Month 1 tally, highlghts, a recipe, and the interconnectivity of capitalist markets, social justice and environmental consciousness

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Here ’tis!

My first month’s tally… if I’m looking meh about it that’s just because, well… I’m meh about it.

It wound up being more than I’d hoped for – so some of it is stuff that was actually bought last year but has only been used this year and I’ve not included those things that I did accidentally pick up this month, but am re-using (like the antipodes bottles which are now my reusable water bottle and my vinegar bottle, and the ginger beer that is now my sesame oil bottle). It consists of some cellotape, a sauce sachet, some plastic bags (from last year), some wetwipes packets (shuddup I liked the freshness ok) let’s see what else… oh yes the pill bubbles that Ella’s worm medcation came in,  plastic razor packet (from last year), tampon wrappers,  some plastic wrapping from Ella’s last Chunky dog roll which she finished early Jan, gladwrap from the kaanga waru I had made over Christmas, thermal receipts AND… tin cans that I THOUGHT might just be tin but were lined with plastic inside. Flippin’ stealth plastic grr.

Sorry Toroa. :-/

So my plastic waste weighs in at 45gms. It’s ok, I’m kind of ok with that for my first month, but had better expectations, and I certainly hope that’ll go down in future months.

Overall, you know… it’s not been as hard as I thought it was going to be, and so many people have remarked to me “oh my gosh it must be SO hard!” that it’s making me double check myself to see if I’m cheating… if there’s something else I should be missing out on that other people are factoring in, that I’m missing.

But no, I think in general it’s just a mind shift, and we make it seem harder to ourselves than it is for whatever reasons. In any case – I haven’t found it a major inconvenience at all. When I say I miss wetwipes, well… I DO but I don’t pine for them, I’m fine without them and am happier knowing that I’m not creating unnecessary waste just for the sake of a convenient freshness fix.

So…. tip of the month this month?? Has to go to the cuz Te Hamua Nikora who shared this pic with me on how to repurpose an old tshirt into a bag:


Great way to stop those plastic fibres from entering the waste stream. 🙂 Made me want to rifle through my draws and pull out all my t-shirts to see if they’d make cooler bags than they do shirts. Ok that is what I actually did.

Best recipe? Most definitely, hands down… the almond/banana ice cream. Good Goddess in heavens above and around and all the saints and satyrs and demi gods there ever were…. it. is. YUM.

Like… ‘even-if-I-could-go-back-to-buying-plastic-I’d-still-go-for-this’ yum.
Pic courtesy of “Eat lean, Train mean, Live Green” (I got 2/3 of that equation SUSSED. Well… most of the time)

Extra bonus was making my own almond butter… I LOVE that stuff but it’s soooo expensive and I just knew that the glass jars had plastic in the lids so I haven’t bought any. My almonds only cost me $10 at the Bulk Inn and I only needed like… a cup of them. That made me a decent amount of the icecream and I still had a punnet of the spread left afterwards. SOOOOO GOOOOO ARRRGHH….

You know, by and large, people have been just really lovely. A few of them read the article in the local paper, or heard the radio interview, and have gone out of their way to be supportive. Like Lois at Warehouse Stationery

Who scoured the store for a plasticfree rubber and then got a paper bag especially for me – she was very helpful and incredibly supportive and just all round bubbly and supportive in a way that makes you even happier to be doing what you’re doing.

Similar experience at Bunnings today in the Garden section – even if they don’t stock what I need they’ve still gone looking for an alternative solution in their store, or have tried to figure out with me what an alternative might be at home, or even another supplier that might have plastic free alternatives. People have genuinely wished me well and believed in what I was doing, which made me wonder why more of us aren’t giving it a go, too. Anyways… I guess that’s a whole nother story and a good portion of why I’m doing what I’m doing is to demonstrate it’s achievability and make it even more achievable for others. In any case – all the lovely support made me think there probably is something that we can do, as a community.


So this is Te Tūranganui a Kiwa, Tūranga, Gisborne, or Gizzy. BEAUTIFUL city, gorgeous beaches – and unfortunately produces twice the national average of plastic waste. In this past year Hawaii went plastic-bag free

“Being a marine state, perhaps, we are exposed more directly to the impacts of plastic pollution and the damage it does to our environment,” Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter, said in 2012. “People in Hawaii are more likely to be in the water or in the outdoors and see the modern day tumbleweed — plastic bags — in the environment.”

