We (Jess, Corey, Ivy and Calvin) chose to make Nelson our home after moving from Perth. We’re loving exploring our new backyard and becoming part of the local community. We always tried to tread lightly on the Earth (gardening, composting and home-cooking) but started to see that there was so much more we could be doing, especially to reduce our waste. Plus we have two growing little people who we need to teach the importance of caring for our planet, so they can enjoy it too.
We arrived in Nelson in January 2019 and I landed a role at the Nelson Environment Centre – lucky me! My job is to fundraise for this awesome organisation and their programmes. What I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about environmental sustainability and how it would agitate change for our family.
We were lucky to host The Rubbish Trip crew at the Nelson Environment Centre in February 2019. This coincided with me starting to think more about waste and how much we were producing within our own household. I also started researching to see where our “recycled” plastic ends up and how much is actually recycled and it is horrifying.
And now, I can’t un-know what I know. I lie awake at night thinking about plastic and the impact that humans are having on the environment.
I wonder how we got to this point in society where we are surrounded by plastic. Our family would easily eat our way through a tub of cherry tomatoes, blueberries and grapes in a week – each in a single use plastic tub. I am partly responsible here if I choose to purchase these but I can’t help but direct some anger and frustration towards these providers and ask the question, how is this allowed and why aren’t they forced to cut these out?
In Australia last year we watched a 6-part series ‘Back in time for Dinner’ by Annabel Crabb, which followed an Aussie family who simulated life through different eras over the past 60 years. What really stood out for me was the shift towards a convenience lifestyle and the new levels of throw-away plastic that came with this. As more women joined the workforce shortcuts were made at home, introducing things like disposable nappies, microwave dinners and frozen vegetables.
The need for convenience coincides with an increase of disposable income, which also shapes our plastic usage. If you are out and about and decide you need a drink, it so easy and affordable to buy a plastic water bottle. In fact, I have been to people’s houses who have offered me a drink of water and handed me a bottle from a 24 pack from the drinks fridge. It isn’t unheard of for someone to grab a takeaway coffee each day on their way to work. Not so long ago, café coffee was a special treat that was enjoyed sitting down. In a ceramic cup. How quickly we seem to have changed.
The reality is that now most families have two working parents, which we juggle with day-care, trying to enjoy quality time together, exploring our natural surrounds, plus the daily chores of washing, packing lunches, packing up toys, and the rest. So I find myself and our family in this ‘in between’ time where we need to find a balance of being environmentally aware and reducing our carbon footprint with the busyness of our daily lives.
Everywhere I look now I see plastic, but I decided I would tackle the big offenders first. Sometimes making the switch requires a significant investment upfront, so with our tight budget this has to happen step by step. We are shifting towards non-disposable nappies, glass bottles and beeswax wraps. We shop at the bulk food stores. We only buy takeaway coffee if we have our Keep Cups on hand. We aren’t perfect but we are trying to change and I see this as a journey.
As much as possible I am soaking my own chickpeas for hummus, making my own pizza dough and bread. There have been some disasters ( the crumbly muesli bar and the non-sprouting sprouts), and some winners (Easiyo yoghurt –not plastic free but less plastic, the huge kale patch and my own vanilla essence from Smitten Kitchen)
During this time of change, I realised that it would be crazy to dispose of all the plastic items that we have already purchased because this would do more harm for the environment that good. I now know that stainless steel pegs are the better option, but I already have plastic ones that are working just fine so I need to use these first until they are not functioning. And the packet of cotton buds. And the 50 metre roll of glad-wrap. Yes, I did buy these things. And now I have to shamefully look at them every day until they are all gone. They serve as a good reminder for me of the changes that we are committed to making.
Thanks again to the Rubbish Trip for giving us the inspiration and extra push we needed to make these changes.
This post is part of our blog series “A Waste of Time?: Preaching to ‘the converted’”. You can read about the origin and kaupapa of this series here.