Tuesday, 7 January 2014

I did it!

Hurrah! 2013 comes to a close and I accomplished my year. Surprisingly it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. 


I got a few gifts which included plastic packaging which I accepted as part of my "polite Canadian" clause. Luckily I didn't have to use my medical emergency clause. 

The biggest challenge was remembering to say "no straw please." It started in SE Asia, which was more miming than anything, but it happened in Canada as well. There are a number of restaurants who want to include straws with glasses of water. I often forgot to say no straw :(. Sometimes I was able to not touch the water and have it go to the next customer (so I was told) and sometimes I could not. The people I was with were sympathetic to my plight and took the straw off my hands. Cheating a bit, I know. 

I'm having a hard time deciding if my year as successful because of my not using plastic or the fact that I don't have any money. It was very easy to turn down buying chips and things when I can't afford it. Same goes with items. When you can't buy anything avoiding plastic is very easy.

My eyes were really opened to how much plastic we use. Also, how much plastic is completely unnecessary. I think I also challenged some other people's views. Whenever I talked to anyone about my year they seemed pretty impressed and asked me lots of questions. Hopefully I got some people thinking.

I haven't gone too crazy with the purchasing things now either. A couple things I am excited to be able to buy again are some of my food sauces that have the stupid plastic "safety" wrap, and cheese. Other than that, I think I can quite happily live without using much one-use plastic.  

I am not sure what my next challenge will be. Perhaps, once I am settled in somewhere, I can try minimalist living. Or ethical shopping. Who knows.

Thanks for sharing that year with me!

Monday, 25 November 2013


Well I have continued my plastic waste free year here in Victoria, BC. Some things have been very easy! My favourite place to get veggies is the Root Cellar. Not only is it easy to get everything with no plastic, they are also the cheapest in town and try very hard to be local! Win^3 :D. The have expanded since the last time I lived here and now have a deli section so we can get meat with out plastic waste. I have also been able to get milk in glass bottles! As a side bonus, the milk is delicious :). 

Right near where I am living there is Thrifty's and Planet Organic. While the products at PO are pretty expensive, they are the only place I have been able to find coffee entirely free of plastic packaging. Walmart (boo) is the only place so far that I have been able to find filters that are not in plastic. Hurrah for coffee! 

I have been pretty disappointed with the selection of pasta that is plastic free (aka not much...). The only pasta I have been able to by is the 1.8 kg box of spaghetti. Pretty small pickings but at least I get to buy it still. 

I have had some disappointments though. I purchased some couscous in a box, assuming I was rocking my goal, and it came with a plastic bag inside. The same thing happened with the rice that we bought :(. The same straw problem is happening in Canada as well. So I need to be extra conscious about asking for no straw. The Old Spaghetti Factory was pretty good about taking the water back though, so the straw wouldn't be wasted. 

A really big disappointment is the inability to purchase toilet paper that is wrapped in paper. I am sad that it is available in Australia but not Canada. Let's get on it! I will keep on looking. So far I haven't purchased the tp, but I have been using it, so that is the same. :(. 

A bulk barn has opened in Victoria which is super exciting! I haven't actually been yet but I am very excited to go. Just have to do some planning and organizing. 

It is also just about the last month of this adventure so I should probably think about what I have learned. I certainly feel like I am more aware of the issue at the very least. I will have a more thorough debrief at the end of the year :D.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Issues in Canada

I have been back for three months now and I have come across some issues.

