I Gave Up Plastic for a Month. Here’s What Happened.

In January 2017 conservationist and extreme adventurer Braam Malherbe announced that he was planning to row from Cape Town to Rio to raise awareness for the environment. If he was prepared to row 8,100km in a ridiculously small boat to save the planet, the least my wife and I could do was commit to living plastic-free.

(I mean, how hard could it be, right?)

Braam and his crew-mate, Wayne Robertson, achieved their goal, arriving in Rio on May 9th after spending 92 days at sea. We, on the other hand, failed dismally at ours. Plastic was still very much a part of our daily lives.

We consoled ourselves by focusing on the areas where we were making a difference. We’re 100 percent vegan, for example, so at least we’re not contributing to the land degradation caused by the meat and dairy industries. We also compost our kitchen waste and we recycle.

That was our first attempt at giving up plastic, and last month, we decided to give plastic-free living another go. Here’s how it’s going and what we’ve learned.

Plastic-Free July (for Good)

It wasn’t enough, though. So when I heard about the plastic-free July challenge, I decided it was time for us to say sayonara to single-use plastic for good.

Having written a couple of articles on the subject, I knew we had at least 8.3 billion reasons to break free from plastic. Ignoring the problem was no longer an option. Something had to change.

Motivated by the knowledge I’d gleaned while researching those articles, we embarked on our mission to quit plastic again. Fortunately, a package-free grocery store had since opened in the city, making our second attempt at going plastic-free infinitely easier.

It’s been a little over a month since we set out. Here’s what’s happened so far.

I Gave Up Plastic for a Month. Here's What Happened.

We’ve Saved Money

Avoiding single-use plastic means we can no longer enjoy our favorite convenience foods. While not particularly expensive, it still adds up when you indulge in them on a regular basis like we were.

We’re Eating More Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

We’re not junk food vegans, but clearly we weren’t eating as much fresh produce as we thought, either. With convenience foods off the table, we’re pretty much confined to the fresh produce and bulk sections when we go grocery shopping.

We’re Recycling Less

Before, we’d fill up a bag with recycling in a week. Now, it takes about three weeks before we need to make a trip to the recycling depot. Recycling is not the answer to the plastic pollution problem, so knowing that we’re not adding as much as before is gratifying.

We’re Composting More

We’re eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, so it follows that we’ll be composting more. Between the two of us we’re filling a bucket a week. Knowing that we’re able to give back to the earth in this way makes us ridiculously happy. (Vegan nerd much?)

We’re Eating Less Junk

We’re both pretty healthy, but occasionally we hanker for something that doesn’t resemble a vegetable. Avoiding single-use plastic means we can no longer indulge in chocolate chip cookies or wasabi-coated peanuts. Instead, we whip up a batch of these blueberry applesauce cake bars and get our ‘junk food’ fix that way.

We’re Spending More Time in the Kitchen

There’s something to be said for preparing your own meals. It’s a meditative process that nourishes your body and your soul. We’ve always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen, but lately we’ve been a bit lazy about making food from scratch. Ditching the plastic has changed that.

We’re More Mindful about What We Throw Away

Before embarking on this plastic-free mission we’d throw everything away, either in the recycle bin or the trash. Now, we save everything, Rather than view these items as single-use, we try to find a way to use them again.

We take them with us when do our grocery shopping at Nude Foods, we use them to pack our lunches when we work out, we’ve even resorted to storing our bar soap in them when we shower at the gym.

We Worry Less About Convenience

Perhaps most surprisingly, we’ve discovered that convenience is overrated. There’ll always be a place for the easy option, but for the most part we’re really appreciating how living plastic-free has prompted us to either do without or make our own [whatever].

Zero Waste Heroes

I Gave Up Plastic for a Month. Here's What Happened.

Our efforts are far from perfect. We still cave and buy our favorite vegan hot cross buns more often than we should. But for the most part we’re making great inroads in our attempts to ditch single-use plastic.

If you’re keen to get started on your own plastic-free journey, Conscious by Chloé has put together a complete list of the world’s best zero waste bloggers.

Between their challenges, personal stories, and how-to guides, you’ll have more than enough information and inspiration to make it doable.

Will we ever be in the leagues of Trash is for Tossers, Going Zero Waste or Litterless? Probably not. The important thing is not how well we’re doing, but that we’re making a concerted effort. For now, that’s enough.

“Each one of us can make a difference. Together we make change.” —Barbara Mikulski

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Greta L
Alice Labout a month ago


Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thank you

Gino C
Past Member 8 months ago

thank you

Chad A
Chad A8 months ago


Leopold M
Leopold Marek8 months ago


Danuta W
Danuta W8 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Marija M
Marija M8 months ago

Tks for sharing, very interesting...

Virginia Miller
Virginia Miller8 months ago

Thanks for sharing your efforts

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara8 months ago

Here the trend is to provide a ready to oven dish in tinfoil tray. This can be stuffed peppers, sausage with a sauce sachet or a roast meat with or without veg. The tray gets recycled. The lid of the tray is plastic so you can see in, but that is all.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara8 months ago

If a person is disabled or elderly or needs a carer to come in they will not be able to do all that these people did. Maybe think about bringing fresh veg to a parent / grandparent and spending ten minutes prepping it for cooking. If they have a bowl of chopped veg ready to be added to a soup or stew they will be happy and a delicious nutritious meal awaits. If you slice onions you will need to seal them some way like in a lunchbox or the fridge will smell.