At the beginning of 2017 Sporty and I decided it was time to up the sustainable living ante and go plastic-free.
Well, that lasted about five minutes before we realized what it entailed.
No more coffee on the go unless we brought our own cups (which we invariably forgot at home), no more favorite snacks (which are all housed in plastic) and no more fresh produce in cling wrap (adieu corn on the cob).
It also meant no more take-out, no more order-in, no more readymade soup from Woolies and no more readymade anything from Wellness Warehouse.
Sustainable Living Fail (Sort Of)
We could not imagine life without all our staples. About the only thing we managed consistently was to stop using straws. And even then there was the occasional slip up.
I mean, at least we were doing something, right?
Going Plastic-Free (Again)
On the one hand, yes, doing something is better than doing nothing. But then I wrote an article about the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic that’s been produced since the 1950s. Shortly thereafter I wrote another article on the subject for World Oceans Day.
You can’t do that much research and not have the facts slap you upside the head.
I looked at how quickly Sporty and I were filling up our recycling bin and it got me thinking. It’s still trash. We’re still feeding the system. It was time to be the change. Not surprisingly, Sporty was totally onboard.
Please can someone get that woman a Bells?
Thanks to Nude Foods, a package-free grocery store in Cape Town’s lower CBD, our second attempt at eschewing single-use plastic is now more than doable.
They sell everything from household cleaning items and toiletries to food staples like bread, flour, rice and breakfast cereals. They have a great selection of sweet treats, herbs, spices and wait for it, they even have coffee beans.
There are glass jars and paper bags available to house your spoils. Or, if you’re a professional hippie, you can bring your own.
A Shift in Shopping Mindset
Because it’s such a hands on experience, shopping at Nude Foods is akin to paying with cash instead of using your credit card. It really makes you stop and consider how badly you want something.
When you get home with your loot you’re also more inclined to make it last, since going back for more requires a bus ride into town rather than a 10-minute walk to the mall.
Sporty carefully ekes out her portion of goji berries each morning and I…oh who am I kidding, I still eat all my chocolates in one go.
When we do shop at our local grocery store, all we buy is fresh produce. Gone are the snacks, convenience foods and readymade meals.
As vegans, we always spent a lot of time in the fresh product section, but now it’s literally the only place we go besides the toilet paper aisle.
A New Take on Tupperware
We’re also doing our best to upcycle all the single-use plastic we do end up with. Because here’s the thing, a lot of it isn’t actually single-use. We’ve just been conditioned as consumers to view it as such.
Poor Sporty has been on the receiving end of many an odd look from her colleagues due to this, but being the seasoned urban hippie she is, she’s just taking it in her stride.
Being cool about your weird comes with age.
We’re Saving a Ton of Money
With all our favorite go-to treats on the ‘don’t buy’ list, we’re not spending nearly as much money as we used to. It’s going to be interesting to see how much we’re under on our grocery budget at the end of the month.
Our personal pocket money —which we’re allocated for ‘me time’ stuff like artist dates— is also lasting a lot longer. Before, we’d blow our bucks on sweets and snacks (like a couple of toddlers). Now that’s no longer an option.
What Changes Have We Made?
Unfortunately, because we’re tied into buying the majority of our fresh produce at Pick ‘n Pay, we are still using some single-use plastic. We avoid anything in cling wrap, net bags or non-recyclable packaging, but there’s no getting around the rest of it.
The majority of Pick ‘n Pay’s fresh fruit and veg is packaged, but if there’s an unpackaged option we’ll always take that instead. It’s not ideal, but for now it is what it is.
We used to buy toilet paper in plastic-wrapped packs of nine or 12, but now we buy single rolls because they’re wrapped in paper. Besides being slightly more expensive, it hasn’t made a difference to our shopping.
Sporty bought a coconut shampoo bar, which wasn’t expensive and has proved to work much better than the bottle shampoo we were using before. She claims her hair has never felt so soft of bouncy.
It looks really good too! (And no, I’m not biased.)
Right now we still have moisturiser, eye cream and face wash from Woolies’ bunny-friendly range, so we’ve yet to find a suitable alternative. I’ll really miss the Woolies range, but a girl’s gotta step up where she can.
We’ve used body wash for the longest time, simply because we’ve always found bar soap leaves our skin feeling parched. For now we still have some left, but it won’t be long before we’ll need to buy a bar of soap.
I’m not too concerned though, because Sporty’s had such great results with her shampoo bar. Plus, the bar soap at Nude Foods comes in a range of cool colors and flavours.
Our body lotion (also Woolies’ bunny-friendly range) is just about finished and then we’ll more than likely move over to coconut oil, which offers a host of health benefits. Nude Foods does sell body butter, so we may give that a try if it’s not too pricey.
You can get an odour-free coconut oil, so at least we won’t smell like a cocktail.
We’ve had to replace our usual Earthsap toothpaste that comes in a single-use plastic tube with one from Back 2 Nature. It’s like brushing your teeth with herbamare, but at least it comes in a glass jar.
Honestly, this was our biggest concern. We spoke about it and decided if we couldn’t get our grubby paws on unpackaged coffee we’d quit the stuff once and for all.
But then we discovered that Nude Foods stocks a variety of coffee beans and we breathed a slow sigh of relief. They’ve even made a deal with the coffee shop across the road so we can go there and grind our beans.
Sweets and Snacks
We’ve managed to quit all our sweets and snacks bar one. There’s a local bakery that makes sublime vegan hot cross buns and try as we might we can’t give ‘em up.
I know, I know, super lame, right? That’s what we think too, but these things are like crack. The more we eat, the more we want.
On the upside, we put the bakery in touch with Nude Foods and apparently they’ll be supplying them from this week. The bakery also offered for us to collect our
drugs buns unpackaged from their premises.
I’m breathing another slow sigh of relief just writing that.
As for all our other food staples, like rice, oats, nuts, etc., we buy them unpackaged at Nude Foods. If we can’t get them, we do without. Simple.
In terms of take-out, we can order vegan burgers from Knead Bakery, because they come in compostable containers and a brown paper bag and vegan pizza from Col’Cacchio, which is delivered in a cardboard box.
Our go-to convenience foods, like Woolies’ spicy vegan soup and barbecue burgers are no longer an option. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to get Blendobi and Minimalist Baker to help me make our own at home.
Wanna Join Us?
If you’re not doing anything (I get it, life is busy), how about picking just one thing to focus on? You could commit to recycling or taking your own reusable bags when you go shopping, for example.
For those of you that have already embarked on your mission to live more mindfully, perhaps it’s time to up the ante in your own life. What about becoming a weekday vegetarian or organising a clean-up in your ‘hood?
This is how we’ll make a difference. One person, one action at a time.