All of which apply to Aotearoa/New Zealand… and in particular to a coastal community, like Gisborne. I can only speculate on what the precise reason is for us having such high plastic waste but it would not surprise me at all if it is linked to the low income stats in our region, and that brings me to another, important point. Our local councillor Manu Caddie is travelling around Asia at the moment and recently posted his observations on the high levels of pollution that is seen there. I recall being appalled at the pollution I witnessed in Indonesia as well… It reminded me of when people say that environmentalism is a luxury for the rich and middle class.

That much is true, to a degree, but I also think it’s a radical over simplification. To commodify environmentalism and say that it’s something you can afford overlooks the fact that OUR hyper-consumerism directly contributes to the pollution in ‘developing’ countries. ‘Developing’ countries who are often the ones mass-producing and packaging the products that we are consuming, and producing high levels of pollution and waste whilst doing so. ‘Developing’ countries who provide incredibly cheap labour to us and unregulated work environments, trapping workers in cycles of poverty and exploitative, toxic work conditions. ‘Developing’ countries like Indonesia which we go to, and revel in their poverty so that we can feel like intrepid travellers, and then add to their pollution, and, having turned our noses up at their waste issues, return home to our tidy high consumption lifestyles. I write ‘Developing’ like that because most if not all of these countries labelled as developing are actually enslaved by debt which hinders their self determined development (but contributes toward the economic development of capital market players in stronger countries) – and it’s unlikely that they will ever ‘develop’ in any fashion other than that determined by their creditors. My point here is that when we frame environmentalism as a “luxury” we evoke guilt for caring about the environment – nobody should feel guilty for caring about the state of the environment. Rather, we should be mindful that our own LACK of environmental consciousness exacerbates environmental issues in other areas of the globe arguably moreso than in our own backyard. We should be mindful that waste production for us AND for overseas countries begins with where we spend our money and what we spend it on, not just what we do with the packaging. We should also be aware that environmental issues are inextricably tied to issues of social justice, which we can also pay better attention to rather than judging the populations, or, even worse, judging environmentalism. The very least we can do is acknowledge the link between our complicitness in an economy that places over 40% of the world’s resources in the hands of 1% of the population, and supports 500 multi billionaires while 3.8billion live on less than $2.50 a day – and the social burdens of these poorer populations that place them in survival mode.

40percent

Here’s why the “environmentalism = luxury” line starts to annoy me – because it turns people away from the very measure that could ameliorate that problem in the first place. Living more sustainably, investing in local economies, being more aware of your impact upon the global economy by way of your own expenditure and lifestyle choices… in short, taking measures to divest yourself of the role you play in the global capitalist economy – THAT MATTERS. Understanding that when you ignore social justice issues, there will be a raft of ramifications including environmental ones… THAT MATTERS.

So taking this back to a local context – yes – we have a relatively low income level for our households here on the East Coast – but rather than conceptualising that as simply a short cause and effect relationship between low income and high pollution – we should be viewing both of these factors as being symptomatic of a gravely flawed system that has causes both economic and environmental harm to our community. The economy and the environment exist hand in hand. Economic improvements CAN occur through environmentalism. There are many sustainable practices that actually save us money and so encouraging and promoting these practices CAN lead to economic improvements and lessen social burden. But also, environmentalism can occur through recognition of indigenous rights. Environmentalism can occur through recognition of housing needs. Environmentalism will occur through an improved education system and healthier children. Acknowledging the burden that these issues place upon households IS doing something for the environment, and doing something for the environment IS doing something for these households.

SO ANYWAYS – here’s what I’m doing (apart from the non-plastic path)…

I’m going to make our town plastic-bag free. Well…. me and a good couply thousand friends. We’re all going to do it… and if you want to sign our petition and put a few words in as to WHY going plastic-bag free is such a good idea – then please do – just click on this image:

petition

Don’t be shy just because you’re not from here – like I said – environmentalism has meaning and impacts far beyond local boundaries… not to mention that the more signatures and points made, the better (and we can still see who has signed from Gisborne for the purposes of local numbers anyway). So feel free to share, too. Then we can all say we’ve done something just now, for the environment, and for social burden too.

