We have long been supporters of the Marine Conservation Society, so when we saw that they had created a challenge to give up single use plastic for the month of June, we decided it was a challenge worth attempting. After all – how hard can it be?
So, what is the Marine Conservation Society Plastic Challenge all about? The MCS wanted to raise both awareness and money, by creating #plasticchallenge. Those taking part agreed to give up single use plastic for as long as they possibly could during the month of June. Huge quantities of this single use plastic ends up in our seas, rivers and oceans and ultimately kills and maims marine life all over the world. Many species can easily mistake a plastic bag for a jelly fish, the micro-plastic that has broken down is eaten by fish, or the bigger animals – like basking sharks – might simply scoop it up accidentally. What we do know is that throughout the world, dead marine life is turning up with their stomachs full of plastic, or bands from beer cans wrapped around their torso. The one obvious solution is to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic that we use and then cast away.
We very quickly discovered that we needed to change everything about the way we shopped. We had already stopped using plastic carrier bags many years ago, so this aspect was not a challenge for us, but nearly everything else (apart from beer and wine – phew) was difficult. We do not eat ready-made meals, as Nick is a bit of a wiz in the kitchen, so again, that was already easier for us to adapt – but so much salad and veg is pre-wrapped with plastic trays and covering, that buying from local shops and supermarkets was to prove extremely difficult. Some veg was possible, such as leeks and butternut squash, but the choice was limited. The solution to this was very easy for us, as we have a nearby vegan organic supermarket (Unicorn Grocery) that provides old fashioned paper bags for veg – so there was one problem solved. But what about toilet roll, cereal (so many products have a nice cardboard exterior – with a horrible plastic bag within), frozen food, etc? Nick started making things we would normally buy pre-prepared, like hummus, pasta and pizzas, which takes more time, but is ultimately healthier for us (as well as for the planet). As fruit juice is either in plastic bottles, or has a plastic cap, we had to make our own at home. We now have a traditional milkman to deliver glass bottles of milk.
All the supermarkets we visited were willing to put cheese and meats into a re-usable container that we took with us, although we did get some funny looks! We made more regular visits to local independent shops, such as the pet shop that sells locally made dog treats that Paddy (our golden retriever) could walk in a select himself. This has now become a bit of in issue though, as we get dragged to the pet shop on every visit to the shops! Bathroom products such as toothpaste and shampoo cannot be bought in the usual supermarket deals, but a trip into Manchester centre gave us the chance to pop into Lush, who have an amazing range of eco-friendly products.
A lifestyle on the go makes this challenge even harder. We have to do a fair bit of traveling within the UK and overseas. You cannot just pull over at a motorway service station and buy some sandwiches or snacks as these are all wrapped in plastic (apart from the odd pie), so you have to think ahead.
Doing the Marine Conservation Society Plastic Challenge has been a fantastic experience. We will not stop thinking about this at the end of June, but instead use the experience to continue reducing the amount of single use plastic that we buy and then throw away on a daily basis. Have a go, for a day, week or month for yourselves. It gives you a real understanding of the massive scale of the problem facing us.
If you like what we did, or if this has inspired you in any way, or if you just want to support an excellent charity that strives to protect our marine life – then please donate what you can here.
For more information about the Marine Conservation Society, visit www.mcsuk.org.