Sometimes, you just have to ask.

I really enjoy shopping at independent local shops or markets, where ever it is I am. Which is just as well, as once I started Being-PALL Plastic A Lot Less, there wasn´t really much choice anyway!

I like the variety, seeing what local shops have to offer, finding things I might not find elsewhere, and I enjoy the ease and speed of shopping in them. I suppose too it has to be said, I like a chat. I enjoy getting to know the people, and I like to support them.

My first photography project at college, over 12 years ago, was based in my small home town in suburbia Essex, England. Although I no longer lived there, I chose to look at the dominating effect the supermarket has on the town’s small businesses and the people who run them.

I spent a lot of time doing research,  talking to locals and independent shop owners. I started to understand what was happening there, it wasn´t pretty.  This meant I wasn’t a fan of large supermarkets even before Being-PALL.

Also supermarkets – as we know – are stacked to the rafters with unnecessary single use plastics. One trip I had to Sainsbury (when my Sister dragged me there!)  I started chatting with a lad on the fruit & veg, he said  “It´s not just the plastic you see, even if it´s loose on the shelf, all the fruit & veg delivery boxes are now lined with plastic bags.”

There isn´t a choice in a supermarket, what you see is what you get, but not with an independent store, sometimes you just have to ask…

A couple of weeks ago I was shopping locally to where I´m staying in Singapore. I needed spices, I blogged about it here Spicing it up PALL in Singapore

Spices, have always been a problem finding without plastic. So this time I was expecting to have to buy plastic (I was not happy about it mind you) I was shopping in what is known as a wet market, or hawker market, where there are stalls and shops inside with independent traders.  Though the food is not local, 95% of Singapore´s food is imported (and I´ve yet to find where they hide the other 5%).

I found a very popular Indian stall there. I could see he had loose fruit and veg, but all the spices were in little plastic bags, I wondered, and so I asked…

…It turns out many of  the spices arrive loose, as do rice and pulses (some in huge plastic bags, though not all) and then the guy bags them all up into small plastic bags.  By simply asking, I managed to get every thing I needed to take home without any plastic bags!  Had I not have asked I would never have known.

If you don´t ask, you don´t get!

The man was really helpful to accommodate me and my strange request – and then letting me shoot pictures for this post.  All though at the time he was also laughing with/at me, that´s fine, I got all I needed PALL and I gave him a laugh!  He remembers me, so now I don´t even have to ask, he knows I want my spices and produce without plastic.

If you´re new to Being-PALL Plastic A Lot Less I highly recommend you get out of your supermarket and have a look around for alternatives, and if you´re there and you don´t see any, ask, you´ll be surprised what you can find, and how keen independent shops and traders are to help.  In the last six years I have asked many, in many country’s and they really are happy to not give me plastic, and many have said;

We only use plastic bags because it´s what the customer wants.

The more of us asking and making the demand for our goods PALL the more normal it´ll become, who knows, they might eventually stop packing their produce in single use plastic…Until then…

Every refusal adds up. Happy asking. Happy PALL-ing!

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Partying PALL – Plastic A Lot Less

We’ve just had New Year, so maybe I should post this in a month or two, when people have given up the fitness kick and wanna go out again.  Though in the Southern Hemisphere it´s Summer, so party time!

When I look at other blogs sometimes I get the impression people are perfect and live pintrest wholesome lives. Well I’m not and I don’t.  This is a subject close to my heart, I like going out & partying, I love a good boogie. OK, currently I’m not partying like in the past, I’m not and never have been as hardcore as I’d like to be, but that’s not to say the “feral party chick” (as myself and a couple of other friend were once known…) has gone forever.

So can you party AND PALL?  Yes you can. I’ve done it, many a time over the last six years. Remembering we’re talking PALL-ing  Plastic A Lot Less. Not plastic free here (though that’s possible).

I totally understand when you’re letting your hair down plastic in the oceans isn’t the first thing on your mind, but partying is enjoyed by a lot of us, that’s a lot of plastic. Every day I went on the beach in Portugal I´d see plastic cups that had washed up.

