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Could You Go Plastic Free For a Week? {The Family Sustainability Challenge}

Would you ever consider taking part in a family sustainability challenge?

There’s such a buzz around ‘sustainability’ at the moment, isn’t there? Everything from banning single use plastics, to reducing meat production; saving energy to recycling. It seems to be everywhere you look. 

I think we humans are starting to become increasingly more aware of how our actions are impacting on this little blue planet we call home.

Both in a negative and a positive way.

As a family, we definitely try to do our bit.

We recycle as much as we can; old clothes and shoes get sent to the charity shop, possessions get passed along, food scraps go in the compost or food waste bin, and we sort glass, paper and tin every week.

We switch lights off and try to conserve water.

It’s something that I make a concerted effort with and, I figure, even the smallest action can help. I love the fact that my boys — even at such a young age — are learning to take care of the environment.

So when we decided — as a family — to take part in a ‘Sustainability Challenge’, I thought I’d share our experience on the blog.

The Family Sustainability Challenge

So, what did we do?

There are so many different sustainability challenges you can set yourself; ‘Energy Saving, Reducing Kitchen Waste and Zero Plastic’.

It’s best to choose just one and try to work it into your everyday life.

Energy Saving
  • Use microwaves and slow cookers to save money and energy
  • Cook in batches
  • Don’t leave appliances on
  • Use lids on pots to trap heat
  • Energy saving lightbulbs
  • Use the right sized pans
Reducing Kitchen Waste
  • Reuse and recycle
  • Boycott bottled water
  • Make sure everything you’re throwing away is actually waste
  • Compost your food scraps
  • Reduce or eliminate paper towel use
Zero Plastic
  • Reusable coffee cup
  • Plastic free lunchbox
  • Reusable cutlery
  • Foldable chopsticks
  • Stainless steel water bottle
  • Reusable straw
  • Foldable tote bag

On paper, I think the most challenging of the three is definitely going ‘plastic free’ for seven days; so — never one to shy away from a good challenge — I decided to try see if it was possible.

Not So Fantastic Plastic

These days, everything comes in plastic. Even if we take our own bags to the supermarket, almost everything we take off the shelves comes wrapped in plastic of some kind.

We decided that for one week, we’d shun the supermarket shop and try and be as self-sufficient as we could; using food that we already had in the cupboard or from our allotment.

If you’re a city dweller, growing your own food could prove tricky, but we’re lucky that we live in a rural area and have the space to grow our own fruit and veg.

Instead of the heading off to the supermarket, to do our weekly shop, the boys and I wandered down to the allotment to pick up our food for the week ahead.

Family Sustainability Challenge
Going shopping…
Plastic Free For a Week {Family Sustainability Challenge} — our allotment
Beats the supermarket, any day of the week!

Pick Your Own

By growing and picking our own produce, we were definitely able to reduce our plastic usage considerably.

Over the course of the week, during our family sustainability challenge, we didn’t buy one thing that came in a plastic bag, bottle or wrapper.

We bought meat from a local butcher and took along a reusable plastic tub to bring it home in — and OK — it was still plastic, but it was something we already had and wasn’t thrown away once we’d bought the food home.

Bread came from an independent bakery; that wraps it’s loaves in paper bags. All our fresh veg and fruit came from our allotment.

I guess, if you didn’t have the luxury of a large garden or an allotment, you could still make a difference by swapping supermarket shopping for market produce; you could take along reusable tubs or paper bags for things that would ordinarily come in a plastic wrapper.

Plastic Free For a Week {Family Sustainability Challenge} - Picking the veg
Take your own bags
Plastic Free For a Week {Family Sustainability Challenge} - teaching the next generation
A family sustainability challenge is a great way to teach the next generation
Plastic Free For a Week {Family Sustainability Challenge}- produce
Nature’s bounty
Plastic Free For a Week {Family Sustainability Challenge}
Admiring his handywork
Plastic Free For a Week {Family Sustainability Challenge} - apples and blackberrys
Apple and blackberry crumble for pud
Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - checking the sweetcorn
Checking the corn
Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - leeks

Plastic, plastic everywhere…

Over the week, I became more and more aware of plastic, in all sorts of places.

Even down on the allotment; the compost bins and water-butts are made from plastic, as were the tool handles, netting and twine.

I guess, in this day and age, it’s inevitable that things we use will be made out of plastic. It’s the go-to material — cheap and malleable. In days gone by, netting and twine would have been made from jute and hemp, bins would have been made from metal or wood.

I suppose, it’s not all bad though; these things are hard wearing and will be utilised again and again.

Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - compost bin
Plastic sneaking it’s way on to the allotment (giant compost bin gobbles tiny man)
Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - courgette flower
Little green courgette (sorry Prince)
Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - cutting the courgettes
Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - gardening
Love that face
Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - cutting the beans
Grandad’s beans — these seeds came from his original plant!
Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - me and sweetcorn
Looking pretty happy with myself!
Going Plastic Free For a Week Family Sustainability Challenge- freshly picked sweetcorn
Freshly picked

Turning Our Back On Single Use Plastic

Definitely easier said than done.

