Last week we decided to start a plastic free challenge – one week without buying anything with plastic! As Sunday was the last official day of the challenge, we would like to share our experience and how we spent this week.
All four participants were positively surprised about living plastic-free for a week. It was very eye-opening as you suddenly put on “plastic-glasses” and realize how much each person consumes. Nevertheless, it was easier than we thought to find plastic-free options to much of the food and to hold a plastic-free lifestyle for a week. Participating in a project like this gave us the possibility to speak about this problem daily with other people and create awareness about it.
We have summed up the experiences we had in the two countries during this week.
Similarities between Norway and Brazil:
- Easy access to bread and pastries: One of Eirin’s concerns in Brazil was buying bread for breakfast. This turned out to be very easy in both countries. In Norway and Brazil bakeries are very popular and you can easily buy almost anything here without plastic. Just bring your own tote bag and put them in there.
- No dairy products: In both countries it was hard to find a substitute for dairy products. Products like cheese and dairy products all come in plastic. The milk containers in Norway might be recycled with cartons but does in fact contain plastic. Most containers holding liquids have plastic in them.
- Time-consuming shopping: All of us noticed that, during the week, shopping for food became more time-consuming. Every time we entered the store we had to put our “plastic-glasses” on and separate which containers were made of plastic and which were not. This was kind of hard, especially in Brazil, since it is sometimes hard to figure out what material is used on the packages.
- Not having the possibility to just “grab a snack”: All of a sudden all of the snickers and kvikk-lunsj bars were out! This was very frustrating for us who in an instance get low blood sugar and shortly get a bit grumpy. However, it forced us to think about what other snacks (usually healthier) we could replace the craving with.
- The cooking was easy but time-consuming: We all thought the cooking during the week was easy. We found many good recipes online and tried to be more creative. It was fun and we discovered many new dishes that tasted delicious! However, we spent more time than normally preparing the meals.
Differences between Brazil X Norway:
- Many plastic-free options but more expensive: Our problem was not actually finding plastic-free stuff but having to raise our budget to buy it. Most of our plastic free supplies were bought from “organic” stores and these tend to be more expensive.
- Easy to find plastic-free substitutes to vegetables and grains/nuts: Finding vegetables without plastic was easy here in Brasilia. We found several local stores and markets who had these without plastic. There are also a lot of “healthy/organic” stores in Brasilia where you can buy many things plastic free – they even had chips! We bought a lot of grains and nuts in these stores.
- Found plastic-free meat: In Brazil it seems to be more normal to have a local butcher. We could not buy meat plastic-free from the supermarkets, but at our local butcher this was not a problem. We were thrilled and made delicious burgers!
Meanwhile in Norway:
- No sign of plastic-free meat: In Gjøvik, it was only possible to find fish without plastic – and only in one specific local fish-store located in the city center. At the supermarkets, no meat without plastic were to be found.
- Struggling drawing the line: We didn’t know where to draw a line between the plastic we use for personal reasons and the plastic we had to use at work. In Norway, there are restrict regulations on the conservation of food in establishments, and we had to use plastic to cover food in the kitchen – although this was not for personal consumption. We kept having lunch at the hostel through this week, but we did not eat anything that came in single-use plastic packaging.
- No candy problem: Opposite to Brazil, plastic-free candy can easily be bought in Norway. In the supermarkets they are sold in bulks, where you can fill paper bags with different types of candy.
In general, going plastic free for one week was not as hard as we all expected it to be. We all had to be more careful with our buying choices, spending more time on planning our shopping routines and going-outs – which in the end was very positive, as we were a little more aware of what we are consuming every day and had the chance to take control of our footprint.
Written by: Yousra Makanse, Renato Albernaz, Hanna Jacobsen and Eirin Heddeland
Keep following our updates here on the blog, to hear more stories and ideas about sustainability in Brazil and in Norway!