Archive for Musings

Tips for Going Plastic Free

It’s almost July, and that means the start of #PlasticFreeJuly.

Every year, millions of people all over the world (250 million in 177 countries, to be exact) participate in a challenge called #PlasticFreeJuly. The idea is, they make a commitment to banning the use of plastics, but specifically single-use plastics, for the month of July.

I’m planning on participating. Sort of. Realistically, because of COVID, many of the behaviours I would normally have taken to reduce the amount of plastic would have been easier. Because of the pandemic, some of them are just not possible any more. But I am making a commitment to looking at my plastic use (especially single use plastics) and trying to come up with long-term solutions to creating less waste and going plastic free.

Let’s look, first of all, at the why here. I mean, you’re saying to me, “Rebecca, plastic is recyclable. As long as I’m being responsible and recycling, it’s okay, right?”

Yes. And no. Should you be recycling your plastics? Of course, 100% yes. BUT. Lots of people still don’t, and it takes 450 years for plastic to break down. Secondly, plastic breaks down into microparticles that bind to each other and and basically create a lot of toxicity in the ocean. There are huge rafts of plastic floating around in the ocean and killing marine wild life. Also, fish and marine life eat the microplastics, and then we eat the fish, and well, that’s just not good.

So, yes, you should recycle. But if possible, you should also try to cut back on the amount of single use plastics you use.

You may also be wondering about why I’m talking about plastic on a food blog. The two are tied; as someone who doesn’t eat meat because of sustainability and environmental reasons, it seems reasonable that I’d also be concerned about sustainability in other areas of my life.

Tips for going Plastic Free

Laundryeco friendly laundry detergent and dryer balls

Let’s start with detergent. First off, you want to use one that’s good for the environment, as that soap is ending up in the ocean for sure. Secondly, try to choose a laundry detergent that does not come packaged in plastic. I just started using TruEarth, and it’s great. First of all, it really works, which, let’s face it, is super important. Secondly, you only need a tiny strip for a whole load of clothes, and it works perfectly well in cold water (requiring less energy). Finally, it comes packed in a recyclable paper sleeve, so no plastic! Another great idea is to get a microplastic filter for your washing machine, to keep microparticles that come off of your clothes while washing from entering the ocean.

Now drying. The most economic and sustainable way to dry your clothes is on a line. I live in an apartment, so I don’t have a line, but I do have a foldable drying rack which I set up outside on my balcony. If you do use a dryer (because let’s face it, we live in Vancouver where it rains 6 months of the year), use a wool dryer ball. They are reusable, last for years, cut down on your drying time, and help with static. Find more laundry tips here.

Eating out

We’ve all been doing a lot less of it lately, but we have been doing a lot of takeout! So here are some ways to make less waste and refuse plastic when ordering sushi.

Here in Vancouver, there was a ban that started at the beginning of 2020 on plastic takeout containers, so all of your takeout containers should be either recyclable paper or compostable. That’s a good thing. Refuse cutlery, chopsticks or napkins with your order and use what you have at home.Reusable coffee cup, straw and waterbottle

Coffee, water, straws: again, with the pandemic, most coffee shops are not allowing you to bring your own reusable coffee mug, but hopefully things will go back to normal eventually. In the mean time, if you do get a coffee, bring your cup home and recycle it, rather than putting it in the garbage. Carry a refillable water bottle with you and don’t buy plastic bottles of water. Most businesses have now also transitioned to recyclable straws (paper sucks, though. Yesterday I had a coffee at Grounds for Coffee, and they are using compostable sugarcane straws. Highly recommend), but it’s a great idea to carry a straw with you if possible. I have this cool telescoping one from Zoku.

Shoppingplastic free shopping

I carry a fabric shopping bag with me. I have one that folds down into a little pouch, and it is easy to carry. I also love these mesh produce bags, which means I don’t have to use the plastic ones at the store. Another great tip (which we can’t do right now) is to shop at bulk food stores like Bulk Barn, Nada or The Soap Dispensary. You bring your own mason jars or containers, and they weigh them, fill with product, and weigh again, so you just pay for whatever’s inside, and zero waste, zero plastic!