HAPPY FEBRUARY! Hey like the new look blog? I doooo!! Mauriora everyone!

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How to give yourself a cerebral hemorrhage over ethical purchasing.

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Going into my third week and things are looking ok. Not a spotless record yet – I’ve clocked up a couply stealth plastics (from inside lids)and a piece of sticky tape (from the wrapping around last night’s fish n chips). My biggest blunder was the tomato sauce packet I instinctively grabbed the other day when I was running around like mad before heading out on our camping trip… Yep, total facepalm moment when I got to the car and registered what was in my hand. But still it’s a minimal tally so far, and if that’s what I go out on for my first month then I’m ok with that.

UPDATE: for those that aren’t on my facebook page, Ella has a meat supplier! Many thanks to Paul Oettli who put me on to Darryn Clyne from The Gisborne Deli & Butchery – Darryn’s very cool and actually often uses uses paper wrapping anyway, and is happy to wrap meat orders plastic free upon request. AWESOME GUY, very supportive. Ella’s pretty happy about the whole thing (the whole thing being life, in general). Oh they also source their meat locally, and make GREAT coffees in the deli.

So that brings me to a topic I’ve been considering a lot, of late… The whole paper vs plastic vs bioplastic vs aluminium vs child labour vs bug cruelty etc etc discussion. I touched upon this earlier when I mentioned my own personal longstanding philosophy of “just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you should do nothing”. Yeah… paper uses trees, and encourages pine afforestation, which has it’s own issues. Technically, the process involved in producing an aluminium drink can is more harmful than that of a glass bottle with a bit of plastic on the lid. There is very little way to get around doing harm of SOME kind in this high consumption economy where, by and large, socio-environmental concerns will only matter where the profit margin allows for it. And then there are bioplastics and cellulose plastics – which could be significantly better than aluminium cans or non-recycled paper options.

So I’m going to lay this out clearly. My definition of non-plastic for 2014 will include bio-plastics. That’s not because I don’t support the development of these plastics – I honestly celebrate their development. There are undoubtedly some areas that we need plastics and in those cases of course it would be wonderful if they were degradable. Of course I’m thinking more medical supplies than multipack potato crisps here. I advocate for LESS plastic, not better plastic – and the notion of “better” plastic is still a very, VERY grey area. There are still concerns over the length of time some “biodegradable” plastics still take to degrade, there are still concerns over the production processes and the emissions – my particular concern is that it does not address the fact that we consume way more than we need to. I’d rather reduce my consumption while redirecting it to better nonplastic options along the way. People have labelled that “minimalism” and while I think we could all minimise, I wouldn’t at all call my current lifestyle minimalist.

In my opinion, we live a life of hedonism. We don’t actually need a WHOLE lot of what we buy – and we’ve become accustomed to simply sating our appetites regardless of the impacts. Making do without something is becoming unfathomable to many. I go to the supermarket now for one or two things and I can’t help but glance at the trolleys around me, loaded up with plastic goods – and visualise the collective mountain of plastic packaging that will be sold through the checkouts just on that one day. It’s pretty sobering. And it’s not stuff we NEED. It’s… Cheezels multi-packs. It’s single serve yoghurts. It’s plastic packaged fruit, for freaks sakes. Come on guys – how many of us buy the plastic net sack of fruit only to take it home, rip it open and put the fruit in the fridge anyways???

You know… this hasn’t been AS hard as I thought it would be. It has it’s inconvenient moments, but it’s quite clear to me that that was more because of the dependency that I’d developed than any true difficulty. Actually I’m saving a LOT of money buying in bulk, and through the vege shop, and being a more thoughtful, planned shopper has led, of course, to much less impulse buying (also because I’m spending less time in the stores that are geared to encourage impulse buying). I’m enjoying supporting the local businesses more and am maintaining, if not improving my nutrition choices.

