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Living plastic-free

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Sydney-sider Sarah Tait decided to live without plastic for a year, and in so doing, saw a transformation in her life – and for those around her.

When ocean and yoga lover, Sarah, confronted her own use of plastic, she was shocked how big of a role it played in her food choices. An avid fan of potato chips, she would amass mountains of wrappers, mindlessly. “I wouldn’t think about it,” she says.

But a middle-of-the-night realisation on a yoga retreat two years ago changed everything. Confronted by sea pollution, Sarah made the commitment to live without plastic for a year and share her journey via her blog Wander Lightly

This habit has become a solid and much-loved cornerstone of her life. There have been bumps along the way and she’s had to be more prepared than ever before – her Keep Cup, steel water bottle, drawstring produce bags and travelling cutlery set are always ready to go, for example.

But she lives with a greater connection to the world around her, cooks more food herself, eats more mindfully and puts more heart into the choices she makes.

Here’s how she did it and what she’s learnt from her plastic-free life.

What inspired you to go plastic-free?

In Oct 2014, I went on a yoga retreat to Tonga. There was the opportunity to swim with humpback whales. We were in the ocean, in the middle of nowhere, and we came across a huge piece of Styrofoam; that sighting kicked off a discussion about how prolific the problem of plastic in the water had become, and how much damage plastic creates without us being conscious of it.

In the middle of the night I had a realization that I needed to stop using plastic. The next morning I said to the group: “I’m going to go plastic-free and write a blog to share how I go and what I learn.”  And that’s what I did.

How have you gone about this?

I did things like looked in my pantry, and saw which foods in there were packaged in plastic – almost everything!

I went to the op shop and bought glass jars. I put everything I had into those jars to get an idea of the plastic waste I was using. In the end, I had 187 plastic packages stored in my pantry (and I live alone, so that’s just one person’s plastic usage).

I went around to local bulk stores and invested in drawstring bags to carry fresh foods. I started to follow other blogs and online pages about plastic-free living for inspiration, such as The Rouge Ginger and My Plastic-Free Life 

What have been the most challenging aspects of your journey?

Having to stop being a ‘convenience consumer’. I love potato chips and used to buy a bag of chips and not think about the wrapper.

Not being able to buy ‘convenient’ snacks was hard to adjust to. But it’s forced me to slow down and eat real food, such as nuts and bananas.

I don’t eat crackers now, even though I love them. I have changed from mindless eating to something much healthier. Instead of a bag of chips, I will take a homemade dip to friend’s places, etc. It adds a nice touch to bring something that you’ve made.

What have been the greatest joys?

Stepping back from being a convenient consumer! Making more of my own food means I put more heart into things. It makes me feel more in touch with the world around me.

Rather than thinking this problem is so big I can’t make a difference, I love the feeling that I’m doing something in aid of such a large problem – through taking a stand and sharing my journey.

There’s a supportive community of people out there also trying to live lighter and it’s lovely to part of that rather than sitting on my hands doing nothing.
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What advice would you give others wanting to go plastic-free?

  • Keep it simple: if you have lots of plastic containers don’t feel too overwhelmed, but as they start to break down, replace them with glass
  • Check out your local produce market or bulk store
  • Take reusable bags to the supermarket; buy loose fruit and vegetables where possible
  • If you can buy something second hand, do so
  • Jump on to Google and investigate zero waste blogs and social media accounts for inspiration. Often watch my feed, particularly on Instagram, and I’ll get a whole lot of new ideas on ways to do things better

How can people get started?

  • Get a reusable water bottle
  • Buy a Keep Cup for takeaway coffee & tea
  • Refuse plastic bags
  • Refuse straws
  • One for the ladies: use a menstrual cup rather than pads and tampons
Blackmores is lucky enough to have Sarah on staff at our Northern Beaches headquarters in Sydney. Read more about her journey via her blog.

First published 13th December 2016