Where We’re At

As most of you know, my family just spent four months buying as close to no plastic as we possibly could. Our “experiment” was an extremely successful primer in simple living, one that we continue to be instructed by. We are much changed. So what does life look like now that the rules have been lifted?

Well, I’m still making soft cheeses like chevre and ricotta. I make our yogurt and sour cream. I’ve started buying hard cheeses like jack and cheddar from a local source. Yes, it’s packaged in plastic. But it’s organic and local, and while I might have avoided personally creating trash when I bought cheese from the grocery deli in my own container, I noticed they wrapped the (non-local, non-organic) cheese right back up in a fresh piece of plastic wrap after serving me. So that’s one change.

I’m still making our tortillas, bread products, and crackers. I did buy a can of tomatoes, which is lined in a BPA containing plastic. My first canned product in ages. It felt…kind of sinful and unnecessary, but also kind of wonderful. Oh, and we’ve been having a bit of a strawberry  feast for the last couple weeks. Just couldn’t wait for their local season after so long eating home preserved apples all winter. They are wonderful, and I vacillate between disgust at the plastic cartons piling up in our normally empty trash and pleasure in my daughter’s pleasure. Hopefully she’ll get sick of them soon.

Some folks might wonder, why not keep going the way we have been? For us, that’s not an option. We have cars to maintain, a house to hold together, bodies to nurture, and a growing child to care for. As I’ve learned in the last few months, this requires very, very little plastic. But it does require some, and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t need it. Also, we have a growing commitment to local foods–I want to try to get as much as 4/5ths of our fare from local sources this summer, and sometimes this means choosing plastic packaging over a non local, unpackaged food. I’ve struggled with this for the duration of our fast, but am now ready to switch my priorities just slightly so that local takes precedence.

So, basically we are continuing to implement our new ways of living, and ending the rigidity of the actual fast. In my mind I’ve devised an elaborate flow chart that helps me to decide when a plastic purchase is appropriate.

I ask myself: Do I really need this?

No: Don’t buy it. Yes: Am I sure?

No: Try to go without for awhile. Yes: Is an alternative available?

Yes: Buy the alternative. No: Am I sure?

No: Look around more. Yes: Ask,

Will this help us to live more ecologically overall? How durable is the plastic? How much can it be reused before being thrown away? Can it be found secondhand? Will it bring us joy, encourage creativity, enhance our life in a way that is ultimately responsible?

Things that we’ll probably be buying in the near future are: drip irrigation supplies, glass storage containers with plastic lids, a bottle of oil lamp fuel, fixtures for the gutters we are installing this spring, and key ingredients that help us to cook from scratch and reduce our packaging waste overall. Assuming of course, that these things meet the criteria laid out above (i.e. no alternative available). Still, there are lot’s of things a four month plastic fast won’t give you a chance to run out of–I’m just now starting to wonder about craft paste in a glass jar, and a refillable ink pen. It’s things like this that we’ll continue to investigate and incorporate into our lives.

So the journey continues to discover what we really need, and how we can best acquire it. Thanks for coming along with us.

9 Replies to “Where We’re At”

  1. bravo to you! aren’t the strawberry clamshells recyclable at least? i think local wins too – if you go by plastic = oil = fuel too, eh? thanks for sharing your journey! and congrats on your book editing back when – i loved what you wrote about the river!

    1. Alas, strawberry type boxes aren’t recyclable in our town, and possibly not our state. Only bottles…I think I’m going to wait now for strawberry season.
      Indeed you are right about plastic/oil–Over 7% of the world’s crude oil goes into plastic production. Funny, I’d forgotten about that and feel a little better about making reductions where I can. Thanks!

  2. I was wondering if you freeze any food? And if so what in. I am making my own baby food, and I just dont know if there is a safe way to freeze it safely without plastic freezer bags or tupperwar-esk containers. Sometimes I am very baffled by the way it just seems impossible to some things without plastic.

  3. thank you for sharing alla this with alla us out here. inhabiting the world in a realm of conscious choices and aware decisions make life all the more rich, i think, and yer journey shows that to be true.
    thank you.

  4. You may not be able to live 100% plastic free, but you will never go back to the way you were and you have inspired so many of us. I still haven’t taken the plunge. That is how hard what you did is, but I am motivated now.
    Have you posted about how you make your soft cheeses? I want to do that.
    If it makes you feel any better, I still shop at Costco. I know, that doesn’t make you feel better. I know that is bad of me on so many levels. Ack…

    1. That does make me feel a little better actually. I just realized that no matter how much I want to support them, we can’t afford to shop exclusively at our local co-op. I just gave myself permission this week to do what’s right for our family and our budget even if it isn’t exactly according to my ideals about how commerce should look.

  5. We are blessed with a raw milk each week, and each week some of it is made into yogurt, some of it is drunk or cooked with and some of it sours…after 2 weeks I make some sort of dry cottage cheese/ricotta with 2weeks worth of sour milk! I have found that after it drains thru the cheese cloth and put in the fridge (still in the cheese cloth), it holds it’s shape pretty well, and then I grate it and put it in just about everything. Any meal that is cooked that has cheese in it, is blessed with some of this stuff….I can’t believe I use to toss this sour milk that has become a main ingredient in our diets!

  6. Love the pictures of your kitchen! My stove top looks eerily similar with the cast iron skillets, le Creuset pots and stainless steel tea kettle. I also have that exact strainer in your sink!! How funny. I’m envious of your flat cast iron skillet…. I’d love one for pancakes/flatbreads and such. I’ll have to keep my eye out for one. I’m inspired to try making pita bread now… it seems easy enough, I just feel like it must be so hard to make! Good on you for living plastic free. We continue to take steps in that direction, and I find that it has required us to give things up…. usually things that were never good for us in the first place! It’s forcing me to get creative with our bulk dry goods, raw milk, home grown produce and above all… to eat less!

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