Whilst eating home grown produce — and taking vessels to the shops, to bring products back home in — definitely cut down on our consumption of the single use plastics used for the packaging of food, what about the other things we buy? 

Shampoo and conditioner? Household detergents? Sweets? Biscuits? Once I started really looking into plastic free living, I realised just how hard it would be to have a totally zero plastic lifestyle.

Granted, you can buy some things loose and take your own container to put your goods in, but with things like shampoo, I think the best way at the moment is to buy larger sizes.

Bulk buying means less waste and — whilst that’s not a long term solution — it’s the best I can come up with at the moment.

Family Sustainability Challenge — on the allotment
Going Plastic Free For a WeekFamily Sustainability Challenge - Bean picking
Bertie Bean Picking
Going Plastic Free For a Week {The Sustainability Challenge} - pumpkins
The pumpkins are nearly ready for making spiced pumpkin soup — and our annual Halloween party
Going Plastic Free For a Week Family Sustainability Challenge- learning from their dad
Learning from the master (sort of)

So what have we learnt?

I think the biggest eye-opener for me was the sad realisation that it would be almost impossible for my family to live our current lifestyle, totally plastic free.

We love the odd packet of crisps or chocolate bar — and buy packets of rice, pasta and cereal — and with the best will in the world I’m sure if we could find a non-plastic wrapped alternative, they’d either be super expensive or not quite right.

Whist we could definitely make small changes here and there — which eventually could add up to a big change — going totally plastic free would be pretty hard, as things stand at the moment.

But — weirdly — by choosing the ‘zero plastic’ option, I noticed that we also met the Energy Saving and Reducing Kitchen Waste challenges, without even really trying!

We didn’t buy any bottled water during the week of the sustainability challenge. Plus, as we didn’t purchase anything in a plastic wrapper, I didn’t buy any paper towels, so it naturally eliminated that too.

We used the composter on the allotment more regularly and generally ‘reduced our kitchen waste’ quite considerably.

With the food we harvested from our allotment, we made big batches of soup and stews — this met the ‘energy saving’ part of the challenge.

Going Plastic Free For a Week Family Sustainability Challenge - pick your own
Picking and packing
Going Plastic Free For a Week Family Sustainability Challenge - our family
Four happy plastic free challengers!

To Sum Up

We’ve loved taking part in this little exercise. It’s made us look at things with a totally new perspective and we’re definitely going to continue to try new ways to cut down on our consumption of single use plastic.

I guess, the purists among us would say that my three boys and I failed the zero plastic challenge.

Although we didn’t buy any products that either contained — or came in single use plastic — for a whole week, we still used plastic tools and plastic containers.

We still drove our cars and washed our clothes.

I remember reading a study, last year, that said:

‘…up to 30% of plastic pollution came from primary microplastics; of which the biggest contributors (almost two-thirds) were abrasion of synthetic textiles (whilst washing) and abrasion of tyres (whilst driving).’

It’s a sobering thought.

The plastic that is finding its way into our oceans — harming the wildlife — and eventually making its way back into our own food chain, is a stark reminder that we just can’t go on like this. It’s totally unsustainable for our little planet.

But, little by little, if we make small changes to how we live, the things we buy and the choices we make, we can hopefully start to make a difference.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

Going Plastic Free For a Week Family Sustainability Challenge - the next generation
The next generation

8 thoughts on “Could You Go Plastic Free For a Week? {The Family Sustainability Challenge}”

  1. This is such an interesting post. When I think of plastic free, like you I think of the fruit containers etc, in the fresh aisles. But in reality, mostly everything is in some form of plastic these days and it would be so hard/expensive to change that! Great post lovely (and beautifully written as always). xx

    • Ohh Lisa — it’s really awful. Once you start thinking about it too carefully, it’s absolutely terrifying. Single use plastics are such a horrendous blot on the earth. I don’t know where it’s going to end, to be honest. Something has to give — let’s home manufacturers and consumers start making a change soon xx

  2. Your experiment for the week just goes to show how hard it is going to be to totally eliminate plastic from our lives. If however we can start with the easy things like coffee cups, bottled water and straws hopefully that will be a start. It’s just amazing how much plastic we do use maybe we should look back in time to see how we coped before plastic was invented for more ideas on how to reduce the usage. Your article has got me thinking though of some of the little things I can do everyday.

    • Ohhhh Claire, it was SO hard. If we’d have done the challenge in a week where we needed to buy regular household detergents, loo roll or shampoo etc… we would have failed. SO hard. Plus, my husband wears contact lenses!! They’re ALSO made of plastic!! And come in single use plastic packaging. It’s literally everywhere you look!

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