Way back in March, I was going to write a post about our family’s adventures in composting but when a global pandemic hit it seemed sort of irrelevant. Four months later, in this “new normal” of social distancing and mask-wearing, I’m still figuring out what it looks like to reduce our waste while maintaining hygiene standards. Gone are the days of reusable grocery bags and open bulk bins at the store. Suddenly we’re swimming in plastic bags again.
Our goal as a family to use less plastic has coincided interestingly with a new anxiety of mine in the time of corona. Food security was something I worried about quite a bit at the beginning of the shutdown in March. Though we live in a region where you can grow quite a bit, farming is not a major industry here. The amount of food produced locally is not enough to sustain the local population. Our grocery stores are stocked by ferry and barge from the mainland. If the Sunshine Coast were to be truly cut off from Vancouver, we would definitely suffer from food shortages. Thankfully, even as ferry travel was limited, essential transport was open and while we saw the same shortages of yeast and flour that everyone else, we were never truly short on food. (Dairy was hit and miss in the early weeks as were some types of meat but that has since returned mostly to normal.)
In an effort to settle my own anxieties, I planted a vegetable garden for the first time ever. Like a lot of other people, we started making sourdough bread. This has expanded to crackers, tortillas, pizza dough, and bagels. I also started looking into what I could purchase from local farms. In April I began making semi-weekly orders from a farm in our neighbourhood where I bought radishes, kale, jam, strawberries, and starters to plant in our own garden. I could order and pay on-line and walk over with my girls to pick-up.
In June we joined in with something called a Community Food Box. This is a joint program of several farms on the Coast, providing a pre-paid vegetable box once a week for sixteen weeks. It’s a pretty classic CSA model except that it is a partnership between multiple farms. The cost is paid up front which enables the farms to invest right back into their infrastructure. The amount of fruit and veggies we get each week is more than enough for a family of four and the quality has been fantastic.
As well, we can add what they call provisions each week. These aren’t included in the cost but I can add things like beer, eggs, honey, and even coffee to my order and they’re all locally produced. It might sound silly to say that this has made me so happy but it really has. We’re eating more veggies than ever and supporting our local economy and food production.
We didn’t embark on any of this with our plastic usage in mind but I’ve realized that it has been an unexpected perk. When I pick up our food box, I transfer all the items into my own grocery bags and leave the box there to be sanitized and reused. Some of the veggies are in plastic bags while others are loose or in cardboard boxes. It’s definitely less than at the grocery store these days. (It doesn’t hurt that this also means we can go longer without visiting the grocery store.) Making our own bread and other things also means less plastic packaging.
At the same time, while trying to figure out more ways to support local businesses, we have been able to reduce the amount of goods we’re having shipped around the country and the world. I’ve been slowly switching out my skincare products to a locally made company. Most of their packaging is glass and bamboo and it’s delivered straight to my door from about twenty minutes away.
I do have to acknowledge that I’m showing a certain amount of privilege here. We’re able to reduce a lot of our waste because we have the time and resources to do so. Being a stay-at-home parent means I can devote time to figuring out alternate solutions. Our lifestyle also means that we’re able to stay home safely so we’re not using the disposable masks and wipes as much that so many others require. Our family has reusable masks and use them as needed. We purchased them for our girls but for now it’s my preference to avoid situations where they need to wear them. And, again, I know I’m lucky to be able to do so.
As I’ve said before, our family is not zero waste. I’m not even sure that zero waste is our goal. Our goal is to always be looking at what we use with an eye to creating less garbage. As always, I love to hear feedback and ideas! Leave a comment and tell me how things work at your house!