donate buttonThis is Mike’s second entry in the series “Grist dared me to make a change.” Read the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth here. And support his dare with a gift to Grist!

Plastic-free groceriesTwo hours of work for plastic-free groceries.Photo: Mike SanClementsNormally, grocery shopping isn’t a challenging task. This time, following my plastic purge dare, it took two hours. Two whole hours! Just to buy five days’ worth of food. WTF?

The hold-ups came at every turn. This was way more difficult than anticipated. I figured I’d buy meat from the butcher, get cheese from the deli, put my veggies in cloth or paper bags, and call it good. But that ain’t the case. For example, we wanted some hummus, but the prepared kind is all packaged in plastic. Fine, we can make it from scratch, but then we had to go find all those ingredients without plastic.

Basically, everything becomes a massive pain in the ass. Speaking of which, let me tell you about toilet paper. In order to avoid plastic, you can only buy the single roll of Seventh Generation toilet paper at nearly $1.50 a pop. That never even crossed my mind.

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toilet paperPlastic-wrapped toilet paper: A pain in the ass.Photo: Mike SanClementsProduce was pretty easy, aside from berries. My girlfriend, Mary, and I purchased five reusable cloth bags and also used paper bags instead of plastic. I’ll have to buy more cloth bags in the future, but they were kind of expensive and I was already worried about how this would affect the grocery bill.

Cheese was trickier than I thought. The Whole Foods in Boulder tends to precut and wrap all their cheeses in plastic, except the sandwich cheeses like American and cheddar. Even with those, you have to plan ahead and bring something for them to wrap it in after they cut it for you. Otherwise, they’ll use plastic. So back across the store I went to grab a paper bag from the fruit section. We also needed parmigiana, so we had to beg the deli people to get some from the back of the store, cut it, and place it in a paper bag. (Which they did. Thanks!)

I couldn’t get any half and half or light cream for my coffee because all the creamer options have that stupid plastic cap on top of the carton. So I guess I’ll have milk in my coffee this week. I don’t like that. Crap. Very few juices are available in glass, other than the small sizes, and juice cartons tend to have that plastic cap, too. dog bones packed in plastic bagsSorry, Hank. No bone for you.Photo: Mike SanClements

Things like tortilla chips were also a no go for the most part, but fortunately Boulder has a local company that produces some in paper. Stay tuned for the making of the tortillas.

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I had one accidental failure: I bought raisins for my bulk cereal but the box turned out to have a plastic liner. I think everything in a box has a plastic liner, but you can’t check. We placed them in the back of the cabinet and I will be eating my cornflakes without them.

So, after just one day with this dare, I’ve concluded that our food industry uses an enormous amount of completely unnecessary plastic packaging. And my poor dog, Hank, won’t be getting his nightly after-dinner Good Buddy bone, because they come in a plastic bag. So sad.

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