Living low-plastic & not feeling deprived

For years I’ve been guiding my family on a low-plastic journey. Taking small steps, but in the fashion of being my mother’s daughter, being passionately forceful at times. Often my family – husband including kids – tolerates it slightly more or less so depending on how desperately they wanted the plastic (or throw-away) item they asked for.

But the past few months have brought a change, a shift. And yesterday I asked the kids “do you feel deprived not having certain things in plastic”? Both of them answered without hesitation “No!”. Whereas previously they’d said things like couldn’t we have normal things like normal people.

(You can probably guess my reply to that!). Why would you want to be normal! We’re not normal people, normal is boring… blah blah blah.

So when they answered that, with such emphasis and assurance – that they didn’t need the biscuits in the plastic, the cereal with twice the packaging than necessary, the extra treats, the individually wrapped cheeses or special breads in plastic – I smiled.

I probably would have jumped up and down and danced with joy, except I’m sick and that sort of movement would hurt my head. Instead I kept on nibbling my homemade pie; of course you guessed it made using homemade pastry and homemade filling.

How did the kids became swayed – or my husband for that matter? I’d like to say it was all me and my incessant influencing and constantly reminders. But I actually think them watching The War on Waste (on iview catchup) was a massive help. Showing those visuals of plastic towers, even though they’d seen them all before – somehow that sunk in deeper than the rest. I’m sure my years of moaning have worn them down…..

And you know. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how or why, what matters is they’re not ok with me saying no. They now agree. And don’t feel denied of all the things “normal” kids get. They’ve stopped asking for certain things. They know I’ll say no, and they don’t want them any more anyway.

As a mother, I suppose what I always hope is that my kids will learn the lessons I’m teaching. But I keep being reminded the lessons are learned not by force but gentle reminders, by offering an insight and way forward, while still allowing them to make up their own mind. By being educated but not indoctrinated.

The kids have been asking for corn flakes lately, and one day at the supermarket (when we were shopping for the camping trip that never eventuated) they got to get corn flakes from the supermarket. In plastic packaging, and yes one of those brand names I don’t love. I told them I wanted to get it bulk from the health food shop, which they agreed to. Alas our health food shop only has corn flakes that aren’t organic and say nothing about being gm-free or not. Their organic ones were in a big plastic bag too.

We can buy organic popping corn bulk, but not corn flakes (maybe I’ll have to roll my own!). Anyway – I asked the kids and they were happy to compromise and get something else entirely that was organic and bulk. Part of not feeling deprived about giving up plastic means being happy with compromise. Having the kids be happy with this is a big big step forward.

Last year all Ari kept asking anytime he had some pocket money (thankfully not very often), was to spend it on another Dr Who Pop. Uh-Huh! Those ugly things that mean nothing, plastic trash sitting there looking cheap and made-in-China-ish. I hate them. Earlier this year he decided that he wanted a camera.

He saw the real value in saving his money and not spending it a Pop here a Pop here. Now he has a beautiful second-hand camera and a healthy new habit of learning to be a photographer. And he doesn’t want to buy all those trinkety little anymore. (Of course the trinkets for cameras somehow are way more expensive!). {Proud mama moment: you can check out his Instagram account here: A Discovered. Also, even prouder moment – his photo has been selected to be part of this year’s Olive Cotton Photographic Competition.}

Anyway – what I was saying is that sometimes when we’re trying to get people to join us in a new way of thinking, living, being it can feel hard, and tiring. It can take time. And sometimes we wonder if we should give up. Don’t give up. People will follow if you’re passionate about it, if you guide them and don’t push them.

We’re about to start Plastic Free July again officially. And I’m consulting with them on what we should do, how we should keep challenging ourselves, how we can educate others around us without guilting them or creating rifts between relationships. Which can somehow happen around family and shopping / cooking / food. Somehow being plastic free seems a religion on it’s own, or opposing political opinions, and creates animosity. But it needed be….. a few simple, yet gentle approaches can help. And also ( as I keep learning in regards to extended family) sometimes you have to let others walk their path while you walk yours.

Are you joining in the Challenge this year? I’d love to know if you are – is this your first year, or is this (like us) a chance to delve deeper and look closer at how you live. What have been your biggest challenges in the past, and what about your biggest wins?

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