First, some good news (in my opinion :P). I spent two months as a nanny for a friend of mine and we went on a few "out trips." Every time I would see garbage on the ground I would automatically pick it up, as I do, forgetting that I was in the presence of small children. Well of course, the five year old wanted to know what I was doing and why. So I asked her if she would like garbage all over her back yard mixed with the toys. Shockingly, she said no. So then I said that I didn't like how other people just left their trash in areas where I went and I thought I would help out by picking it up. Well, that opened the floodgates and it turned into a game. Every where we went "Aunty Bonnie, look! There is garbage. We have to pick it up." My approach is more casual, you know, if I see it in my path I will pick it up. I don't often seek it out far off the path. Well let me tell you, distance was not a factor for us. Consequently, all of our trips took a lot longer than expected. I am not sure how much the Mom is going to appreciate it...hehe

Another thing I have done since coming back is dog sitting. The house I was in was well stocked with food (some in plastic, some not) and so I ended up not buying any groceries. One super sad thing, there was an espresso machine (YAY! Best day ever!).....yes, except for one thing. It was one of those one use machines. 

If you can't imagine the problem with that here is an article addressing it. 

So, I settled for conventional brewed coffee with a reusable filter! Hurrah. So far I have only been able to find one type of coffee that is wrapped in paper. It is not good either :P hahaha. Sigh.

The other thing that was an issue that I hadn't thought about was the dogs themselves. I forgot that you had to pick up after dogs when you walk hahaha. There are a few resources out there for dog lovers to reduce plastic waste though.The owner of the dogs bought some "green" bags to use. I didn't do a lot of research into them but they claimed to be biodegradable in 10 days. So that is pretty good :).

There are not a lot of stores in Kamloops that are charging for grocery bags. Superstore does, and gives you a discount if you bring your own. Course, they don't give you the discount if you just say no bag and carry your items. That doesn't make much sense to me... Oh well.

I am back off to Victoria to carry out the rest of my plastic free year :). It should be really easy, especially considering the hippy vibe that Victoria has. I think it has helped me that I don;t have any money to spend, therefore I can't buy anything with plastic. It almost feels like cheating... Hahaha. Well bye for now.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Back in Canada :)

Hello again, 

I am officially back in Canada (likely for the rest of my "PWF" year). What have I been up to so that I wasn't posting you ask? Well, mostly out at the lake where there is no internet :P. I am back in with my family for the summer and so it is much like in New Zealand where I can't force everyone to be plastic free but I can be. 

Carlyle, Saskatchewan is a difficult place to not generate plastic waste. A lot of the vegetables come wrapped which is a pain. I asked around (at every shop I go to) about plastic bag use and if any shops charge for using the bags. I am unhappy to report not a single store did in Carlyle (which is a very small town in Southern Sask). I think that is going to be the easiest way to encourage people to bring their own bags; make it more expensive if you don't. My cousin had a good laugh at me when I refused to allow any plastic bags in my load of groceries and was putting things in my pockets and purse. To me it was no big deal though.

I have had some positive comments about my daily life ways to reduce plastic. I went to Dairy Queen and brought my own spoon so I could have a blizzard. The cashier said (and I quote) "Wow, that's really cool." When I explained why I didn't want to used her plastic spoon.

Just this past weekend I was able to volunteer in the 2nd Annual Ribfest in Kamloops, BC. One of the great things about the volunteering is I got to establish a bit of a rapport with the ribbers and I was able to find out some neat things (plus get a few bonuses). The sweet bonus came when I brought my container to pick up a pulled pork sandwich. The girl serving me asked me if it was a personal meal and when I said yes she piled on the meat. Hahaha I had enough meat for two meals. I heard rumour of another guy who brought his own plate and received extra ribs. 

A sad thing I learned, the biodegradable containers (made from pineapple husks) are over twice the price of the Styrofoam ones. Greeeeat. There is some incentive for ribbers. 

A non-plastic thing - Prairie Smoke and Spice, contacts shelters in all of the cities that the go to and offer up the extra food at the end of the event. I was really happy to hear that. Really, I am anti-waste in general, not just plastic. Gator BBQ, another of the ribbers at the event, came up to the volunteer booth to drop off some extra food as well so that it wouldn't go to waste. It was so funny, my dad and I walked by the ribbers and wondered what happened to all the extra food. Not 10 minutes later the Gator BBQ manager (I think...) came over with the food. We got to chatting and that is what lead me on my adventure to see where the rest of the food goes. By the time I learned that the New Life Mission was coming down it was too late to organize all the ribbers. But for next year.... I think we can swing it so that the Rotary club has all the ribbers do that. Yay no waste!!

