On the sustainability front, the trending hashtags in the month of July was #PlasticFreeJuly.
Plastic Free July is an initiative of an Australian community of environment and sustainability enthusiasts; Started in 2011, it is now a global awareness programme on single use plastic pollution.
My very own road to sustainability started about 3 years back. To begin with, I thought ‘plastic bags’ were the only area of concern. Slowly, I learnt about the impact of regular household items such as the toothbrush, tongue cleaner, disposable containers and cutlery, tea bags, ‘recyclable’ plastic, ‘woven plastic’ bags , ‘organic’ sanitary pads, on our environment.
Organic and recyclable packaging are loose terms now. I learnt that just because this term is mentioned on a packaging, it need not be that way. The most basic way of knowing, is by touch and look. If the packaging has a glossy / laminated feel, fewer the chances of recycling are.
But this article is not to explain about #PlasticFreeJuly. I would instead like to share the changes I was able to transition into and my failures on going Plastic Free in July 2020.
- Sanitary Pads
After almost 20 years of using disposable sanitary pads, I have finally started using reusable cloth pads. I had been struggling with this decision for the last 2 years. After a lot of research and discussion with friends and various forums, I finally made the switch to welcome Aunty Flo.
Yes, the decision was not easy. In my teenage days, I would explain to my mom and aunts about how they should use the leak proof and modern sanitary pads, only to realise that it is not only bad for the environment but harmful to me too. Oh and the so called organic, plant based sanitary pads – they are a farce. They cannot be easily decomposed and not many households would prefer a used sanitary pad in their compost (https://www.greenthered.in/single-post/2019/08/17/Biodegradable-Sanitary-Pads—Testing-the-tall-claims)
The part I liked about the reusable cloth pads – I seriously did not feel like I was wearing one!
- Tea Bags
Now this is one change I made about 3 months ago. It was easy when I was unemployed and indoors. But, when I resumed work, I had a few tough initial days because, only tea bags are stored in the office pantry. This made me buy a tea infuser and keep a container of loose tea leaves for my evening chai. It surely adds on to the efforts, but I held onto the sustainable change I had made.
- Packet of Chips
This is one article I failed to give up on. My favorite packet of chips at discounted prices was irresistible. Taking up the Plastic Free July challenge, made my psychological being crave for this junk food. The only consolation I could give myself was not buying the chips and crackers that came in a cardboard box. This is because within the cardboard box was plastic packaging and the cardboard box itself was a glossy printed one. I managed to reduce buying the packet of chips from every weekend to just twice that month.
- Processed Food / Ready to eat Meals
I will be honest; I do have days when I do not feel like cooking and just want my meal to be ready when I get back from work. I do not have a habit of consuming frozen / processed meals but they are a backup. And then there goes the plastic wrap and Styrofoam containers in the waste bin.
While berating myself for not being able to make these small changes in my life, I also realized that I was at least conscious of my actions. I am not perfect but at least I know where I am lacking and am still trying to make that change.
During this month, I also made an effort to find out eateries and cafes that allow you to BYO (Bring Your Own) containers for take away food and coffee. Even during the pandemic, YES! I am sharing the names of some of these places in Canberra. However, please note – remove the lid before you give the staff your container. Also, please give a clean container. Along with being sustainable, we need to maintain our level of hygiene for ourselves and for the safety of those around us.
Most places in Canberra are now allowing our own ‘KeepCups’ or reusable cups. However, I highly recommend having the ‘Green Caffeen’ app. It allows you to find out eco-focused cafes that stock the Green Caffeen café cups. This is free for cafes as well as coffee drinkers. You can swap, drink and return the reusable Green Caffeen café cups at the designated cafes across the city.
Moving to Canberra also helped me improve my sustainable habits. The waste management practices here are amazing and though the government plays a role, the community is equally conscious. Having said that, I believe it is not fair to rely on external waste management practices and assume that workers are hired to do your waste management. Each and every one of us needs to be consciously aware of the sustainable and pollution cycle and its impact on the environment. One city or country may do a good job with its waste management practices but the same does not apply globally. When we visit other places, we should try and reduce our carbon footprint in that place too.