Lisl Barry, Stories from a Rural Home, Gamkaberg Reserve, Klein Karoo
A Fine Artist and author of “52 Ways To Grow Creative Children” Lisl lives on the CapeNature reserve which her husband manages with their two daughters aged 12 and 14. Their closest town is Oudtshoorn.
My quest to reduce my landfill waste came about when we moved to the reserve in 1993 (I was then 22 years old). Managing one’s waste by recycling, makes one acutely aware of how MUCH pointless trash one “produces” – recycleable or not. I’ve been trying various options over the years, not quite eliminating our waste all together but certainly amazed at how much one can reduce if mindful. It sometime takes a little extra effort but becomes a lifestyle habit. We generally have no tin waste, very little glass but plastic is trickier…
So let’s talk easy solutions for Plastic Free July…I have 3 reusable, washable shopping bags which are designed to fold into themselves like a raincoat tucked into it’s hood and pulled tight. They fit snugly into my small handbag and are made of parachute material, which means they are really strong and durable (I’ve had mine for a number of years). Because they live in my handbag I never get to supermarket check-outs and realise I’ve left my shopping bags in the car boot! (Well – 98% of the time – then I’ll carry in my arms, my beanie (much to the horror of my teenage daughter!) or in the trolley.)
Keeping food making real, fresh and homemade…this eliminates plastic packaging like nothing else. It’s a healthier option for my family anyway as we avoid the preservatives, high sugared content and artificial additives too. I’ve not bought shop bread for years since we bake our own. No more plastic bread bags and white plastic sealing clips. Stoneground flour comes in paper bags. We make our own yoghurt, kimchi, popcorn, dips/spreads, ice-lollies and meals of course. Time consuming, sure (and I don’t always have it readily) but it becomes a way of life and worth the effort. Since we very rarely get take outs (and then try for the paper/card boxed contained options), we don’t generate non-recycleable polystyrene container waste either.
We have a selection of glass or BPA-free plastic bottles which have been a life saver many a summer’s day whether on a walk, sports event or on a hot drive home. Again, they last for years. No need to buy overpriced bottled water. We juice our own fresh/green juice. Our kids have grown up drinking water rather than juice or coldrinks, so it’s the norm – bought drinks are a rarity.
The joy of living in a rural area – I’ve found shops where I can take my own glass bottles to refill honey and olive oil, so I don’t have to buy new every time. Cheaper too! I don’t use cling wrap (which is non-recyclable). I bought a set of glass storage bowls of varying sizes which come with matching snap-on lids for fridge storage. Or use a pot lid to cover left-overs!
From household goods to wood glue, we buy in bulk. Buying in bulk helps reduce the amount of plastic packaging one has to purchase. I use mostly vinegar and bicarb for cleaning and microbial dishcloths – so it’s simple anyway. And I make my own wood polish.
Using the reusable menstrual cup has been a life changing, reducing-my-impact discovery! A way more comfortable one too. No monthly landfill waste.
The not so easy solutions….Avoiding the pre-packed veg (polystyrene punnets and cling wrap) and thin plastic veg bags… I choose to shop where one can select loose goods that source directly from the smaller farmers, and therefore fresh, and where one can choose to buy loose over bulk-packaged produce. Some veg are hard to get un-pre-packaged because they do this to retain freshness, like cucumbers, but I’ve found if you ask (even at Food Lover’s Market where they may have pre-packaged lettuce for example) they often have loose in the storeroom. One can’t be in a hurry however!
Buying dry produce from a wholesaler is the ideal to get around pre-packaged goods, however these are far and few between in a small dorpie. I find I have to forage around for shops that can oblige and I have to plan ahead and stock up. Not always easy and I don’t always get it right. Our local health shop will package the dry produce that they buy in bulk into paper bags for me – but then I need to buy bigger quantities and I need time while they do it. Recently I’ve discovered a new shop at the Sedgefield Market (open week days not just Saturday) called the Green Road. They sell loose (organic) lentils, rice, etc where you can take your own bottle or paper bags. But this is of course far from where we live and although we regularly go to the coast it’s not always convenient.
Sometimes I do wonder if all this effort is going to make an ounce of difference in a world consumed by pointless waste but then I believe we have to start somewhere. Why not with ourselves… and besides I live by the philosophy : Be the change you wish to see (with varying success!)
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Collective solutions from all our stories…every little thing we do adds up and it all counts…it’s not easy to change habits and plastic packaging is everywhere, but the more of us who say NO to single-use plastic the easier it becomes…living a healthy, plastic free life is really difficult and expensive, this needs to change and we CAN change it….and sharing our stories is powerful, we are not alone, we inspire each other and we can take back our power as consumers to create healthy communities and a healthy planet. Who’s in?
[You can search for places that are recycling or using eco packaging on Eco Atlas and here are some other plastic free wins you should definitely check out – GreenHome, StreamStraws, FreshBag, The Candylwood Store and more…]