Shall I buy a cow? A Plastic Free July update

We’re a little over halfway through Plastic Free July so I thought I’d review my progress so far. 

Let’s start with the lady elephant* in the room: Dairy. Everyone I’ve talked to about the challenge wondered what on earth I was going to do about milk and cheese. Neither are easy to source plastic-free in Auckland (though not completely  impossible). My simple solution was to go without. 

I knew giving up dairy would be hard for me, but I didn’t expect to struggle with it so much! I miss the creamy sweet tartness of yoghurt on my breakfast. I miss the burst of cheesy flavour in my lunch. I miss milky cups of tea and hot chocolate. Every time I prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack or a hot drink I am reminded that I’m not allowed to have these tasty things. 

It is getting easier as the month goes on and I grow accustomed to a new normal (and as I’ve found alternative ways to get a melted cheese fix on these cold winter nights) but at this stage I expect I will go back to buying plastic-packaged milk, cheese and yoghurt once July is over. 

And then what? I’ll probably eat/drink less than I did before, but I can’t forget that every time I buy these items I’m introducing brand new plastic to the environment, which will take hundreds of years to break down and may never truly be gone. 

So I’m left pondering the question: how much plastic waste am I comfortable leaving in my wake? Should I put my faith in some as-yet-uninvented technology that can chemically break down old plastics into harmless and useful substances, or bacteria that can eat microplastics, transforming them into energy and carbon dioxide? Or should I just buy a cow?!

PFJ trash halfway

In other news, I’ve acquired a bunch of extra plastic in the past fortnight from new board games, gadgets and magazines. While none of the purchases were strictly necessary (and I’m of the opinion they all arrived rather over-packaged), I do expect the new items to bring joy into my life. I would also rather focus on eliminating plastic from regular purchases, like food and cleaning products, because that will have a bigger long-term impact than being super strict about one-off purchases. 

The other new plastic items I bought include toothpaste to replace the empty tube, two meat trays (which someone else dutifully bundled off into the recycling bin before I could photograph them), a few fruit stickers, and the plastic label on a glass jar of coconut yoghurt. 

I have to admit that last one was a bit disappointing! I bought the yoghurt last week after going “cold turkey” for a week, and I’ve really appreciated the added creaminess on my oats. But I subsequently realised the packaging wasn’t quite so plastic-free after all, so I won’t be buying it again. 

The photo also includes my plastic waste from things purchased pre-July, including chocolate wrappers (a gift), and a ziplock bag that fell apart after several years of use.

While the start of July brought a lot more plastic waste than I’d expected, I’ve also managed to successfully avoid plastic in tricky situations like work functions. If you’re doing Plastic Free July this year, how are you finding the challenge?  

*Because female elephants are also called cows! Sorry for launching that pun at you without warning… 


5 thoughts on “Shall I buy a cow? A Plastic Free July update

  1. The amount of extraneous wrapping on things is ridiculous, isn’t it? I thought we were supposed to be more aware of our impact on the environment, so why are companies allowed to go around adding yet more plastic to their products? (If we could abolish individual packets of things, it would be a start.) I often wonder how differently we’d behave it we had to deal with our own rubbish, the way people did way back when, leaving those handy middens behind for future archaeologists to get excited about. If we had to dispose of all of this rubbish ourselves, instead of sending it away to a landfill we never see, I’m sure we’d change our approach in no time flat.

    I’m not doing plastic-free July, but I am trying to make changes in my everyday life. Good luck with the rest of July!

    • The funny thing is, some companies frame their plastic packaging as a way of actually reducing waste, because it helps preserve food for longer so people are less likely to throw out old food! (Personally, I think there are better ways to tackle that particular problem.) You’re absolutely right that we’d all reduce our rubbish immediately if we had to deal with it ourselves.
      And making changes in your everyday life is a great way to go – much easier to add in and sustain new habits that way!

    • That post of yours has some great suggestions in it. I’m lucky to have a speciality cheese store just down the road from me in Milford – they wrap purchased cheese in waxed paper and pop it in a brown paper bag. I actually wouldn’t mind eating less cheese and buying the fancier stuff as a treat (though I’m not sure how I feel about paying that much for cheese to cook with). But the rest of my family is still buying regular blocks of cheese from the supermarket, and it’s harder to shake the feeling that I’m depriving myself when the block of cheese stares me in the face each time I open the fridge door!

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