#HaltonWasteChallenge Successes & Challenges
Hello Friends of Halton Green Screens,
This post will be dedicated to the major successes and failures (or challenges to put a more positive spin on it) that I’ve experienced so far. Let’s start with the challenges so I can end on a happier note!
Doing the challenge while living with someone who’s not
This has been one of the biggest ones. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that my husband Neelan committed to not using disposable cups when he buys coffee and that he’s done a great job of sticking to that, even when he walked half an hour to buy a coffee and they wouldn’t accept his travel mug. He has also gone beyond his “official” commitment: we were thinking of getting take out from different places in the same complex and he asked me if I knew if one of the places will put the food in our tupperware. I said that I can’t eat there anyway, and he said “I know, but I can.” I hadn’t even realized until then that he had been trying to avoid all takeout containers whether or not I took the lead.
As supportive as he’s been, it has also been tough with Neelan not doing the full challenge. When I am out of bread and he has a full loaf, it is tempting to use some of his. I do sometimes, but only if it expires soon and I know it will get thrown away. I also keep telling myself that I will buy more bulk, loose leaf tea but Neelan bought several big boxes of tea bags on sale and I have been having a cup or two most days. It’s just so easy to drop a tea bag in a cup, especially when the little one isn’t giving me much time for my breakfast. The boxes have contributed some cellophane to my landfill waste, and the boxes and tea bags themselves are excess packaging since it is so easy to find bulk, loose leaf tea. I’ve had the same problem with oats – Neelan buys big bags of them from Costco, in all recyclable packaging, and I just haven’t had the motivation to buy them in bulk and have my own separate stash of oats.
And toothpaste. I’ve been saying this one since the beginning, but I still keep using Neelan’s. It’s so easy to make but I just hated it so much last time. One of these days I really will try again with stevia and see how that one tastes.
Unsupportive stores and restaurants, & miscommunications
Most places have been pretty good, even when I buy more groceries than I had planned on and I am struggling to balance everything to get it to the car. One cashier even told me to just take the basket, even though you’re not usually allowed to take the baskets to your car. She did say that she knew I’d bring it back, since I had just told her all about the challenge and Halton Green Screens. If you are reading this, thank you for your encouraging words and your patience when my over-used bag broke and I stood there trying to tie a not in it to avoid a new one!
I have had a handful of restaurants give me weird looks when I tell them I am trying to go waste-free, but only one so far has flat out refused to use the containers I brought. I ate at a different place that day.
I have two straws in my garbage, which I am pretty disappointed about. One was from a restaurant where Neelan and I asked for no straws, the server asked me to repeat it, and then brought us water with straws. I looked around and we were the only ones with straws in our water. I guess it’s a positive thing that they don’t automatically give straws, at least not in water, but I was pretty annoyed that he thought I was requesting a straw. The other was from a place that is actually really supportive about using my containers, but once when we went there the server brought our water the moment we sat down.
One of the biggest disappointments was at my favourite bakery to buy my bread and bagels for about the first 6 or 7 months of the challenge. I would bring my own bag, and if I got the bread sliced I would ask that they put it back in my bag. The last time I went the person operating the bread slicer looked at my bag, kind of rolled his eyes, and put it aside while grabbing a new one. I tried frantically to ask him not to before he got the bread into the new bag and he said, “I’ve been told I have to give you one of these ones.” I said that that means I can’t buy my bread there anymore, and he handed me my bag back and said, “then take this and you can leave.” I called the manager the next day who said that he appreciates what I’m trying to do, but the reason the operator has to give me one of their branded bags is to avoid theft. They thought I was trying to steal my bread, after drawing attention to myself by having them slice it for me. He did apologize for the rudeness, and everyone else I’ve dealt with there has been friendly. But I still had to find a new place to buy my bread. The place I found is a small bakery and I got a funny look when I took the loaf of bread and refused a bag, but they didn’t pressure me to take one.
