Week 1: Plastic Free July

It’s the end of the first week of Plastic Free July, and I’d say things are going well! I slipped up some over the weekend, but the week has already made me think more critically about access and privilege in my zero waste life. Here’s my overview of the week:

Sunday, July 1: I went grocery shopping at Stadium Thriftway and picked up some staples using my reusable produce bags. I picked up some herbal tea in plastic-free bags (because yes, most tea bags have plastic in them), though the bag does have two staples in it.

First grocery roundup of plastic free July

Monday, July 2: I brought lunch to work and managed to avoid eating fun-sized candy all day at the office! At dinner time, I noticed that I was pretty short on protein. I have some dried black beans in my pantry that I’ve been meaning to use, but I always forget to pre-soak them. Luckily, I had eggs and vegetables on hand, so I made an omelet. I think getting a good variety of protein during the month is going to be my biggest challenge — I may end up eating a lot of beans.

Tuesday, July 3: I had the same lunch (yam and other assorted veggies + almonds, all purchased in reusable produce bags) and went to boyfriend’s house for dinner. Luckily, my boyfriend is pretty on board with the zero waste lifestyle, but we do end up buying/preparing things I wouldn’t buy if I was shopping on my own. We had a salad for dinner but got focaccia bread that came in a plastic bag and salad dressing that came with a plastic wrapper around the lid. My boyfriend recently moved to Puyallup, a small town that doesn’t have health food stores. Spending time in Puyallup has made me consider the privilege I have to live in a town with multiple grocery stores that have bulk options. Zero waste and plastic living are all about access, and sometimes we just don’t have access to plastic-free options.

Wednesday, July 4: The 4th of July is a pretty wasteful day in the U.S., but this year I managed to keep it low-waste (mostly because I didn’t participate in any 4th activities). The morning started with delivery from Full Circle Organics, an organic produce box that supports farmers in the Puget Sound region. There was some plastic in my box, but I’ll find ways to reuse that. Later in the day, I was craving sweets and pizza, so I went to Whole Foods with my roommate to get gummy snacks from the bulk area and pizza slices from the hot bar. Unfortunately, as I was paying for my snacks, the cashier told me that Whole Foods no longer allows people to buy bulk foods with their personal reusable produce bags. This policy won’t impact my life too drastically as there are other places that I prefer to shop at in Tacoma that let people use reusable produce bags, but this will make zero waste even more difficult for people who don’t have local, independent options. After getting back from Whole Foods, I didn’t leave the house for the rest of the day (which was just what I wanted). Honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate the 4th given how wasteful it is and the current state of U.S. political affairs.

Thursday, July 5: Thursday was another successful day in the books. I had my usual breakfast and lunch (bulk oatmeal and yam and other veggies respectively). Every Thursday, I hang out with friends to watch whatever iteration of The Bachelor is on at the time (please don’t judge me), and these gatherings always involve drinks and snacks. The host was making margaritas, so I decided to bring chips and guacamole. My fellow zero waste friend (@saykiefs on Instagram) brought tortilla chips from a local Mexican restaurant that she was able to buy in a paper bag, so I swung by the same place. The hostess was completely unfazed by my request, meaning I finally have an option for plastic-free chips. I picked up the necessary vegetables from Safeway where I had to get a paper bag because my reusable tote was full of dirty Tupperware from my office. I plan to reuse the paper bag for gift wrap.

Friday, July 6: Here’s where things took a bit of a plastic nosedive. The workday was plastic-free again (I managed to avoid the fun-sized candies all week!) and boyfriend and I had an early dinner at a pho restaurant that uses reusable chopsticks. Then we went met up with some friends a bar. The drinks themselves were plastic-free because we were drinking beer, but by the end of the night I was feeling the need for greasy food. I ended up getting a burrito from a local fast-food Mexican restaurant. I’m sure some sort of plastic is used in the paper that was wrapped around my burrito, and they threw in salsa in plastic cups before I could ask them not to. Note to self: be more vigilant about plastic after a night of drinking (sorry Mom).

Saturday, July 7: Got lunch with boyfriend from a burger joint that doesn’t have a sit-down area, so everything is sold to-go in disposable wrapping.  Later that day, we went to Safeway (the only grocery store options I’m aware of in Puyallup) to pick up supplies for dinner. We got a steak to share (packaged in plastic wrapping and Styrofoam) and a bottle of wine and while we were checking out I was distracted by a weird, insensitive fundraising ploy (involving a kid in a fake jail cell…have they been reading the news lately) and forgot to ask for no bag, so we ended up with plastic bags. Boyfriend has a cat though so he can at least reuse the bags for cleaning the litter box.

I’m fortunate enough to be dating someone who cares about zero waste and sustainability, but he hasn’t completely signed on to the zero waste lifestyle, yet. While there are some areas I am more adamant about avoiding waste, I also respect his choices and we both end up making compromises when it comes to waste. I’m a bit bummed that I didn’t even make it a week without single-use plastic (though I never expected to make it a full month to begin with), but I still plan on ditching plastic as much as possible for the remaining weeks of July. How’s your plastic free July going?

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