plastic in the packaging.
On day five, the final weekday of the challenge, I focused on making it through my Friday with as little plastic-related worry as possible.
On day six, I made homemade potato chips, watched a documentary on plastic production and consumption, and cheated for the first time.
I came across the documentary Bag It and spent most of my afternoon watching this while eating the last of the chips.
On day seven, I enjoyed my Sunday by no longer stressing about plastic constraints; I made my own homemade all-purpose cleaner, and ended the challenge with ice cream.
And on the final evening, there was ICE CREAM and congratulatory tears shed for me, by me.
When my week was done, I came away knowing I wanted to keep certain habits going for as long as I could.
Interested in going plastic-free? Anne-Marie left me with some gems to help folks get started:
1. Eat real food, not food wrapped in plastic. Processed food, convenience food and to-go food almost always comes in plastic wrappers and containers. Real food you cook yourself does not.
2. Ban the bottle. Stop buying water, soda, energy drinks, juice and other beverages packaged in plastic bottles.
3. Opt out of single-use plastic: Say no to plastic shopping bags; plastic straws and stir sticks; plastic utensils, plates, and cups; and other disposable plastic items.