If you’ve thought of it before you’ve left the house, you can just get on with it while you’re out. You remember your keys, you remember your phone, your lippy, you can remember a couple of others things and after a few times it becomes habit.

(OK, if you’re at the age/stage where even standing up and remembering your name is a problem when you’re out, then forget it, but if you can do that then you can manage.)

You may be the only one not drinking or eating from plastic, I have been many a time, not always, but a lot. I can handle being the odd one out and not following the crowd. The apologies from friends at one point did (after 4 years!) get a bit much. Though it was after that I talked with Arrifana Restaurant and they commissioned the mugs in the header picture, Saving 5000-6000 single use plastic cups, every year!  No plastic cups, also means no apologies! Had friends taken mugs along and not apologised to me a thousand times I might not have spoken with them, so it was worth it in the end!

Depending on where you’re going or what you’re doing means you need to consider different things:

  • If you´re going out, or out out. 
  • If there’s food involved
  • A festival, for the day or weekend
  • House party as a guest or a host

I´ll discuss them all here so scroll down & hopefully you´ll find what you´re looking for. Let me know in the comments what you do to PALL – Plastic A Lot Less – your partying!

A night out on the town is pretty simple

  • Request your drinks without straws. Easy.  Do straws add up to that much? Yes they do, or they wouldn’t wash up with every tide.
  • If you´re getting a cocktail that you feel needs a straw to stir, a caipirinha for example, ask for a spoon instead. It´s the stirring you need, not the sucking.
  • Take a small bottle of water with you, alternatively ask for tap water at the bar, in a glass or a mug if they have a coffee machine.
  • Food at the end of the night, depending what takes your fancy, all though most chippies have now opted for polystyrene most still have paper too. Ask for your food to be in that, rather than a clam shell for every portion of chips. If you’re a burger type of person, again ask for paper.
  • If you go to a fast food outlet and you need a drink, get the drink without the lid or the straw.

Local festival where there’s food involved.

There are loads of these in Portugal. Every week in Summer is one festival or another. Be it the festival of the sweet potato, the sweetcorn or the chestnut. I love these festivals, where every one turns up and hangs out together, but boy is there some plastic involved. They are literally drowning in SUPs – single use plastics.  When there’s food involved and there’s no fixed bar I admit it takes more effort, but these efforts really add up.

Lets not forget also, eating and drinking from single use plastic, is not only polluting, it’s horrible to eat and drink from!

  • Firstly, you need something to drink from. A metal mug works great as it’s light and won’t break when you drop it. (not saying you’ll drop it, but you never know). Try if you can to get one with an official measure so it doesn’t look as if your only reason to use it is to blag more booze. If you can’t, just explain you don’t need it full to the top, just what they’d usually pour. Be aware – they may use a plastic cup as a measure, which they’ll then throw straight in the bin, so be nice, you’re really not on the blag you just don’t want plastic. (You’ll find you often do end up with more booze, after the first one, Brucie bonus!)
  • Eating – Plates, knives & forks. This helps if you’re a woman and don’t mind carrying a huge handbag about. Alternatively put them in a canvas bag. Don’t take your Nan’s best china. Stock up at the charity shop, you can pick up plates and cutlery for nothing, then if you do forget them it’s not the end of the world. If you’re not worried about losing them, if and when you lose you mind, consider some nice metal camping style ones.
  • Water – take your water bottle filled up with you.Or if there´s a tap, drink from that.

The Medieval Festival in Silves in Portugal is a festival like no other, here it´s all beautiful terracotta!

 

Festivaling

When was the last time I camped at a festival (without the luxury of a camper?)  I do remember, it was a very long time ago! Maybe I’m not currently the best person to talk about festivaling, but in the past this is what I´ve done.

(the above pictures are thanks to Liz. Who remembered to take a camera and used it!)

