I already knew that shopping without plastic was going to be one of the hardest tasks I’d set myself in my quest to eliminate unnecessary plastic throughout this year.
What I didn’t anticipate was just how hard it would be. Or how it would leave me feeling – frustrated with both myself and the world we live in and actually, quite upset.
Bulk shopping is not really a thing in London, although there is a sprinkling of places, littered mostly in the north and west of the city, which offer up the opportunity of using your own containers and bags. There typically aren’t really any in the south, apart from a sprinkling of farmers markets. I’m yet to check these out, but will report back when I do.
My boyfriend and I decided that we’d walk on down to our nearest greengrocers and fishmongers, to see what they had on offer. We took a large tupperware container, a cotton bag and his “Grandma trolley” on wheels.
I’ve heard that the first couple of attempts at sustainable shopping are largely a bit of a failure and unfortunately, we fell into this category. The reduced Christmas hours meant we were pressured to hustle. I hadn’t written down a grocery list, didn’t have even the vaguest idea of what I wanted to eat in mind and wasn’t sure of what food would even be on offer.
It wasn’t a complete failure, I suppose. The greengrocer was a bit bemused when I said I didn’t want to put any of the fruits or vegetables in bags. She did end up shoving a couple of things in a paper bag, which we also used for the mushrooms. A good reminder that I somehow needed to source some smaller cloth bags for things like mushies and pears, to avoid damage.
Things fell apart at the fishmongers. We ordered three types of seafood. I asked the man taking our order not to put them into plastic bags twice, as we had a container with us. He completely and repeatedly ignored me, wrapping each item in paper and then putting them in small plastic bags. I left the store irate with him, for not having listened and myself for not being more assertive. I don’t want to be a dick to people but it’s pretty irritating to be outrightly ignored.
It was bin day that day and the long walk home involved navigating around piles of rubbish that scattered the pavement that lined our area’s streets. The further I walked, the more I set my resolve to do everything in my power to reduced the amount of garbage our household sends out on a weekly basis.
In the end, there’s no point beating myself up about it. What’s done is done. I’ll just have to speak up next time, be more forceful. I guess this is a lesson in assertiveness, along with everything else!