New Challenge: Reducing my impact to zero plastic waste for a month

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This challenge took a while to come around! Considering, that I have been collecting garbage on trails, avoided throw-away items as much as possible and have been fed up with my vegetables coming in plastic bags for a while.
Since I wrote about the sad truth of plastic for Earth Day earlier this year, this topic has been brooding in the back of my mind for months now. I heard of others doing plastic-free challenges and I see young conscious people doing what they can to avoid plastic. It’s time that I challenge myself to step up and actively pursue the goal of zero plastic waste.

The more I learn about all the plastic out there

…the more I feel the urge to stop contributing to it.

And November will be the month to go for it. I know it is already the 11th, but I kind of started at the beginning of this month. Around the 5th I decided to just go for it all the way, to commit and to challenge myself to step out of my ‘convenience zone’.

Here’s a few things that I have been doing in consequence of it:

  1. Since the first I have been buying my vegetables mainly on farmer’s markets.
  2. I have actively been looking for plastic-free packaging. Avoiding anything that comes in plastic as much as possible.
  3. I’ve been looking into making things that come in plastic by myself. Or find alternatives.
  4. Collect all the plastic garbage that I did end up with in spite of my intensions. This way I can see how much or little I ended up with at the end of the month.

‘Zero plastic waste’ instead of ‘plastic-free’

I find the term a plastic-free life a bit misleading. At this moment I’m still eating out of a plastic bowl and store food leftovers in plastic containers. And I will likely continue to do so, because I already own these things. Throwing them away, to buy containers in other more environmentally friendly materials would be beating the purpose of using less. If it’s already there I would rather reuse it for as long as it is possible, rather than buying it new. Thus the main goal of this challenge is to reduce aquiring new plastic garbage, so that I eventually can get to a zero plastic waste lifestyle.

  1. Plastic-free grocery shopping

    I already had set my mind on buying fresh food locally to support local farmers AND reduce my CO2 footprint. So by going plastic-free I had another good reason to actually do it. I used to buy groceries only when I needed something, but since the close by farmer’s market is only open on Fridays, I had to adjust my schedule accordingly. It sometimes feels inconvenient to be restricted this way, but having some routine and structure in everyday life is actually a good thing for me who lives on the messy side of life.
    While I noticed that prices seem to be a bit higher, I think it is worth it. In the end I’m buying from German farmers, who live and produce here. Since Germany is more expensive than Spain, Italy or other parts of the world it is kind of obvious that this would be reflected in the prices. At least I know, that my food has not travelled far. And I can say no to the plastic bags that the sellers want to put my food in.

  2. Avoiding plastic packaging

    As for staples or other things I still buy them in stores. The only difference is, that I will not buy anything anymore that is obviously packed in plastic.
    It is not easy, once you try to avoid it, you really realize how many things are packed in plastic. I found that semolina and oats are my best friends for carbs. Because you easily find them in paper or cardboard packaging 🙂  There are also frozen foods like spinach or berries, that come without plastic.
    As for my favorite snacks: nuts and seeds. The only option here is to buy them from a bulk store. It’s a shame we only seem to have one in Dresden and it’s quite far away. But at least they are also organic, so its worth the effort and money!

  3. Do-it-yourself approach

    It seems like all pasta comes in plastic. Which translates to no more pasta for me. But since pasta happens to be my favorite base for quick to make meals, I will definitely miss pasta. I love it enough to consider making my own, so I looked into making it, it sounds rather easy, except for getting the typical noodle shapes. I have not attempted it yet, but it doesn’t sound too difficult so I feel like trying it out

    Another favorite of mine is bread. I honestly find bakery prices too high for me. With the high energy needs I have thanks to my delivery job (by bicycle) I don’t want to spend too much on bread. And often there is no transparency – What has been put in the bread I buy?
    So instead of the bakery I used to buy fresh bread in supermarkets where they have labels telling me what they put in. My favorite was a pumpkin seed bread, not only cuz it’s healthy but also because it is the only bread there that uses no inverted sugar syrup.

    My conclusion here is: I either have to bring my own bread bags to avoid the plastic&paper ones that the store uses or simply start making my own. Since flour and ready to make bread mixes usually come in paper packaging 🙂

  4. Seeing it, is believing it

    When you collect the garbage you produce for a month you realize how much you actually accommolate. And that’s just one household. Now multiply this by the amount of households or people in the world and by 13 (since Christmas is likely to produce enough for two months). It’s a good way to realize that reducing and avoiding plastic (and garbage in general) should play a more important role in our life!
    Having a tangible result at the end of the month, will help me to see how successful I was. And remind me of the sneaky plastics that somehow still ended up in my possession. Helping me to avoid these traps in the future.

Super full garbage container with lots of plastic.
Seeing it is believing it. It’s scary how much garbage one person can cause in a short time.
Photo credit: NeONBRAND (Unsplash)

Why only for a month?

By December I want to have learned what my alternatives are and when, where and how to get my hands on them. I’m intending to keep doing what I found worked for me. Even if I end up with plastic waste once in a while, I will still have changed my habits and ways enough to reduce my overall impact and get closer to a zero plastic waste lifestyle. I know it will work, because I had the same resolution for my ‘60 Days without added sugar and chocolate challenge, and I’m still conscious about it and avoid sugar as much as possible – but without beating myself up, when I give in once in a while.


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