Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Week Without Food Wrapped in Plastic

If you're looking for a good way to lose weight, try to eat foods untouched by plastic. In keeping with Fake Plastic Fish and It Starts with Me blogs, I attempted to take on their challenge - A week without food wrapped in plastic. Unlike Danielle Richardet, who has a husband and small children, I only had to fend for myself. So while she was planning meals around the plastic obsticle course and learning how to make almond milk from scratch weeks before, I was working on how to raise $10,000 for my upcoming 4000 mile voyage in the South Atlantic. Needless to say, when the week of deprivation started, I was scrammbling to find anything that wasn't wrapped in or poured out of plastic. The latter one being an even bigger challenge. About my only true dependency is half and half creamer for my coffee. Try to find one that doesn't have a silly plastic spout. About three days into the challenge, I found Sealtest uses a carton the old fashion way, no plastic liner, no plastic cap, and spout. It was at Fresh Market where I also picked up organic carrots bound by a rubberband, soups in glass jars and metal lids, and canned soups and fruit without the plastic BPA lining. My cart was a work of art!
What I did learn was seldom does our food go without touching plastic at one point or another. For example, Fresh Market had beautiful stakes in their meat case. I seldom eat meat, but this looked tempting. I asked to have it wrapped in butcher paper and explained why. "Oh, lady, all of our meats are shrink wrapped in plastic when they are shipped to us." Okay, never mind. I went on to the breads. Spying some french bread wrapped in paper, I pulled a sleeve out of the wooden basket and sure enough, there was a plastic window on the sleeve of paper. For real? I then went back to the counter asking if they had any bread in the back that I could buy that wasn't put in a paper sleeve yet. "Oh, lady, we get all our bread dough sent to us in plastic bags, we then bake them here." Ugg. I moved on. I found myself in front of the bulk food items with brown paper bags in hand and as I started to scoop, my daughter said, "Aren't those bins plastic?" I had to compromise on this one.

I visualized what it must be like first thing in the morning just at Fresh Market. Bags from bread and desserts being tossed as trays are filled being readied for the oven. Bag after bag of individually wrapped cuts of meat sliced opened then quickly tossed. Cheeses, fruits, vegetables, unbagged for the display case.

What I realized is that this plastic use issue has many tiers. The amount of plastic waste before we get it to our store shelves has to be astronomical. It's no wonder it ends up every where. So, how we can reduce some of this use is buying in bulk, choose not to use single wrapped items (that are most often over processed), and look hard for the things you like that are devoid of plastic. You just might find there are businesses out there that share the same value.


  1. Bonnie!! This is AWESOME!! Your daughter is a lot like Aaron! When I first told him about the challenge his joke was, "so you're going to buy no foods in plastic... how are you going to get them home?? In your plastic car!?" (he thought that was comical)

    I hadn't even thought about the different layers (tiers) of plastic waste. I suppose I imagined a bakery actually making and baking breads, cakes, and cookies... not unwrapping from a plastic bag and baking... hmmm...and the meat counter of supposed "fresh" meats all wrapped individually... it's almost like the wool is being pulled over the consumers eyes... I can absolutely visualize that waste... truly astronomical.

    Also, thanks for the tip about the half and half... Aaron will be SO happy!!

  2. I know exactly what you mean - being frustrated with how much plastic there is at a supermarket! I admire the effort you put into making sure you buy groceries in non-plastic wrap/seals.

    I've been wondering if it's possible that businesses set up a system in which they sell their products in reusable containers... (for a higher price)... and then allow customers to return the containers for money/an incentive.. or they can just keep reusing the plastic container (or whatever material it is made of)... I know there are probably a lot of issues in this hypothetical solution (ie. sanitation). What do you think??

    I would love to try the challenge too! but my parents are in charge of groceries... it'll be hard to get them to change.

  3. Start out with small changes. Get them to buy in bulk and not individually wrapped items like little candy bars, small sacks of chips, etc. Tell them to buy the big bag of chips and you'll reuse a sandwich bag if you need smaller portions. If you can get them to sit down and watch a movie with you, rent Addicted to Plastic, No Impact Man, or Hawaii: Message in the Waves. They are all interesting, informative, and empowering. Thank you for your comment. It gives me hope for the future!

  4. Thank you for the suggestions!
    I'm glad that you feel hopeful!
    I do too!

  5. INS, I've been thinking abt your comment re: refillable containers. Some really great examples of that would be for shampoos, conditioners, laundry soaps, cleaning agents. I heard there are companies that do this I just can't find them. If you do, can you let me know so I can post it? thanks.