  •  I would – like I have in the past at festivals take my mug. If I was staying a few days, I’d take a few… just in case I lost them ( I find them at bootsales & charity shops).
  • Water. This time I would leave my Klean Kanteen at home (I lost a Klean Kanteen at a festival once, which was annoying as it was both a present and expensive.) Next time I learnt and sourced a cheaper water bottle.
  • I struggled at at the last festival I went to to get in with my metal bottle, as it was metal. I explained why I had it, still they wasn’t having any it. So I  – politely, but firmly asked to speak to who was ever in charge at the gate. I can’t remember exactly, I was probably already a bit squiffy, but then they let me in. It helped being nice, I had it for a reason, which I explained (The festival was very close to the Atlantic) they did recognize that once I was willing to take it further and not just give in.
  • Water costs a fortune at festivals, the extra 5 minutes at the gate was worth saving the money and also, time queuing for water once in.
  • I opted to eat at stalls with no packaging, or ate things that I could hold. I ask for paper. Maybe even take newspaper or paper bags with you, they’re light enough.
  • I always have a stash of almonds with me, generally where ever I go as well.
  • If I was going to camp, with out a camper next time I would try to find one of those huge metal water drums and take that with me (the one we used in the camper was glass). I’m not sure to be honest what else I’d do. Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life does an amazing job at The Burning Man festival, so obviously it can be done!  This is what she does here:  My Plastic Free Life. Burning Man Festival, part 1.

House Parties – As A guest

House parties are a difficult one. You don’t want to be rude. Generally over the last few years house parties I’ve gone to I’ve known the people so it’s easy. They know me, if I get a plate out of the cupboard people are used to that. Also some friends have stopped using Single Use Plastics – SUPs at parties :-).

Recently though I went to a party of someone I didn´t know, being taken by a friend of a friend who I also didn´t know. It was in Cambodia, I have posted about the plastic in Cambodia here. Traveling PALL I noticed it was all single use plastic so, when the guy asked me what cocktail I wanted I offered to help. Once in the kitchen I asked for a ´bigger´ cup. No one can argue with bigger! (Personally I don´t think it´s rude to ask for a bigger cup, it makes perfect sense).  We had a laugh while making cocktails, so it also worked out a good way to get to know my host.

When the food came round it was a meat chilli (I had been warned & eaten before I went) had it been veggie, I probably would have asked – nicely for a normal plate, and made sure I´d washed it up. If not I would have re-used a friends after they´d finished, saving one set from being used at least. There was cheesecake going around, (I forgot about the eggs in cheesecake, whoops) & just ate off my hands. I´d eaten it within 30 seconds, so really didn´t need a plate or fork of any kind.

House party – as a host

Back in the day myself and house mates hosted quite a number of big house parties, they were SUPs affairs, I wasn´t to know then. It´s obvious isn´t it, who wants to wash up after a house party?  The last one I held, I did!  Now I´d rather a bit (OK, a lot) of washing up and mess rather than sending bags of SUPs cups, plates and crockery to landfill/the ocean.  I just had to have a re-think of what to do., I talk about it under the pictures. It was a fantastic party, as well as being PALL!
(I wasn´t blogging at the time so didn´t record any of the PALL efforts.)

