Things I learned from my first attempt to shop plastic-free:

It’s pretty much impossible. WHAT THE HELL.

Look, I’m pretty methodical when I get a big life-changing project into my head. I took a little notebook with me to the Good Food Store in Missoula, which at 90 minutes of rural highway driving is the closest store with bulk grocery goods to my own little hamlet. I scribbled away. I took pictures. I circled round and around, ogling items and shoppers, calculating weight. I scoped out the reusable sterilized containers shoppers are invited to use for collecting said bulk goods — all plastic, but at least meeting one of the supposed four ‘Rs’ (reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse). I gathered up a few bulk items — loose leaf tea, rice crackers, chocolate covered espresso beans — in little brown plastic bags (compostable, yay). I scored myself a cotton produce bag, having read about them in a number of books, and picked up a couple of grocery items I would later come to regret, given that the Missoula Farmer’s Market was still in full swing just a mile away. Insofar as it stocks these items, all was actually quite good at the Good Food Store. I could survive on bulk goods and wash my clothes to boot without purchasing plastic (even if they were all dispensed from giant plastic tubs), so long as I used paper bags or could justify picking up a recycled plastic container.

All was good, that is, until I strayed out of the bulk foods section. Frozen goods? Skin care and personal hygiene? Unless I want to buy 7th Generation toilet paper in individual paper-wrapped rolls for $1.59 each, I’m out of luck. Every item related to cat care, home goods, and kitchenware involved some form of plastic packaging.

Case in point: the metal food storage container I’d been hoping to find on the recommendation of Beth Terry in Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. For no discernible reason, it came shrinkwrapped in — you guessed it —

Plastic.

This is, of course, a product which actually (and repeatedly) advertises itself as making for a ‘litter free lunch.’

Oh, there’s litter all right. You just pay the litter tithe when you open it the first time, rather than each time you use it (if we’re talking about single-use packaging or reusable plastic containers leaching BPA and other stabilizers into your food). But here’s the rub: there’s literally no way to buy this product without the plastic. So I bought it, in hopes I’ll somehow balance the litter karma over extended use.

My fellow shoppers could actually see my displeasure reflected on the metal’s smooth surface. Very likely I’m already blacklisted there, just for my disturbing facial expressions.

Yeah, I know.

It gets worse, though. Not only did I buy some plastic today knowingly — plastic packaging on the metal container as well as the sausages, kefir, and yogurt I hope to use as live culture seed for making my own in a crockpot like I used to — but I got caught by hidden plastic, too. The plastic I didn’t know about. The completely unnecessary plastic in this TOM’s deodorant block, which I bought specifically because it seemed like a great way to swap out my current deodorant tube, which is running low, for something without plastic. But, nope.

It was not to be.

I’ll be checking out the TerraCycle collection program, though. In the meantime, TOM’s, why?!?!

All of this is so strictly unnecessary.

That’s a lesson learned. And so I read on, and take my notes.

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