I was able to take home some of the (free) food in my personal container as well. Turns out the Rotarians watching me were very impressed with my plastic free adventure. Makes me wonder if I have impacted anyone. That wasn't one of my goals but interesting to think about.

So far I have found a store that charges (3 cents) for plastic bags, the Old Town Farm Market. I haven't been actively searching, because it is just easier not to buy anything :P. And Save on Foods (with its massive bulk section) will allow me to bring my own containers for things!!! Hurrah. Granted, I will have to pay for the extra weight, but still. Just gotta find light containers.

Well that is long enough for now I'd say. Hopefully one of these days I will get my act together and get some photos going. Ciao.

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Well I have successfully navigated the Philippines in a plastic waste free manner! Hurrah!

I was pleasantly surprised at the attitude towards waste in general, especially in a touristy town El Nido ("the Nest"). There were a number of signs emphasizing that littering was not tolerated (with a 1000 peso fine! aka $25) and giving instructions on how to get rid of waste. El Nido was my first real impression of the Philippines and it turns out that not every where is quite at the same level.

The next city I went to, Coron, still had huge amounts of plastic trash all over the place. Both locations are very touristy and have scuba diving as a big part of the industry. Coron is more of a wreck spot than a nature spot though and I wonder if this accounts for the different attitude. I have a feeling that El Nido has more of a protective marine environment feel. The diving there was pretty spectacular :).

I ran into a familiar problem... STRAWS!!! GAH!!!! Hey Asia! Stop giving me a straw all the time!!!!!!!! I can't wait until I no longer have to ask for a glass without a straw. At least in the Philippines people have a good grasp of English. I still had to mime a bit though, the get the point across. And I still got quite a few funny looks :P.

I stayed away from street food this time. Not really for any particular reason, except that the food in the restaurants was really good and really cheap. There was no motivation to eat off the street. Plus the food in Malaysia was so yummy, I am not sure if I will be able to top that street food.

Buying gifts wasn't a problem here as most touristy places were selling hand made items that weren't wrapped. I was very happy to see that. I was very impressed to see unique gifts as well!! Hurrah, not the same crap that everywhere else sells. The best one was a turtle and sea star key chain that were made of recycled plastic!!!! Win :).

I am looking forward to comparing Canada to other places I have been on my journey. I have really high hopes that we have less trash everywhere and a bigger awareness of plastic. We'll see...

Monday, 17 June 2013


Well Thailand. How does it stack up on the plastic free scale you ask? Not too badly...The hocker (sp?) stalls were a bit more hit and miss here. The ones that I ate at, were ones where you could sit down and have a meal (they were also mostly Malaysian stalls) But I saw a few that were only offering food in plastic and Styrofoam. There were a few that looked like they would have been nice to try but I didn’t. I may have been able to negotiate with my personal container, but I couldn’t really be bothered. Also, any of the sauce that came with the food came in a plastic bag as well. I am not sure I could have avoided that.

There was one sit down restaurant that only had throw away chopsticks in plastic wrap. I ate everything with a spoon, which wasn’t as satisfying but bearable.

As far as gift giving goes, it is the same as Malaysia and Indonesia. Lots of things come wrapped in plastic but there are wrapper free options as well.
Straws...those blasted straws! I mostly convinced people not to give me a straw, with some heavy pantomiming going on.  It is a lot easier when you have a local to translate for you (Thanks SK!). So once again, I stuck mostly to hot drinks. Sometimes I just really wanted a coconut though. I got some really funny looks when I quite adamantly refused a straw and said I would have mine with a spoon. Hahahaha.