  • The cups. I borrowed a load of glasses from a friend, who´d recently had a 40th & also didn´t use SUP cups (we are adults, who wants to drink out of crappy cups anyway?)
  • (I made sure there was a dustpan and brush close by, just in case.)
  • I simply didn´t buy or provide any straws.
  • Plates I asked every one to bring a bottle AND 2 plates, one with food, one without. (I have to say for this party people went all out & the food was lovely!)
  • Cutlery. For some reason the owners of the house left enough for a party 4 times the size. If not, I´d have borrowed some or picked some up at a bootsale or charity shop.
  • I borrowed fairy lights and decorations.
  • I bought vodka that had metal lids.( Thankfully they also didn´t have the plastic pourer thing inside, but that was more luck than judgement, you’re never to know who´s put them in unless you remember the brand.)
  • I stocked up on fresh strawberries from the local market, in cardboard boxes and froze them in advance (to go with the vodka.)
  • I borrowed a fridge and a freezer a couple of weeks before.
  • I prepped ice, just making it in tubs then smashed some before & some on the night.
  • On the day I made lemonade. I´d never done that before and it was easy & tasty!
  • I got a couple of boxes of oranges (this was in the Algarve) & juiced them.
  • (Naturally, I bought everything using canvas bags or old cardboard boxes.)
  • The real drinks. On the night myself & friends blended the strawberries and mixed with sugar & vodka. The strawberries worked a treat to cover the taste of the cheap vodka, and people loved it and enjoyed themselves!
  • This was a massive FAIL though. I should have blended the strawberries before the actual night. Instead we overworked the blenders, to the point where 2 blew up. Not good on the PALL side of things. I did after manage to replace them secondhand, but still I´d rather not have blown them up in the first place!
  • The cake was one of the most amazing cakes ever made. It also was one of the tastiest, which is not normally the case. (It was made with a friends free range eggs.) Though on the PALL side of things was also a FAIL. Bumma!  The part that wasnt cake (the top) was polystyrene underneath. The girl who made it was lovely, I´m going to send her this & see if she can find another way in future.
  • I offered friends beds and sofas.  They in turn helped me tidy up the next day, and made breakfast!
  • I dusted down the dishwasher that I never used otherwise, and it was pretty busy that day.

 

Talking to a bar, event or organisers.

Of course taking our own mugs and cups to events over times really adds up, but there is more we can also do: talk to the organizers. I briefly mentioned Arrifana Resturant  at the beginning of this post. Arrifana restaurant now have customised beautiful terracotta mugs. Saving 5000-6000 single use plastic cups, every year!  That´s PALL-ing on a massive scale!

 

Then there´s the other naughty thing that goes hand in hand with drinking. Assuming my Mum hasn´t got this far down, but just incase, hypothetically speaking what can you do?  Cigarette butts, if you didn´t already know – are plastic.  There´s nothing good to be said about them… we´ve been told a million times before, what more can I say?  In Portugal you can smoke PALL. Look around for tobacco in paper, use cardboard as roach hey presto! A box of matches works too, or possibly a zipper, not sure how you re-fill them though.  (Please note; I’m not suggesting smoking is good or rollies are better for your health.  I’m talking about PALL-ing, this isn’t a post about health tips.)

Let me know how you PALL your partying, I’d love to hear from you!

 Every refusal adds up. Happy partying!! Happy PALL-ing! 

Keeping your PALL – Plastic A Lot Less – motivation going.

For a long time when I first started Being PALL – Plastic A Lot Less – in 2008 I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall. I felt my efforts were futile.  I´m just one person, what difference do I make?  Everywhere I looked we´re drowning in plastic…

In 2008 the buzz of plastic pollution was not as it is today. There were not many of us on the planet activity refusing plastic, it was at times a lonely endeavour, and there were many times I wondered why I kept going… Many!

 Refusing plastics means you don´t have much to show for it.

Then, in 2011 I was tallying it up in my head just how much I refused when I was out food shopping once.  In just that one food shop. A lot, bags of it… To give you an idea, this is me in a before shot:

I´d been Being PALL 3 years at that point, imagine what I´d refused in all that time?

Obviously, I had too much time on my hands, so I sat down and did a tally. It was rough so I underestimated it. Wow!  I saw, my efforts weren´t futile after all, far from it. The amount I´d refused WAY exceeded my expectations. Doing this exercise meant I started to feel empowered, refusing all that plastic felt good.  Also, I no longer had to bang my head against a wall, which in itself was a relief.

I got in touch with Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life the leading blog and now book on Plastic Free Living. She blogged about it and titled it:

Michelle has refused over 10,000 plastic items! How many have you refused?

10,000 items. Seams like a lot doesn´t it. How´s that possible?  When you start looking around, if it´s not made of  plastic, it´s packaged in plastic, if not we put it in plastic.  I´ve given you an idea in the tally below. I´ve been refusing plastic ever since 2008. As one person I´ve easily double that figure.

