I have to admit that I’ve been feeling a little bummed out lately with my dedication to this blog and to my commitment to giving up plastic.
Most of the posts I’ve written this summer, I realized last week, have been about really depressing stuff: sea turtles eating plastic bags and whales dying from obstructed stomachs. I want to know these things, and I want to have a big picture view of the way not only the environment is suffering, but also how the creatures on it are suffering, all in relation to plastic. But it’s still not so terribly fun to write about these things or contemplate them for long hours. I feel, lately, really hopeless about our ability to make changes to have a healthier world.
It’s also getting more and more tiresome trying to avoid plastic. When I was in Iceland, I didn’t even attempt to follow my same strict no-plastic regimen. My first day there, I noticed that even fruit—apples and grapes and strawberries—is often packaged in Styrofoam and saran wrap, no doubt because the country is an island, and getting produce is expensive, and so stores go to greater measures to keep fruits and vegetables fresh. It does make sense.
In Iceland, I didn’t want to try and bridge the cultural and language gap to request plastic-free items and be a weird, demanding American, and I also felt a greater sense of “what’s the point anyway?” Seeing how even a conservation-forward country like Iceland, which keeps tidy recycling bins next to regular trash disposal bins on nearly every street corner, is tied inextricably to plastic, I had a greater understanding of just how minimal my efforts really are—how small and insignificant.
So, coming home to my growing bin of used plastic, feeling the same nagging feeling that I should just give this up, I’ve been trying to think positively and focus on some of the personal good that’s come out of this experience. I’m trying to channel my inner Pollyanna and see some of those positives. And now, after that melancholy introduction, let me share some of those…
One of those “goods” is that I’ve started to carry my trusty purple beverage container with me everywhere I go. I’ve taken it with my across the country, across the world. It goes with me to work each day. I realized, especially having my container on the plane, filled with water, on my way to Europe, that I’ve been staying more hydrated. It’s a pain sometime to lug around, but all in all, I like this new habit. My container feels like my quiet, helpful little coffee/water side-kick, and it hasn’t been hard to adopt this new daily ritual of carrying it with me wherever I go.
There are also several food positives that have come out of this no-plastic experiment, many being products I never would have tried if I wasn’t seeking plastic alternatives. I thought I’d give a shout out to a few of those particular edibles that have made my mealtimes a little happier.
First, Rick Bayless salsa. I’ve been eating a ton of it. In particular, I love making omelets, but I’m not a fan of a naked omelet. I really like to have a sauce on top. My go-to omelet-topper used to be a very delicious sun-dried tomato and red pepper spread (that I do miss) but that was packaged in tons of plastic.
I forced myself to abandon the sun-dried tomato spread, trying many alternatives in jars, and salsa became an easy replacement. The Bayless tomatillo salsa particularly thrills me (I know this sounds hyperbolic, but this salsa literally makes my morning better). I honestly don’t miss the way I used to eat my eggs with the sun-dried tomato spread.
Another happy find has been McCann’s oatmeal. The steel-cut variety pictured here comes in an aluminum tin (that at $9 per tin, is expensive, but lasts me a good month or two) and it is so tasty. When it’s cooked, each bead of oat expands into a quinoa-like grain that is chewy and hearty and satisfying. I feel like I’m having breakfast on a farm in the country when I eat this oatmeal. It lights up my imagination. I feel like I’m writing a commercial here, but I am a little in love with this oatmeal.
One more food item that I’ve come across in my hunt for all that is plastic free is this cheese, Stella’s Fontinella, that comes in a wax wheel. This is literally the only cheese I’ve been able to find that has no plastic packaging. I bought it without knowing anything about what it would taste like, and luckily, it tastes delicious. It does have its downsides: the wheel-sealing causes some of the outside of the cheese to be more subject to mold, and I have to buy the whole darn wheel to get the no plastic benefit (which is 16 ounces), but the cheese is also really cheap. I’ve found it tastes like a mixture between sharp cheddar and parmesan, which I’ve substituted in recipes calling for mozzarella. You’ve gotta give this is try…it’s so tasty!
Yes, there are many sad things to contemplate about plastic and about committing to hoard it for a year. It’s really, really hard to avoid, and I feel like a chump often trying to insist on no plastic at the deli counter or preemptively asking servers for “no straw, please.” I don’t like how it seems to make people around me feel guilty, and I feel really sad some days after hours considering how little I can actually do to change our society’s standard of using something once and then tossing it away.
But for this week, I’m trying to keep my focus on the positive: the foods I’ve tried because of my new restriction, and habits I’ve picked up that have been natural and, I hope, will stick even after this year is through. Turns out, I do have some reasons to be glad.