Zeroing in on no waste

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In my dream future I’m living a zero-waste life. In my pleasant present I’m nowhere near it. I have, however, discovered ways and means of reducing my waste – specifically food and plastic waste – that you too might find helpful. To whit:

  • I plan and prep lunches and meals as much as possible. Every Saturday or Sunday I’ll do a quick and simple list of food we need and the meals we’ll cook that week. This involves checking our calendars (who’s having lunches/evenings out) and what food is left from the week before. Most of the meals we make will have 3/4 portions so it’s leftovers every other day. I plan for a simple night of food each week too: pasta with roast veg or vegetable stir fry with anything looking a bit limp. My favourite sight is an empty fridge and desolate vegetable basket on a Saturday morning.
  • Lunches are prepped on Sundays: vegetables (carrots, squash, sweet potato) roasted; leaves are washed and left with a damp kitchen towel under cling film (I’ll move to wax paper soon!) and a big bowl of a grain like cous cous or bulgur is prepped. Other lunch items are tomatoes; feta (once open I store under water in tupperware); avocado, smoked salmon and various seeds. Every night we’ll prep breakfast and lunch quickly. Saves money and prevents trips to the local deli where excess plastic packaging is inevitable.
  • I shop with my list and the planet in mind. I used to do the bulk of my shopping (including fruit and veg) in Lidl or Tesco but the huge amounts of non-recyclable plastic I was left with each week was driving me mad. So I switched it up and now go to the Honest2Goodness market in Glasnevin for everyday things like salad leaves (I reuse the plastic bag you fill yourself at the market each week and carry my own canvas bags – when they’re weighing me down it’s time to go home); tomatoes; carrots and potatoes that usually come under plastic in supermarkets. It’s tough to go in and not come out with delicious bread from Arun bakery or a fortune in meat from the butchers. A bonus is that I can drop into Lidl in Glasnevin on the way home to pick up everything else – including some of the things (like pineapples and sweet potato) that they don’t tend to package. If you exclude the treats we tend to buy in the market (flowers grown in Ireland; nice coffee..) the price difference between supermarket v market is less than €10 per week.
  • If a market isn’t an option you can sign this petition calling for supermarkets to ban plastic bags – or give feedback at your local branch and, of course, just not buy the food wrapped in plastic. Easier said than done.
  • Grow your own! Okay I’m struggling at present with keeping a mint plant alive (the hardiest of all the herbs!) but I would love to grow some of my own food – someday.
  • Buy in bulk. Again, easier said than done. A quick google will tell you that buying food in bulk in Dublin isn’t easy without access to a cash and carry..but it’s possible. Ethnic food shops are great for this – large bags of rice and other staples you can only find in 500g/1kg packs in supermarkets are great buys . (List of the best shops and the easiest transport links to them – because the 5kg bag of rice is a bargain until you have to carry it home – coming soon!)

Do you have any tips to share? This is my no means and exhaustive list and I’m definitely still learning how to avoid plastic and combat food waste.

Weekend

Some photos from a weekend spent mainly in front of the football…

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  • Friday’s wardrobe fail as I found myself walking in rain in my birkenstocks. Nothing a heap of gelato from The Best of Italy couldn’t solve. Best gelato on the southside. (A northside gelato post coming soon)
  • Saturday morning in the Honest2Goodness market in Glasnevin. I’ll write more about my newfound market habit and how my Saturdays there help with food prep for the week ahead.
  • A deer bed in Phoenix Park. My friends and I lucked out with an hour of sunshine on Saturday morning for a weekly dose of my favourite part of Dublin 7.
  • Sunday afternoon at Bang Bang, Phibsboro. Caught another sunny spell at this new-ish neighbourhood coffee (and more) spot.

The Keepcup switch

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This blog will begin as it means to go on: moaning about plastic. Specifically, the plastic liner in your coffee cup that you probably don’t even know was there.

I mean, props to Starbucks and other companies for making a paper/plastic cup an accessory. Their “Starbucks spelled my name hilariously wrong!” shtick must be the greatest social media non-campaign ever.

I got my first Keepcup over a year ago, upgraded to a glass version with sustainable cork band in April, and use them daily. One lives on my desk and one in the cupboard at home. I put it in my bag if I’m walking to work and know the allure of Proper Order coffee will be too strong to resist, and carry one with me if I’m going to town or anywhere, really.

They wash easily (I upgraded to glass when my first all plastic cup started to hold a smell); they’re durable and they keep me from contributing to the million paper cups sent to landfill every year.

Yes, landfill – that hole in the ground we think goes on forever. The cups you’re placing in recycling bins, more often than not, are not recyclable. The plastic lining that keeps your beverage from leaking through the paper is difficult to separate when disposed of and most waste disposal companies just don’t bother. It’s not worth it for them.

From the Guardian (UK stats):

A conservative estimate puts the number of paper cups handed out by coffee shops in the UK at 3bn, more than 8m a day. Yet, supposedly, fewer than one in 400 is being recycled.

It’s no hardship to switch to a Keepcup (other resusable cups exist!) but where’s the incentive? Few coffee shops offer discount for using them (rare example: Bite of Life on Patrick Street, Dublin 8 give 50c off), probably because they like seeing their logo carried around town. So, essentially, you buy a reusable cup and save them money on the cost of a paper cup; it hardly makes sense.

There is also a compostable cup trend, which is nice if the cups are placed in a compost bin, which is composting at a level that can break down the cup. If not, they’re going the same way as everything else you just put in that bin: the landfill.

My tips? Buy a reusable cup and carry it with you when possible. If you work 245 days a year and use your reusable cup only half of that time – and you get just one cup of coffee (ha! If only) a day – you’ll save 123 cups from landfill*. That’s not counting the weekends and your holidays. Then look around – does your office offer only paper cups for use? Does your favourite café always give takeaway cups, even when you sit in? Question them – one item of feedback could save thousands of cups from landfill.