Plastic Free July – Some Final Thoughts

plastic waste
Only one week’s worth of my plastic!

I thought it might be nice to round off plastic free July by pulling together Kelly and I’s final thoughts on the challenge. Thanks to Kelly (@mninscotland on Instagram if you fancy some zero waste and baking inspiration) for answering these questions and for being my buddy on this challenge.

plastic rubbish in a jar and Styrofoam takeway
All of Kelly’s plastic from July!!!

Why did you decide to take part in the Plastic Free July challenge?

Kelly: I actually didn’t want to take part in the Plastic Free July challenge (PFJ) when I first saw it being publicised earlier this year.  I thought it would be really hard and time consuming and didn’t feel like I was in the right frame of mind for it.  Then I started seeing a lot of people on Instagram were going to do it which peaked my interest.  Also, my buddy said she was going to do PFJ and that we could support each other. I am all for doing challenges with buddies as it makes it nice to have someone to talk to when things get tough but also talk to when you have a good day too!

Me: I did the Plastic Free July challenge last year, focusing on the big four single-use plastic items and decided to step it up for this year. I really enjoyed the challenge last year and this year hoped to do the same while upping the ante and cutting out as much single-use plastic as I could. Oh and then I roped Kelly in for support and inspiration.

How did it go?

Kelly: Since it was my first year of doing PFJ I thought it went really well as I didn’t have any expectations.  (Actually, if I am honest with myself my expectations were to have no plastic at all, bit think that was a bit unrealistic especially for my first year). I can only improve from this year and look forward to doing the challenge again next year!

Me: I took the decision that I wasn’t going to try and change my whole lifestyle for July – instead I planned to have mainly my normal routine, try to make more food from scratch and constantly take the minimal/no plastic route. I am one of those bloggers who actually dislikes cooking and food shopping – I find it all pretty boring. This makes me the type of unprepared person who is always ending up without any food or water when I am on the go and then I end up buying the most convenient option. Luckily for the environment last year’s plastic free July gave me the kick up the arse I needed to always remember my reusable water bottles.

I found the whole challenge really difficult and quite disheartening – I had to go to a few different shops to get various basics and then all the seasonal fruit and veg seemed to be in plastic. I reduced my cheese consumption but my bread quota went through the roof. My fruit and veg intake dropped too – which is kind of a problem as I am veggie – and I was generally hungrier than I usually am. If this sounds negative I don’t mean it to and I did thoroughly enjoy reading about how others got on and I did actually enjoy a couple of the bits of cooking I did.

What’s been the hardest thing?

Kelly: The hardest thing is not automatically being able to buy anything you want (hello instant gratification!).  I really really wanted chips and salsa from Pintos (fast food Mexican restaurant) when I was travelling through Glasgow.  I knew that it would come with plastic.  I had to talk myself out of getting it even though I really wanted it.  Instead I ate the snack that I had brought with me, a banana and some sultanas that I bought plastic free from the bulk shop.  As a consolation for not going to Pintos I bought a mocha from Costa Coffee which I had them put in my Keep Cup.  I was really proud of myself for doing this as I love food and it’s really hard for me not to buy what I am craving.  Basically learning not to have instant gratification for everything is the hardest part; patience and planning are a big part of being plastic free and zero waste which I think I am getting better at every day.

Me: What you want me to complain and be negative some more?? Okay the hardest thing for me – planning and organising when it comes to food. This came back to haunt me constantly. In the last week of July I ate takeaway a lot and often ended up in the local supermarket starting at the over packaged onions wondering what the heck I was going to eat – the answer was a red pepper (the only plastic free vegetable) and sweetcorn (from a tin) risotto.

Have you learnt anything surprising about your plastic use?

Kelly: I realize that I use a lot more plastic then I thought I did.  The only thing that is in my garbage these days is plastic, but I thought it really wasn’t that much and that I was doing so much better than most of the population so it was ok if I had some trash.  This is not the attitude that I should have, I was not being accountable and doing PFJ has made me be accountable for my trash once again.

The items that I still get in plastic are:

  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Milk (other dairy products)
  • Crisps
  • Take away (I love a chippy)
  • Straws (in drinks I order in restaurants or pubs)

As you can see almost all of my plastic comes from animal products that I buy. My next goal is to find a butchers and a cheese shop that will let me use my own container for their products.  Also, I am going to be buying my own straw so that I stop getting them in drinks when I am out at restaurants or pubs! I need to learn to say “I would like a gin & tonic, no straw please” or “I would like a gin & tonic, but I brought my own straw.”

Me: Biggest surprise is that plastic is everywhere! I found it impossible to get pasta that wasn’t in plastic and I ran out of pasta about two days in 🙂 Also my local Saturday market that has a local fruit and veg stall has the majority of produced packaged already in plastic containers so although I had all my bags and containers with me there was no point. I came away with a couple of things but not much, our bigger, nearby Tesco has a fair amount of package-free veg and that came in handy a few times – I really didn’t expect to find that supermarket as a helpful place during a challenge such as this.

Any tips or suggestions?

