By Victoria Milner
Plastic Free July is a really good time for all of us to look at how plastic comes into our lives on a day to day basis. Something we do every day is prepare food and our kitchens can be a serious source of plastic proliferation. Of course shopping at the Co-Op is a great way to reduce the plastic that you consume. Buying in bulk and bringing your own reusable containers is a good first step, but there’s also loads of other stuff that can help make for a more plastic-free world. Plastic Free July is the perfect time to begin new habits that will stick with you throughout the year and reduce your own plastic consumption.
Before you leave home
This might seem like a super obvious one, but it’s amazing how many of us simply forget to take our bags when we go food shopping. One of the best ways to overcome this issue is to always carry around spare bags. Maybe not enough to do an entire week’s shopping, but a tiny fold-away bag weighs nearly nothing and can be permanently kept in your satchel or handbag. These bags are really strong and fit quite a load in if you really try!
Aside from standard sized shopping bags you may sometimes need to put small items of fruit or vegetables in a bag. Instead of those nasty plastic ones that you find in supermarkets, keep your own mesh, or any reusable material, bags in your handbag. They weigh just about nothing and can hold a big load of spinach leaves, mushrooms, beans or whatever else you feel needs a bag to hold it.
At the shops
Don’t be tricked into buying more than you need!
The supermarkets love to offer ‘free’ food, buy two, get one free, and that kind of thing. The problem is that it’s not ‘free’ if you end up throwing it away. There is a cost to growing, packaging, transporting and displaying all that food, and if you throw it away, that’s just a waste of resources. Of course, if it’s a staple food item that will last or you know will be eaten, then take advantage of the offer, but often it will be the same price to just buy what you need, without the waste.
Replace plastic wrap with reusable options
One great way to save on single use plastic during Plastic Free July is to reduce or give up using plastic wrap or cling film. Having reusable glass or plastic containers to store food in is a much better way to store your leftovers at home, and they’ll keep their freshness longer, too. The other great product to have in your pantry is beeswax food wrap (or vegan alternatives). Made of cotton and beeswax, these handy covers will fit to shape around the item you need, keeping it fresh for next time. You can also use the beeswax wraps to wrap cheese, carrots and other items that normally sweat in plastic wrap and spoil quicker. These wraps can be simply wiped clean with some soapy water and they’re ready to use again.
How often do you use vegetables and throw away large chunks of the stalks or stems? The Ozharvest cookbook shares 10 ways to use stalks, stems and leaves. Here are my top three:
- Steam broccoli stalks until tender and top with a fried egg and grated parmesan
- Save any stalks, stems, carrot tops etc. and use to make veggie soup or stock
- Don’t peel vegetables, the skins are a super source of nutrients!
At the end of the food chain is your food waste. Let’s not forget that this is also the beginning of the next round of food. Whether you’re in a house or an apartment, there are many possibilities. Some apartment blocks have their own compost bin (check yours to see), but if not, there are other options, too. Check out ShareWaste, a scheme connecting people who have compost bins with people who have food scraps to compost. You can join the Compost Revolution for discounts on buying worm farms or compost bins (even though Northern Beaches Council is not participating, you will still be eligible for a 40% discount). Or talk to your neighbours and / your local community garden. And stay tuned for more information on a composting workshop we’ll be hosting in the coming months.
For more handy hints and downloadable resources check out the Ozharvest website for more ways to fight food waste.
Victoria has recently returned to Manly after 15 years living abroad. In Singapore Victoria wrote the popular food blog, Singapore Foodie, and also spent her time working for a Cambodian based charity. Victoria joined the Manly Co-Op as a way to connect with like-minded people in the community and is working to make her life as plastic free as possible.