Real Stories | Plastic Free Challenge | Rhian Berning



What I realised from going even more Plastic Free this July is that single-use plastic is most often synonymous with convenience…


EPISODE 3 | Plastic Free Challenge

Rhian BerningRhian Berning, Stories from a Small Town, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route

The Founder of Eco Atlas lives in a cottage next to the forest with her children aged 9 and  7, her husband and a menagerie of animals.

plastic free survival kit

Plastic Free Survival Kit for in the car

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Survival Kit for on the go

What I realised from going even more Plastic Free this July is that single-use plastic is most often synonymous with convenience and so to be plastic free takes a bit of forethought and preparation. I put together a basket in my car with all the goodies we would need so that when I’m picking kids up from school and there is that inevitable hunger attack we have our own containers for emergency food, like pancakes from the KwikSpar! My ‘Plastic Free Survival Kit’ contains reusable water bottles, glass tupperwares for take-aways and food per weight, reusable shopping bags, reusable coffee takeaway cups, some cutlery, Freshbags for fruit and veg by weight and reusable glass straws from StreamStraws. Obviously if you’re travelling by public transport or bicycle you will have to adapt your survival kit down to what is easy to carry in your bag.


Another realisation I had specific to living in a small town is that attempting to go plastic free also means supporting local farms and suppliers.


As it is I find myself going from place to place to get free range eggs here, local bread there, organic veg there. The convenience conundrum pops up again which is why supermarkets and malls are so achingly convenient because you get everything in one place. But for my area I am dreaming of a co-op where just ONE vehicle goes to the dairy to get

eco brick

The plastic our family collected this July squished into an eco brick.

milk in reusable bottles, pops past the mushroom farm to get mushrooms that AREN’T in polystyrene, gets lettuce from the lettuce farmer up the road and nuts from the Macadamian nut guy (you get the picture) and brings it to a central depot where we could all collect our plastic-free food and drop off our milk bottles and containers for the next run. We could also order our grains and staples in bulk and collect them in our own containers. It’s a dream I know, but working collectively seems to be the way to go and it’s utterly possible. There are already co-ops and food delivery systems running in cities across the country, so it’s also doable to go with existing ones and use consumer power to insist that your delivery is plastic free… there’s Ethical Co-Op in Cape Town, Organic Emporium in Joburg, Fresh Organics in Durban and FarmFresh Direct along the Garden Route.

What I learnt from Plastic Free July is that there is no point in feeling guilty about some of the inevitable plastic packaging that will enter your home, it’s overwhelming out there

and our family certainly didn’t succeed in being completely plastic free, even with my 7 year old taking on the role of the plastic police, the thing is that when we needed something we needed something! So rather we focussed on feeling excited about the solutions we discovered (like stuffing all that unwanted plastic in an eco brick that can be used for building benches and houses) and celebrating the new habits we nurtured to take beyond July and into the future.

Collective solutions from all our stories – from cities, small towns and the middle of the Karoo…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?

Follow our blog for all the episodes in this Plastic Free Challenge series. Other episodes here… Lisl Barry Episode 1, Gogo Mzimkhulu Episode 2

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[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…]

Author: Rhian