Creating a plastic-free home is relatively easy — until you reach the pantry.
Why? Because most single-use plastics are used in relation to food. Food waste and plastic packaging are inextricably linked — they feed our society’s odd eating habits, such as dining in our cars (which, shockingly, accounts for 19 per cent of mealtimes in America).
If you’re currently trying to curb your own plastic consumption by stripping this offending material from your lifestyle, your progress may come to a screeching halt once you reach the kitchen. In this blog, we show you seven ways you can strip plastic from your pantry, allowing you to successfully tackle the trickiest room in the house.
1. Start at the Beginning — Say Goodbye to Single-Use Plastic Bags
This item doesn’t strictly belong in the pantry, but it sure does visit it quite often during the unpacking process.
If you’re still forgetting to bring reusable bags to the supermarket — or worse, intentionally continuing to use single-use bags — it’s time to rethink.
Could purchasing plastic-free items only to then transport these goods in a large sheath of plastic be the highest form of hypocrisy? Some countries have made the decision to switch to reusable bags easy by placing a “plastic tax” on bags. One notable example in the UK, where a mandatory five-pence charge on every single plastic purchased is enforced by legislation. It’s rumoured that this cost is set to double to ten pence in the near future — such is the importance of forgoing single-use plastics and the UK government’s stance on its use.
If you’re not part of a nation that’s taking matters into its own hands, however, there are still plenty of reasons why you should never use plastic bags.
2. Sometimes You Have to Change Where You Shop
Leading a plastic-free lifestyle will cause you to alter some parts of your life, including where you do your weekly food shop.
Unfortunately, we can’t control how companies conduct business — no matter how much we shame them in the media — but we can make a decision to take our custom elsewhere.
All it takes is a little bit of independent research to decide where to switch.
The good news is that plenty of big brand names are beginning to denounce plastic packaging, making their stores safe havens for waste-free advocates.
For example, if you want to find fresh fruit minus the unnecessary plastic wrap, you should look no further than low-cost German supermarket Aldi, which has recently announced a six-week plastic ban trial that could save half a ton of plastic.
Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to shop locally in either organic stores or farmers’ markets. Like getting rid of friends who are a bad influence, changing where you shop will support your quest to stay waste-free by wiping out those that don’t align with your values.
3. Invest in Smart Storage Solutions
There’s no denying that plastic has a viable purpose, despite its ethical implications. In packaging, plastic is popular because it acts as a durable and hygienic shield that also often helps preserve produce. It’s also true that plastic isn’t always bad, especially when it’s necessary for highly regulated industries like healthcare.
However, the food sector is an area where environmentally friendly alternatives are widely available. Investing in smart storage solutions is easy and can help you instantly clean up any existing plastic from your pantry shelves.
A couple of quick wins are products available on Amazon, such as:
- Mesh and muslin drawstring bags, which can be used to transport and protect vegetables.
- Bee’s Wrap food wraps, which act as an alternative to cling film to keep readily prepared food fresher for longer.
4. Find and See Storage Solutions Everywhere
If you’re looking to make a gradual transition to plastic-free living, you might not have the budget or inclination to stock up on new products.
If this is the case, try to find new storage solutions everywhere. For example, whenever possible, purchase items in glass packaging as opposed to plastic, cardboard or any other “short-lived” material.
Glass jars can be reused for storing an array of items, from dried pasta and seeds to biscuits.
With this outlook, you can build a Pinterest lookalike pantry without the expensive bulk-buy order of mason jars.
5. Don’t Forget That Drinks Can be Dangerous
While settling down for a British brew break doesn’t seem too sinister, it can, in fact, harm your plastic-free progress.
Most tea bags (excluding the unbleached kind) contain chemicals and a thin plastic layer, which is added as a standard part of tea production. The same goes for coffee filters, which, more often than not, sport a similar plastic layer.
Don’t let this obscure and often hidden obstacle catch you out. Get clued up on which tea bags are non-offenders and check out companies like Coffee Sock, which provides plastic-free coffee filters. Fear not — if you love to indulge in French Press coffee at home, you still can!
6. Look Further Than Your Food Inventory
The word “pantry” can give us tunnel vision, instantly conjuring images of our food inventory and nothing else.
Remember, when it comes to food preparation, there are many other items involved, including a variety of utensils and unusual items like dish soap.
If you think you’ve already done everything that you possibly can to strip plastic from your pantry, it’s a good idea to perform a mental audit of your food preparation area. When thinking about this, put a focus on lesser-used items or those you tend to forget about altogether.
Dish soap is a common product that often trips up waste-free advocates. As liquid products dominate the market, it can sometimes be difficult to think outside of the box (and successfully remove these pesky plastic bottles from our pantries).
An unknown trick is to switch to bar soap, which lasts longer and reduces plastic waste — protecting your conscience and your bank balance in the process.
7. Just Go out for a Cheeky Takeaway Instead
Eliminating 100% of your personal plastic waste is a slow and sometimes stressful process.
When it all gets too much and you can no longer handle the heat in the kitchen, you can always just go out for a cheeky takeaway instead.
But wait! Before you rush to order that pizza, make sure you follow the golden rule: only order from ethical takeaways that sport sustainable packaging. Using materials like paper and Kraft board, these types of takeaways remove any source of guilt from an inevitable cheat meal.