Kelly: I would suggest reading “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson. I read this in August 2013 and it inspired me to start the Zero Waste Lifestyle two years ago.  There are so many helpful tips that can get you started on the zero waste / no plastic living.

There are so many helpful resources these days about where to begin with less plastic so I won’t repeat them but have put links below.  The one thing that has made a huge difference to reducing my plastic use is finding a bulk food shop.   I bring reusable cotton bags to the bulk shop where I fill them up with porridge, beans, quinoa, fruit, veg, spices and more.  I bought the cotton bags from Health Junction, but you can certainly make your own too!

If you don’t have a bulk shop near you, going to a Farmer’s Market is a great way to get lots of plastic free fruit and veg.

Me: Hmm not sure I have anything to add. I’m not convinced about Farmer’s Markets as a place to get lots of plastic free fruit and veg but maybe it is just the ones I have access to. I would suggest local greengrocers. There are a couple left here but I just never had the chance to use them due to other commitments. My biggest tip would have to be – be prepared and organised, be willing to spend a little longer on food shopping and prepping for the week ahead – don’t be like me essentially 🙂

Any positive plastic-free experiences?

Kelly: Definitely, I love the bakery that I have near my work called The Wee Boulangerie.  I had been having trouble finding plastic free bread, it never dawned on me to go to the bakery to buy bread that is plastic free (I blame the supermarkets for brainwashing our society that we can get everything there!).  Once I realized this I couldn’t wait to go into the shop and buy loads of baguettes.

The bakers are so lovely.  Every time I go in with my cotton bag and ask for the 5 baguettes to be put in the bag they smile at me and go “of course”.  Then I cut them in half and put them in my freezer when I get home and I just take one out when I need it.  The bonus of this is that I get fresh bread and I am supporting a local business that I want to succeed.

Me: The whole of Kelburn was a great plastic free experience for me. I also love the Wee Boulangerie and having access to a place like that is great. I also do like the fact that KeepCups and reusable cups are now just so common place nobody bats an eyelid when you hand yours over.

Finally a question all for Kelly, you are working towards being zero waste – can you tell us about what that is and how you have been working towards it?

Zero waste is having no waste/no trash.   As you will see in the resources above some people are really hard core and only produce a jar full of trash every year.  I am not one of those people.  I still produce trash but it has greatly reduced since starting the zero waste lifestyle two years ago.  You can see in the photo below; that is all my trash for the month of July during the challenge.  I am so proud of that!

I am very lucky to live in a country/city with wonderful recycling programmes.  I am able to recycle a lot of plastic along with glass, aluminium, textiles, small electrics but I also am able to get rid of my food waste through the council recycling programme which has made a massive impact on reducing my trash.  Many people do not have a food waste programme so a lot of the zero waste bloggers actually compost their food waste.

Zero waste thought is ultimately about producing no waste, which means not even having items to put in recycling.  The ultimate goal is to keep reusing the products so that they never have to be recycled or thrown away.

I am a slower mover and have made gradual changes over time, but I think they stick better that way. It’s sort of like a diet, if you lose 1-2 pounds every week the weight is more likely to stay off.  That is what I am doing with zero waste.  I make a few small changes every so often and then when I am ready I make a few more changes.  No need to overhaul your whole way of living overnight, you will just get frustrated and revert back to what you were doing (while probably feeling extremely guilty for doing so).

I am really enjoying working towards Zero Waste and I am excited to see what changes I make over the next few months.  I am actually going to keep collecting my trash to see how much I have at the end of the year, which will hopefully lead to me staying accountable and making more changes to reduce my plastic use and trash!


Zero Waste Home:

Trash is for Tossers:

My Plastic Free Life:

Plastic Free July:

Zero Waste Chef:

So there you have it, our experiences of Plastic Free July. I want to do a wee follow up about the habits I hope to adopt and take forward but I might need to a fair bit of thinking to work out how to fit some of these things into my life – I know, I know I need to make this a priority but I think I also need to be realistic and not expect to run before I can walk.


Rotterdam Marathon 2014 – A Guest Post

Do you remember when I used to write about running? Well since my injury last year (oh the beautiful plague-like foot) I haven’t done much running. I have tried doing some walk-running but my heart hasn’t be in it, I have been doing a lot more cycling. However I thought that you lovely people might appreciate a running post so I have asked one of my running buddies who took on her first marathon in April to write a post about it all. Kate is one of the jog leaders at my JogScotland group and she is always friendly, helpful and motivating – it has been a pleasure to run with her over the last few years and I promise I will be back out running soon, just need to unearth the running trainers from the cobwebs 🙂 Over to Kate:

“In April 2014, my training partner and I ran our first ever marathon in the city of Rotterdam and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I have made these notes for the Inelegant Horse Rider’s blog in case it helps other people considering running this distance. Continue reading “Rotterdam Marathon 2014 – A Guest Post”

Antonine Trail Race – A Guest Post

Soooo I think I have whinged about my running injury quite enough on here but as it still hasn’t healed *kicks the ground like a toddler* I couldn’t run the Antonine Trail race this year – it was brilliant last year – but I have review guest post for you from a much better runner 🙂 Thanks Mark, I will be back on the start line next year!