My birthday. Two things happened for my birthday. First off, I couldn’t have any cake because they all came wrapped in plastic. Even the individual pieces at the bakery. So I had a brownie, which was yummy, but not really birthday-y. The second was I found out that a bottle of wine and a two-six of tequila was the same price.... Ummm what? It was a very odd realization, especially coming from Australia. Not really anything to do with plastic, but worth sharing. I also took a picture that would be lovely to show, if the internet would load things. I have no idea how people can upload photos on to facebook when they travel. It must take them all day.

One sad occurrence happened in the cooking class I took with Katie. I was very excited to take the class and thought for sure there wouldn’t be any issues with plastic. What I did not realize was that almost all the food prep was done for us, including the meat, which came wrapped in cling wrap. There was nothing I could do about it. It didn’t even occur to me to check. Nor could I have change anything. So I just accepted it, and was sad. But the class was quite fun and the food was really good. I have the cook book as well so hopefully I can recreate it.

It was just a short trip to Thailand and I was only in the south. I think it would be worth checking out more of the country before really giving an opinion about the ease of being plastic-free. There wasn’t really any awareness that I saw about the issue. However, there was plenty of evidence in the street that it is an issue. It is definitely time to start a massive clean-up.  

Friday, 24 May 2013


Greetings from Malaysia! I am not really sure about all these people that kept (and keep) telling me that being plastic waste free in Asia is impossible. In some ways it is easier to be plastic free here than in Australia. For example, there are a lot of places that sell pop in glass bottles here. That isn't an option in Canada or Australia. Course, it used to be, and I haven't really checked the expiry dates on anything....but does pop really expire? :P. I have been mostly avoiding pop though. I am doing pretty well with my water bottle.

Another thing that is waaaay easier here is eating in a food court. I can't think of a single mall food court in Canada or Australia where the food is given to you in every day dishes. Everything in Canada comes in plastic or Styrofoam. Here, I would have to specifically seek it out. The default is to present the food "for here" style. I think that is fantastic!

The street food here is the same style as Indonesia, and is given to me in containers that are then reused by the stall. Once again, the biggest thing seems to be the straws. I am a bit over having the same hot drink (milk tea) and have ventured in to the world of cold drinks. My pantomiming no straw is still a bit of an issue. It seems to be working though, especially after same manic gestures and screaming when they go to put the straw in anyway. I always get the same, confused / bemused smile as well. I think my actions here will have no affect on the plastic use but will definitely affect how Asians view Canadians. If they didn't think we were weird already, sorry, they do now :P.

There was this really sad moment when I found a cool gift and had the person make it for me. Then I got distracted by the rest of the stall and before I knew what was happening I was handed my gift nicely wrapped in a plastic bag and stapled so it looked like it was from a store. I asked the girl if I gave the plastic back to her if she could use it for someone else, and she said no. I left and made it to the next store before I felt so awful about the whole thing that I took the staple out carefully and pulled it all apart. I went back and handed her the different pieces and said "please try and use this for the next person." I kind of tried to explain what my reasoning was but it didn't seem to get through. I did see her stack the bag and the cardboard with the "new" ones though so hopefully it will go to someone else.

I am having a bit of an affect on some of the people I am hanging out with though. Mostly things like rethinking plastic bag use, looking for ash trays instead of throwing cigarettes on the ground, reusing containers... It is probably my direct presence that is causing these changes but who knows, maybe when I am gone they will think of me when going back to old habits.

My daily life hasn't really seemed to change too much. I don't eat as many candies and chips, but I can still buy chocolate :P. One thing that is a bit sad is that I can't experience some of the local candies. I have yet to see any that are not pre-wrapped. So I might be missing out on the culture a little bit. I will have to come back. Similarly with some of the juices and drinks. Haha good thing I don't like bubble tea, because that would be a difficult one to get.

I have one more week or so here and then it will be off to a new country!