All of my stuff started breaking the moment I started the challenge
Okay, not all of it. But sometimes it feels that way. Things that have broken (and not only do many of them end up in my garbage pail, I am not allowed to replace them):
- my two favourite pairs of sunglasses
- my garlic press
- my whisk
- two pairs of shoes
- my vegetable peeler
I think I am missing some others. I still wear the broken shoes, and I borrowed a garlic press for a meal for which I had to prep about 20 cloves of garlic. I haven’t yet thrown away the sunglasses in the hope that I will be able to repair them, after a couple of failed attempts. It turns out I had more pairs of sunglasses than I needed, because I still have 3 functional pairs.
Doing the challenge while pregnant & with a baby
This one has not been nearly as tough as I thought it would be, perhaps because I now have the best motivation I can think of for producing less waste and lightening my footprint on the planet. But there are some things that I think I would do better if it weren’t for the new addition to our family.
Before I started the challenge, I had tried making almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, and tiger nut milk using my high speed blender and my nut milk bag. All were pretty easy. For most of the challenge so far, I was either too nauseous to spend much time in the kitchen or too tired to do any more than I already was. So my little garbage pail has a lot of those plastic spouts from the cardboard milk cartons (the cardboard portion was recycled, but was still excess packaging). Now that the little guy lets me get a little more sleep and a little bit of time to get things done, I would like to try making my own milks, at least some of the time.
There are occasionally other things that I could be making from scratch that I instead purchased pre-made in recyclable packaging (avoiding plastic when possible) but milk is the main one. And vegan butter. I may also try making that myself before the challenge ends.
The generosity of friends, family, and acquaintances has also presented some challenges, but I have already covered that in a previous post.
My garbage pail
One of my biggest successes is that it looks like I will make it through the year without my little garbage pail overflowing, in spite of the challenges I’ve had! There is plenty in there that I could have avoided with a little more time and effort, but all in all I think I can feel pretty good about it.
Personal care products
Aside from toothpaste, I have done really well with personal care products. I have either made my own, used what I already had, or gone without. I wish I had replaced my empty mascara before starting the challenge, but I so rarely wear makeup that it hasn’t been that big of a deal.
Supportive stores & restaurants
The negative experiences I talked about above have been far outweighed by the positive ones. So often if, when I’m offered a bag, I say, “no thanks, I’m trying to go waste-free for a year” it starts a great conversation. They think it’s great to try not to produce waste, and many ask questions about the changes I’ve had to make. It always lifts my spirits to realize that so many people care about the planet, even if we don’t always know what to do about it.
At one restaurant where I took my containers for take out, they said they were sure it wouldn’t be a problem but confirmed with the kitchen. They were fine with it, but had a hard time getting the containers to balance in the bag that I had brought. It was a too-stretchy bag made from an old T-shirt that is better suited as a beach bag. They came out to ask if I’d like a plastic bag and I said no, I would just carry some by hand. So they found an old box in the back and packed everything in there, and even assured me that the box was recycled.
There have been many times when I’ve been tempted to buy something that is forbidden and I have resisted. When I was pregnant I did not give in to cravings for food packaged in garbage. I did sometimes give in though if it was packaged in recyclable packaging, figuring it wasn’t so “excess” when it was the only thing I could manage to eat.
Recently I almost reached for a jug of organic mango lemonade that was on sale, but I stopped myself. As delicious as it sounded, it would have just been a treat, so if I want it I will have to make it myself.
One of the hardest ones to resist was a secondhand dough hook on a local auction website. I have been looking for one for years so that I can make bread more often, since usually what stops me is I don’t want to spend all that time kneading the dough. And I’m not very good at it, my bread never seems to rise quite right. I hope I will come across another secondhand dough hook someday, after my year is up.
Goals for the rest of the #HaltonWasteChallenge
I hope what came across is that I’m doing pretty well but that I still have lots of areas where I can improve. These are my goals for these last 2.5 months. I will try to make one change at a time and add them all in by the end (and hopefully continue them beyond the end of the year)!
- buy tea in bulk and stop using tea bags at home
- start buying oats in bulk
- make my own nut milks
- make my own vegan butter
- make toothpaste
The next post will probably focus on waste-free camping (with a baby in diapers), but I will check in about my goals as well!