You may have heard of the initiative “Plastic-Free July.” It is a global movement and a challenge to reduce plastic waste. Local zero-waste shops like Nada Grocery have been at the forefront of promoting this important work in our community. While it is nice to have a special month to “zero” in on the consumption of single-use plastics, we also know the work is year-long.
This year poses a particularly difficult challenge because the safety measures used to protect us from COVID often come with more packaging, less opportunity to use our many-use items.
Vancouver Unitarian’s Zero Waste team members reflect on how they are navigating their commitment to being plastic-free and zero waste in a pandemic. We asked: Has the pandemic shifted your habits with plastic? Why or Why not? and What are some examples of steps you’re taking to be both safe AND plastic-free?
“My habits with plastic have changed slightly because I strive to live a sustainable and plastic-free life as possible I have endeavored to abstain from activities that require me to introduce more plastic into my life. At the grocery stores, I refuse to use plastic bags and even if I have to carry out my items and later put them in my own bag I won’t use plastic bags. The one thing I had to do which hurt more than I thought was to use disposable cups when having coffee outside as we cannot use our own mugs.
In addition, I have not ordered take out except once and I asked them to have as little packaging as possible. Yes, it came in a container but I asked for compostable.
In order to be safe and plastic-free I wash my hands and avoid touching my face rather than using disposable gloves which research has proven is a false positive anyway. I made my own mask and use that.”
– Vivian Davidson
“Yes. Instead of going to NADA (way too scary) we’ve been ordering from SPUD. There’s much more packaging, including non-reusable large cardboard boxes. Last week one such box contained only 1 loaf of half frozen bread. Now that NADA has an on-line system, I am back to using it instead of SPUD. Throughout the pandemic I’ve been getting my produce at farmers markets which are generally good about reducing packaging but even they are using more plastic bags.
I used to be much more pure about getting my bread in paper bags, not plastic but was so desperate at various points in the pandemic to find gluten-free vegan bread that I lowered my standards. Hoping now that the g/f bakeries are opening up I can insist on bread in paper, or at least bread that hasn’t been frozen in plastic.
Shopping at farmers market feels safe since it’s outside. Online orders from NADA is now an option. Stores like the East End Food Coop have taken good steps for safety but sadly their bulk area has been removed.
PS Also very sorry that London Drugs is not doing plastic recycling anymore.”
– Mairy Beam
|“The pandemic has shifted my ability to stay committed to plastic-free to the degree I had been committed before. I think moments like this really test us in ways we don’t anticipate and it’s interesting to notice where the motivation to use packaging “for safety” feels different than using it “for convenience.” I am trying to focus on the fact that things won’t always be like this.
I am visiting places that are supportive of zero-waste even in the face of pandemic. The Safeway at King Ed has been allowing reusable shopping bags if you pack your own, and the JJ Bean on 16th and Cambie (and assuming all over too) is now allowing clean travel mugs. I am ordering take out from time to time but we got to places that use compostables like Beetbox Vegetarian. I love to feel our community pull together and remain committed to our values by making our environmental practices as safe to continue as possible.”