Once you change simple habits and start refusing SUPs – single use plastics, it´s incredible how much you don´t use or need.

So keep motivated, yes you may just be one person, you may be one family but  – over time – it´s easy to refuse a mountain of plastic. If not a mountain, a hill at least, a big hill at that if you keep going!

Maybe put a quick list on the fridge so you can make a tally to see your efforts add up.

These are literally a few ways to avoid plastics.  Once you start you´ll find there´s many more. Try not to get overwhelmed and do it over night.  Or you can, I did, but I wouldn´t advise it!

I´ve listed a few examples from the post below the pictures with the link to Beth´s post.

 

  • Plastic bags (including, produce bags, bin bags, bread bags, bags to put the bags in bags….) @ 25 per week = 4,000  Canvas bags, old cardboard boxes, paper bags, your hands!  For the bin, if you can, compost. If not, wrap veg cuttings and meesy rubbish in old newspaper, put that direct in the bin. OK, sometimes you may have to wash your bin out more, you have to take the rough with the smooth!
  • Bottled water. 5L bottles (for 6 months of the year while living in a camper van) @ 4 a week = 288 bottles, 288 bottle tops, and the plastic that wraps the bottles together. A glass drum, that I think was intended to marinate olives. Filled from taps.
  • Small bottled water out and about @ 2 a week = 312 bottles, 312 tops. I bought a Klean Kanteen & fill it from the tap. (See my travel post if you´re somewhere you can´t drink the water).
  • Shampoo, shower gel, conditioner 1 of each every 3 months = 36  LUSH provide everything naked. Shop in store or online if the smell bothers you.
  • Plates, crockery at events. Countless!!! At one event alone I´d refused about 10 items and we have loads of outdoor events here. I will talk about this in my next post; partying while you PALL.
  • Straws approx. @ 3 a week = 500  (sometimes you get 2 in one glass) When I order my drink, I ask for it with out a straw. (usually twice or they normally forget as auto straw pilot kicks in. I was a waitress guilty of it).
  • Boxed wine (i.e. plastic bagged wine with plastic tap) @ 2 a month = 72  Good ol´ bottles of wine. Meant we drunk less to, probably not a bad thing…
  • Fruit punnets: @ 4 a week = 624  I opted for loose fruit and veg. If there isn´t a choice, like blueberries for example I don´t bother with them, I survive!
  • Pasta bags: @ 2 a month = 72 (the boxes still have a small plastic window, but it´s far less)
  • Crisp packets: @ 3 per week = 468 I still eat crisps, the Portuguese ones are too good. Now it´s a rare treat, maybe once every 2 months, rather than 3 packs a week like before. Which is probably better for me to!
  • Peanut butter @ 1 a month = 36  Found it in glass, locally made.
  • Tomato sauce @ 2 a month = 72 Purchase the glass bottles. (and it´s actually tomato sauce, rather than that light red runny stuff…) (not sure why I was getting though so much ketup then?!)
  • Butter tub @ 1 a month = 36 (though I´m sure I eat more butter, but would rather not admit it to myself!)  Get it in paper. Use a butter dish. (or an old plastic one if you don´t have one yet).
  • Tampons. 3 a day. 7 days of a month = 756  I now use a mooncup
  • Clothes. All clothes are delivered to the shops individually bagged and a lot of them are made from plastic fibres. I´ve not bought any new clothes since 2008. (A big change from my Student cheap high street days!) How many items in 3 years??? A lot! Approx 4 items per month = 144 Now I go to charity shops, bootsales and have lovely friends’ hand-me-downs.

Also, lets not forget, once you start refusing plastics other people see and who knows where that leads…

I´ve said it before, it´s cheesy but it´s true;  When we PALL ourselves, we help to PALL our world and our oceans, so don´t get disheartened. Let me know what you´re doing, I´d love to hear from you!

Every refusal adds up.  Happy PALL-ing!