This post is part of the “Real plastic-free homes” series, in which we show you how normal people, like you and us, reduce their plastic use. We do so by showing you their achievements, their mistakes, the effort they have made along the way and the lessons they have learnt along the way. Without judgement and with a will to learn.
You can read the other articles in the series here.
David is an IT Engineer and he lives in Majorca with his wife Raquel, and his 13 year old son Arey.
In this interview he tells us about the challenges of living without plastic on an island, his transition from living an eco-friendly life to one of a plasticatarian, and how motivating it can be to start leaving all that plastic behind.
How did it come about that you started living plastic-free?
Two summers ago my sister-in-law gave me the book “Vivir sin plástico” (Live plastic-free in English) . I started reading it and I realised, that although we recycled and we chose to buy organic products, we were consuming a lot of plastic.
So, after having read the book we decided to start to find alternatives and to try this new way of living out.
First, we started buying fruit and vegetables at the market from the local producers in our own fabric bags.
Then, we took the next step and stopped buying products packaged in plastic and chose those that come in glass. As a family, we decided to stop buying certain products that we decided we no longer need.
Later on, we took on personal hygiene, we started to buy solid shampoos and bars of soap. Now, I even shave with a shaving brush and solid shaving soap, my father is amazed about that… Slowly you start to realise that you are getting somewhere, the plastic recycling bin is not as full. We only take out the plastic recycling bin every 3 weeks or so.
You live on an island, where people generally buy bottled water… How have you managed to solve this issue?
The water on Majorca is safe to drink, it’s just that it doesn’t taste all that great, so we simply filter our water with an active charcoal Binchotan filter. Everyday, we get up and we religiously fill 4 bottles with water and then add the Binchotan. We also have a jug for pouring out the water…It means making a little effort but we have incorporated the habit into our routine and it’s not that complicated.
It is also true, that we have found an alternative for those days when we don’t have time, it’s a place that sells beverages in bulk and they also have water. They use reusable glass bottles and they also have products from local producers: local soft drinks, lemonades, wines…
Some people think that shopping plastic-free is more expensive. What has your experience been like?
We believe that we spend less now than before.
Shopping for food for example: one habit we have incorporated into our plan is that we only buy the food we are going to use for the week ahead.
On the weekends we write a list of the meals we are going to have throughout the week and on Saturday we only buy what we are going to need for those meals.
That way you save money, nothing goes to waste and during the week you don’t have to think about what you are going to eat.
If you buy something a little more expensive than normal, like a new pot of toothpaste, you can compensate the extra expense with other things. You also stop using certain products, such as fabric softener.
Let’s talk about your son, who is now 13 years old. How has this lifestyle change been for him?
Ever since Arey was born we have always been environmentally aware.
We were already buying good quality environmentally friendly products but we didn’t realise just how much plastic we were using.
The change came about when we opened our eyes to the the problem. We know we are not perfect, but we have significantly reduced our waste footprint and that is gratifying.
However, ever since Arey can remember he has had his sandwiches wrapped in fabric, in fact we make our own beeswax fabric food wraps. We also make homemade bread rolls at home and he has always taken this as his snack.
We have also explained to him that it doesn’t mean that eating in a fast food chain is a sin, if you are invited, you go along and you have something to eat and you enjoy yourself. One needs to be aware that not everyone thinks the same way.
As a family, we have decided that there are some things we are not going to buy if they come in plastic packaging, even though we like them. He deals with it well.
In fact, he used to always drink a specific brand of instant hot chocolate and as we haven’t found it sold in bulk, he has decided to just drink milk because he says that buying something in plastic when it’s just for him is not worth it, he doesn’t mind no longer drinking it.
Sometimes you go to buy something that we all really like and you say: “Maybe we don’t need so much of this…” and he’s happy to go along with it.
We also look for alternatives. Instead of a bag of crunchy toasted corn we get nuts or dried fruit… and it’s not as if we are 100% strict. Sometimes, you really feel like a bag of chips and you just buy one.
What would you recommend to the people who are reading this and are keen to reduce their own plastic use?
- Firstly, that they set daily or weekly goals: such as, this week I am going to get a bar of soap that works for me, or this week I am going to try and find a place where they sell beer in bulk, or this week I am going to work on finding out how to brush my teeth without using plastic…
- Secondly, that they get motivated by their rubbish bin: because it really is encouraging to see how the amount plastic starts to go down. First you will notice a whole day go buy without putting plastic in the bin, then 2 days, then 4, then a week, then 2 weeks, and then 3 weeks without throwing away any plastic…
- And thirdly, that you realise just how much money you are saving, overall it’s quite a lot.
Many thanks for sharing your family’s experience with us David. We are sure that in a few months these 3 weeks will become 4 and then 5… until your plastic recycling bin is nearly no longer required.
What did you think about David’s and his family’s story? Tell us your thoughts in the comments (in a respectful and non-judgemental way).
P.S.: Would you like to take part telling us about how you too reduce the amount of plastic at your place? We are looking for all type of households: single people, LGBT parents, single parents, large families, those living in small towns, in the city, flatmates, older people…even nomads!
We would like to tell your story, so if you are interested in participating send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Plastic-free homes” and we will be in contact.