And getting back to my earlier point – you know what – funnily enough going plastic free has led to LESS agonising. I used to pore over packaging to see if it was tested on animals, how many additives and codes it had, what was the company’s environmental commitment, was it locally made etc etc. Honestly I’d annoy myself with my little ethical quandry – and no flatmate ever shopped with me more than once. Now it’s simple… I don’t do ANY of them – I’m working my way through the last of what I have, and have sampled and settled upon alternatives that are absolutely not tested on animals and are sans numbery codes. Forcing myself to make do without, or find the next most environmentally sound alternative has cut down on a LOT of the epic nail-gnawing drama in the hair-care aisle.

As for the aluminium cans and paper products – no… the plastic alternative is not always “safe” for the environment – but go have a look in the trolleys – they’re not stacked up with cans (unless everyone’s stocking their bomb shelters – in which case maybe there are more immediate issues for you to be concerned with) and they’re certainly not stacked up with paper cups – both of which are recyclable. If you do neighbourhood cleanups and certainly beach cleanups – it’s not the cans and paper you come across. I’m going to deal with this – in a way that ALSO tries to cut down on that, where possible. I made a commitment to a kaupapa, however – no plastics – and that is where my priority will lie.

And at the end of the day – hey find SOMETHING and stand for it. Make a stand against carbon emissions in processing, make a stand against bug cruelty in baking (yeah it’s a thing). Better than standing for nothing. We might be going about it in different ways – but we’re both looking down the same path of better alternatives.

I’m going to copy some of my facebook posts over to this blog as well – for those of you who are “facebook free” (I get it… I did that for a bit too and it felt GREAT).

Mauriora, everyone
T

Early Days

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So here is my first non-plastic shop –

Image267
Some almonds (to make almond milk), polenta (I’m going to go through a LOT of that), garlic, ginger, a few veges, some tinned tomatoes, some butter (I’m making a bunch of kaanga waru – steamed corn and kumara pudding – for friends and family). Some olive oil, some free-range eggs, some lentils, some cumin seeds, and a jar of the BEST PEANUT BUTTER OUT. Pics Really Good Peanut Butter (drooooool).

Came to roughly about $40 and I’ll probably pick up a few more veges from the vege truck later on in the week but this, plus my current stock, will do me for this week. Of course all of the plastic (and the olive oil bottle) was taken by myself to Bin Inn to fill up. I’m quite happy with what I got for the expense, actually – although it was dang heavy to bike back in the heat of the middle of the day. I’m also really enjoying reducing my use of centralized providers (i.e. PaknSave and Countdown) BUT… doing my shopping is now a day-long event, especially seeing as I bike everywhere.

Will just have to strategise a little better.

Being largely vegetarian helps (I’ll fold for kina, paua, or crayfish – which is, in coasty terms, a vegetarian). I don’t have to buy meat for myself… but I do like to provide some for Ella. Here’s Ella (while sunbathing next to me on the back porch)

Ella2
Gorgeous isn’t she. Yes, she thinks so, too.

I had considered going to a butcher to get some meat for Ella, and had read online about other non-plastic folk who had been able to take their own containers down to the butchers and get some meat. I did a quick ring around today, and so far was only able to reach Village Butchery who was adamant that it is not possible to use anyone else’s containers for their meat as it is a health and safety issue (one which apparently quite a few others seem to be able to get around) and they have to protect themselves from customers who come back and complain about contaminated meat, when the contamination actually came from the container. I did try pointing out that there are other providers who try more environmentally friendly approaches successfully but couldn’t seem to be able to finish my sentences without being told it’s simply not possible. So I thanked them for their time and carried on… I’ll keep calling around the other meat providers in Gisborne to see if anyone can sort Ella out with some fresh meat but til then we’ll go with the paper bagged dry biscuits (some of which I’ll rehydrate and add oil, veges, and rice).

SO, yes… my first non-plastic shop. I’ve noticed before that there is a BUNCH of plastic at the supermarket (of course, it’s one of the reasons I’ve embarked upon this project) – but you know, it’s one of those things…  when the necessity is placed upon you that you CANNOT purchase plastic , you can’t help but get away from the fact that a supermarket is an OCEAN of plastic. Aisle after aisle after aisle of plastic. Either completely packaged, or windowed, or lined (those sneaky tins with plastic lining grrrr they undermine my confidence in tinned food) or cardboard boxes with plastic bags INSIDE (double grrr ohhh the sneaky sneakiness).