Kitchen

This, for me, is the hardest one. In some ways, I do great. I keep a pantry stocked with dry goods (most of which I buy in bulk) in mason jars and vintage tupperware I picked up at garage sales. But I’m guilty of using ziploc bags, plastic wrap and garbage bags. I do use compostable bags for my organic waste. An alternative to using ziploc bags are these silicone versions which you can wash and reuse again and again. An alternative to using plastic wrap is beeswax wrap. Or buy shower caps at the dollar store (still plastic, but reuse them) as bowl covers. I don’t have a solution for garbage bags, except to try to make a little garbage as possible so they last longer. If you buy things like chips, collect the bags (these are called soft plastics) and then recycle them at London Drugs.

Bathroomplastic free bathroom

This is a hard one too! Nearly everything we buy at the drugstore is packaged in plastic. There are, however, alternatives like deodorant in recyclable paper packaging. This is another area where it’s pretty easy to shop in bulk and reuse your containers. Or try a plastic free shampoo bar. Bamboo toothbrushes can replace plastic ones, and even floss can be plastic free. In terms of shaving, get a safety razor and use bar shaving soap.

Clothes

If possible, choose clothing made from natural fibres like cotton or silk. Choose an eco-friendly dry-cleaner, and (this one is gonna be controversial) try shopping for your clothes second-hand. A lot of people are grossed out at the thought of wearing a random stranger’s clothes, but thrifiting is a great way to save money and the environment. You can even do online thrift shopping.

What have I forgotten? How do you try to make less waste and go plastic free in your life? Leave me all your best tips below!

Racism and Food

The kernel for this post has been pinging around inside my brain for a couple of weeks, now. But today, the day we lost Anthony Bourdain, two years ago, is the day it chose to come out.

First of all, I don’t know if I can say this all just right, which is why I’ve not said anything so far. Or rather, have said lots of things and then gone back and deleted them. But I put this out there in the spirit of the #BlackLivesMatter movement as seen through my specific lens of food. Racism and Food: how are they connected?

If there was one thing I really loved about Tony, it was that he was never afraid to go to the places he wasn’t really supposed to go. He went to places many tourists wouldn’t dream of going to. But he did it because he knew that the people in those places had stories that needed to be heard, and usually that story was told through food.

Ever since I became a foodie, I have explored other cultures through their unique food, though their recipes and ingredients. It has been a way for me to find common ground, because in every culture, in every country, there are celebrations that revolve around food. Some of them are religious, some are cultural, and some are personal, within their families. But no matter where you go, birthdays will be celebrated with a feast and special dessert. Babies will brought into the world, and grandparents will go out, and both of those occasions will result in a gathering with food and drink. What’s on the table will change, but the universal truth is, we all celebrate and commiserate with food.

Tony once said in an interview with Food and Wine Magazine:

There’s nothing more political than food. Who eats? Who doesn’t? Why do people cook what they cook? It is always the end or a part of a long story, often a painful one. Look, I travel around the world asking people, “What makes you happy, what do you eat and what would you like your kids to eat ten years from now?” and I get some really interesting and complicated answers in places like Beirut, Iran, Vietnam, and even Detroit.

He also said in that interview:

I think that people, particularly Americans, need to be more inspired to travel and be adventurous with the things they eat. And if they are curious about the world and willing to walk in somebody else’s shoes—that is surely a good thing.

I think it’s impossible to break bread with someone (who doesn’t look like you) and not get up from that table with a better sense of who that person is, and that that person is really not that different from you. That you will start to see that person as a friend, and not an “other.”

I learned so much about other cultures from Parts Unknown, and later on from David Chang’s Ugly Delicious.

Systemic racism exists in food. In poor black neighbourhoods in the US, there are very few options for fresh produce, leaving those populations with unhealthy diets consisting primarily of fast food. This very real problem is called a “Food Desert.”

Food can divide. As a white person, would I be comfortable walking into a restaurant where the majority of the population is Asian? Or South Asian? Or Black? And vice-versa?

I don’t have the answers. I’m just asking the questions, of myself as well as you.

I do feel like food is part of the solution, somehow, though.

We miss you, Tony.

Also listen: Can a Restaurant be For Everyone?

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