My Plastic-Free Journey
By Kristin Weed, KIBCU President & Founder
Featuring, Jeanne Bellis
"Hey, I'm not out to change the world, I just wanted to see how hard it would be to change me?"
Thinking about going Plastic free? Jeanne Bellis of Stevensville, MD thought about it then did it.
It was Earth Day 2019 and she had enough. It all started with Plastic Zombie's SUP (Single Use Plastic) Challenge. Jeanne realized that she had been using at least 52 single-use plastics over the course of one year and something needed to be done about it. As she calls it, "surviving our plastic apocalypse."
Jeanne stated that "When I saw images of the amount of plastic trash floating in our oceans I realized that recycling was never going to be the answer to the epic environmental disaster we are all creating. I realized that I was mindlessly purchasing products without concern about what happens to all this waste? Mostly, I thought to myself what if God, or worse, my grandchildren ask me what I did once I found out my lifestyle was actually killing the planet? I realized when it comes to what we purchase, convenience trumps common sense and we have all become plastic zombies."
We interviewed Jeanne to get a feel for what it was like for her and her husband to slowly start removing one single-use plastic's item a day for the rest of the year. We wanted to interview someone who had taken it completely upon themselves to create a positive and sustainable change in their lives, sharing with us the small wins and the struggles so that we could share with all of our supporters and followers to demonstrate that it is easier than one may think.
From THAT to THIS!
Jeanne and her husband started slowly stayed up with the momentum by essentially having weekly goals. Most reusable items were kept handy with their car keys or in a backpack in the car.
▪week 2 -bottled water -to- reusable bottle
▪week 3 -coffee cups -to- reusable mugs
▪ week 4 -fast food beverages -to- reusable bottle
▪week 5 -straws -to- reusable straws
We keep a backpack in the car with:
▪week 6 -reusable grocery bags
▪week 7 -reusable produce bags
(only purchase produce not packaged in plastic)
▪week 8 -reusable deli containers
▪week 9 -reusable shopping bags
Pack a lunch or keep a lunchbox in the car packed with reusable items to replace:
▪week 10 -plastic fast food bags -give them your- reusable bag
▪week 11 -plastic cutlery -to- reusable
▪week 12 -Styrofoam take-away containers -to- reusable containers
▪week 13 -sandwich bags -to- reusable wraps or containers
▪week 14 - plastic plates -to- reusable
▪week 15 - plastic cups -to- reusable bottle
shop farmer's markets; we're supporting local families while greatly reducing our plastic consumption.
▪week 16 -farm fresh fruits and vegetables* (we bring our reusable bags and containers)
to never buy again:
▪week 17 -balloons
▪week 18 -swizzle stirrers/straws
▪week 19 -plastic razors
▪week 20 -plastic ear swabs
▪week 21 -plastic pens
▪week 22 -cigarette lighters
▪week 23 -air fresheners
▪week 24 -coffee pods
▪(week 5 -straws*)
▪week 25 -plastic jugs -to- cardboard box
alternative packaging (this one is tough because we switched to wax cartons which are not recyclable but our goal was to avoid purchasing plastic)
▪(week 2 -bottled water -to- reusable bottle*)
▪week 26 - plastic soda bottles -to- cans (we stopped drinking soda)
▪ week 27 -juice jugs -to- juice cartons
▪ week 28 -milk jugs -to- milk cartons
▪week 29 -kid's sippy drinks -to- reusable bottles
EASY SOAP ALTERNATIVES
▪week 30 - liquid hand soap -to- soap bar
▪week 31 - liquid shampoo -to- shampoo bar (specialty item)
EASY CLEANING ALTERNATIVES
▪week 32 -spray cleaners -to- make our own (vinegar & water)
▪week 33 - wipes -to- reusable bamboo cloth towels
EASY CONTAINER SWITCHES
▪week 34 -Styrofoam egg cartons -to- cardboard cartons
▪week 35 -plastic condiments -to- glass containers (Ketchup)
▪week 36 -plastic ice cream tub -to- waxed carton
What was the easiest plastic item to live without?
Straws! Soda! Lots of items are actually pretty easy once we made some adjustments to what we purchased.
What was the most difficult plastic item to live without/no longer use?
Our hardest ones are yet to come. I'm not sure how we are going to handle candy and cookies that are all wrapped in plastic and I really don't want to simply give them up. Honestly, I set up this challenge to help us succeed and feel good about what we CAN do, so I put all the easy stuff first.
Have you gotten any friends or family members to join this journey with you? If so, what was their feedback?
Jeanne was surprised at how little interest some friends showed of her new lifestyle, but she stated "Hey, I'm not out to change the world, I just wanted to see how hard it would be to change me?" (Luckily my husband was willing to come along too!)
What is the biggest take away now that you have started going “plastic free” for the year?
My biggest take away so far was when we were out shopping one day last summer; it was fry an egg on the asphalt hot and we had forgotten our reusable bottles, but instead of buying a drink, ever so conveniently located near the cash register, we hunted down the water fountain...that's when I knew we were starting to break through our plastic zombie habits!
How do you suggest that others follow your lead?
Start small. Don't be afraid to be different. We bring our lunchbox or our vintage lunch pails with our reusable plates, cutlery and cloth napkins to parties if we see they are using plastic ware...they make for great conversation pieces!
Advice for others wanting to go Plastic-free?
Don't be afraid to ask for help from the managers/owners where you shop. Let them know that you want to make a choice to purchase less plastic. We even use a business card letting them know how important this is to us. We spoke with the manager at our Food Lion to ask if we could use our own reusable containers at the deli. He was more than happy to help us out.
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