Sneaky sneaky... very very sneaky Sneaky Sneaky

I’m not THAT much of a sweet tooth and in any case I can make my own sweets if I really want to. What was REALLY going to break my heart was crackers – I don’t really do bread… but I DO do crackers – I’m a snacker, most especially because it’s the type of food I can eat while typing/reading/marking/planning etc.
THAT WAS UNTIL…. I had a fortunate mishap with my polenta – put it in the sandwich grill with the intention of crisping it up a little bit, forgot about it, and came back a few minutes later to a perfect little flat crispy corn tortilla it was omggggosssh yummy! Kinda tasted like cheezels – YES CHEEZELS – cheesy, starchy, additive/preservative laden guilt fodder. And seriously all it was, was polenta, vege stock, and some butter (I don’t normally do butter but had some in the fridge from a kaanga waru frenzy over the holidays). I’m about to try an olive oil version and will post the recipe and pics up.

Another thing I’ve noticed in my first week :
People have a hard time getting “no plastic”, and in fact it makes them very uncomfortable –

Like the girl at the sushi shop who simply cocked her head when I asked for my vegetarian sushi to be put straight into the paper bag (I had decided to use my lunch container to buy some brown rice but only felt like a couple of pieces of inari anyway).
Me: “No plastic please, I don’t do plastic”
Girl: (cocks her head like this is a language issue) “No plastic?”
Me: “No, can you please just put it into a paper bag? I’m fine with that, it’s only the two pieces”
Girl: “ummmm” (tongs started to shake a little)

Really… the ceiling won’t collapse if you put the damn sushi straight into the bag. Of course she’s very sweet so I just smiled and waited for her to come to terms with what was required of her.

Eventually she did, and then tried to add a little plastic soy bottle (which I caught in time, saying “no plastic”)… then she smiled and tried to seal the paper bag with cellotape (which I caught in time and repeated, again “no plastic”) and THEN… yes… she tried to put the paper bag in a plastic bag for me to take away. Yeah. She did. I caught her again and, one last time, said “No plastic”. By now she looked like she was about to freak out so I smiled as genuinely as I could to her as I paid and left. She was very sweet, and VERY unsettled with the whole experience. The next time I will be taking my own container for her to put it into which I’m sure will be a lot easier on her senses but it was still interesting watching her struggle with the break from her norm.

You know… here’s the thing that, in light of that experience and the phone call to Village Butchers, has occurred to me. We’re not just addicted to plastic – we’ve psychologically equated plastic to cleanliness and order. We’ve equated single use to hygiene and consequently to better health. It’s a perverse notion that is in conflict with indigenous models of wellbeing (where environmental health sits alongside physical, emotional, spiritual and communal health). It’s also a notion that is reinforced by the wasteful, lazy market within which we reside. Of course there are alternatives but if they are not supported or promoted then the default of plastic will continue to reassert itself in our psyche as the best, or only, option.

Here’s a REALLY interesting clip by Nikki Harré which I came across on the rubbishfree blog:

Storytelling as a means of social control is not a new discussion – BUT I like how she breaks down the psychological building blocks of our tendency to imitate based NOT ONLY on observed behavior, but also on the traces of behavior that we see around us, and the stories that we are told.
I guess that’s another important aspect of this project – the more of us take up this challenge, the less of an accepted norm plastic addiction is. The more pressure there will be on suppliers to diversify to non-plastic alternatives, and the greater a market there will be for non-plastic alternatives.
It’s easier than it was a few years ago… it’s still kinda hard. And I can’t control what you do, but I can control what I do and I want to do this. And no it won’t solve everything all at once (and gawd am I already sick of the “but what about this… and what about this…” questions) BUT – and seriously, this has been one of my most heartfelt, longlasting personal philosophies:

Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you should do nothing

I’ll try to update every week – or sooner if something occurs to me. Hey if anyone knows of a butcher in Gisborne that will allow me to bring my own container, for Ella’s meat, please drop me a message.

Cheers.