Early Days

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So here is my first non-plastic shop –

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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.

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