“A few tearoom chats and emails between me and Steph earlier on in the year saw us plan to get our running gear on and battle our way through the 13.8 miles of the 2013 Antonine Trail Race. I had managed to get a sneaky freebie into this race thanks to a running friend of mine conveniently having a bun in the oven until December J. Unfortunately, close to the event, Steph had to bail out due to injury and very kindly offered her place to my friend, Ally Cameron. A massive thank you to Steph and my pregnant friend for letting us run in this race!

Unusually for me Sunday 20th October started out as a nice and relaxed race day. With an 11am race start, less than an hour’s drive away, all was calm. I’m a competitive guy and so I sneaked a quick peek at the race results from last year. My target time, in my weird competitive and delusional head, would have taken me to 3rd place in 2012! Happy days, however, darker times were ahead…

Trying to look professional and jostling with the club runners I legged it as the start gun went off. The route below is what faced us…

Elevation profile

It was a quick first mile. I suddenly realised that the guy in 1st place was already out of sight; so was the 2nd, and the 3rd, and the 4th…you get the picture. I settled in knowing that this was going to be a harder race than I had planned. Several days of rain had set up a muddy course and the running shoes felt heavy after only a couple of wet and muddy miles. Still I soldiered on and was relatively comfortable apart from a few wrong turns!! Thankfully the wrong turns were only 50-100m or so and didn’t have me too frustrated (unlike the 2nd place guy last year who went a half mile off course!).

The miles clicked off and, having done a slow ‘recce’ run the week before I’d thought the first major hill kicked in at 10.5 miles; I was wrong. I’d planned to ease off a bit before the hill but it came upon me fast and I had no choice but to go for it. The climb at the end was horrific and I had to stop due to retching! Thankfully nothing came up and I plodded along, enjoying the downhill mile or so before the next hill. I had nothing in the tank for the second hill (Croy Hill) so I decided to walk it and enjoy the view. I think, and I may have been hallucinating, that I could see both Edinburgh AND Glasgow from the top of Croy Hill. After another nice downhill section I knew I only had a mile and a half or so left so I settled in for the slog home.

Finish line in sight and no-one behind me I took it easy and crossed the line in a respectable 9th place (out of 156) and a time of 1:43:07; tired but happy with my run. My mate, sorry Steph, finished in 12th place at 1:45:08; what a great run “Steph”! *Steph – wow! I should fall over more often 🙂

Me at the finish looking like a drowned rat…

Again thank you very much to Steph for the chance to run; see you on the start line in 2014!!”

7 Hills Challenge – A Guest Post

As you all know from my previous posts I was unable to run the 7 Hills Challenge on Sunday so I headed up Carlton Hill to cheer on my mates who were running it.

Me at the start of the 7 hills
Me at the start of the 7 hills

Since I was being petulant and in a huff 🙂 very kindly Lisa has provided me with a post for this race.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time, but by the morning of the Seven Hills race when the alarm clock went off at 6am, I wasn’t so sure.  Due to injury, Steph is stuck in trainers for all the wrong reasons, so this race was dedicated to her.  So thank you Steph for cajoling us to sign up for the seven hills, leading the way on training runs and for your cheerful farewells on the start line.

I’d promised myself that if I finished the race then I could buy myself a t-shirt and if I got a sub 3 hour time then I could have a doughnut (one of those cream filled fudge doughnuts that Greggs teases you with).  So much for that, I bought the t-shirt before the start of race!

The start gun went off, the first of my energy gels fell to the floor and off we went.  I made a new friend on the Royal Mile when we both got stopped by traffic and we stuck together and chatted away the Ks until Craiglockhart.

I shot up the bank at Craiglockhurt like my tail was on fire, thought that I smiled for the camera at the top, but looking at the photos on the website, apparently not:>  Felt pretty good at this point.

I was advised that a pair of gloves were a good idea to help scramble up the hills.  As it was a warm day I didn’t need them on for the whole race.  What to do?  Brainwave, stick them down my bra.  Don’t try to imagine it………..

Took an ‘individual’ route between Blackford and Arthur Seat – the allotments are far too over rated, but didn’t lose too much time.

Witnessed some interesting manoeuvres through the turn stile at Pollock and off up Arthur Seat I went.  By this point my quads were on fire and as I crawled up to the top I couldn’t care less about the rabbit poop.  If only I knew where those gloves went.

What was humbling was to see the women’s race for life, and all those people running for charity when I bet the vast majority of us seven hills folk did it for nothing more than personal gain.  Was wearing my lucky pink race vest, so I think most people thought I was in the Race for Life, but going in the wrong direction.

Anyway, nearly there, finish line in sight, but I think they kept moving backwards.  No chance of a sprint finish, but at least I didn’t vomit.

Thank you to my new friend Martin for the enjoyable run to Craiglockhart and to those people who pointed me in the right direction when I was standing in the middle of the road looking gormless and of course to Steph, who is already talking about the training for next year.

I finished in a miracle time of 2.17.29, came 9th out of 260 Challengers and was 2nd women, just a pity that I didn’t want that doughnut in the end.

Did it, got the t shirt??
Did it, got the t shirt??