January 23, 2013

My Month Without Plastic: Unexpected Nutrition Overhaul

By Samantha Porter

In last week's post, I was just starting to realize how much effort and planning it would require for me to avoid plastic waste while shopping for groceries. This process is a bit clumsy at first, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.

What will I eat??

Before leaving for the store, I think through exactly what I'm going to purchase so I make sure to bring the right jars and reusable bags with me to carry my groceries. Though it is a relative hassle, it's given me the opportunity to be more mindful about what I eat.

Before this challenge, I would swing into any grocery store at anytime and buy whatever I wanted on a whim. While that was certainly convenient for me, those trips usually resulted in a lot of plastic waste and consumption of overly-processed foods.

Now that I have to mull over a shopping list so that my bulk bin soiree goes accordingly, I'm more likely to erase the mac and cheese, lunch meat, frozen pizza (impossible to find without plastic no less) and brownie mix from my list. Eating like that is not sustainable for a person’s health or the environment. My new list consists of more fresh fruits and vegetables, like spinach, carrots, mushrooms, strawberries, apples, as well as healthy bulk foods like beans, nuts, granola and grains. These items are not in plastic and let’s be honest, I know they're way better for me.

The other perks? By eating more fresh whole foods and less animal products and highly processed foods, I've already noticed an improvement in my skin, fingernails and, ahem, digestive process. And, since I started juicing every morning I no longer need to buy prepackaged beverages because my juice is much more tasty and has tons of nutrients in it! Win, win!

How much will this cost?
As for how much this whole shift costs... it is more money initially. Purchasing the glass jars is an obvious expense that you don't have if you're buying Lucky Charms in a box. However, it's a one time cost and each time I bring my jar and fill it up with organic corn flakes it costs less than if I were to purchase cereal in a box. Win! Also, by purchasing bulk, I'm able to buy exactly the amount I need so it's fresh when I use it as opposed to almond flour that's been sitting around for a year and a half because I had to buy five pounds of it in a bag.

Will I have to trek all over town?

My trips to the store are a little more frequent, but I am fortunate to live on Capitol Hill because the co-op is close by and I don't really need to trek all over the place to get what I need. Though it can be a nice diversion to head across town to the Ballard Farmer's Market on Sundays and have tea nearby with my lovely ladies in 98107. Savin' plastic and swappin' stories at the same time.

I've found that the effort it takes to not encounter plastic has become a kind of novelty, actually. I've gotten over the awkwerdity of hauling a heap of jars to the bulk bins and now do it with ease. In fact, on one of my recent trips, a fellow shopper told me that she was going to try and bring her own jars the next time she comes to the co-op after she saw how easy I made it look. That's exactly what I love to hear!

I know Gandhi's words are often overused, but I have found truth in them: we can make a positive impact and cause the change we want to see.

‘till next time!

Read Sam's next blog in this series, "My Month Without Plastic: Wrapped Up."

About Samantha:
Sam is a self-proclaimed minimalist who loves to take on new challenges - especially ones that relate to her love of the Burke Museum. She's worked at the Burke for two and a half years, currently as our Operations Assistant.