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Towards a zero-waste life: our Plastic-Free July

July: the month of plastic-free living.

Like thousands of people, we join this month’s worldwide movement. We’ve been quite good at it for the past year, but really want to further reduce our plastic consumption as of this month. We truly want to make an effort – and a difference in the community!

Here is our experience so far. We hope it will be useful to those of you thinking about a more sustainable life as well as the impact on the environment.

In the kitchen

The kitchen is probably the area in the home that is most prone to collecting plastic items. We reduce our waste in a variety of ways.

  • We do not buy packaged foods. What we eat is made at home, daily. Plus, we consume lots of fresh produce from our land. From garden to table, we simply harvest, rinse and cook. For those of you who do not have the possibility of eating homegrown food or do not have the time to cook full meals, see the suggestions further below on going plastic-free while grocery shopping.
  • We eat on real plates with real silverware. Eating on plastic plates to simply avoid dish-washing after a meal is unheard of in our kitchen. We use tableware each time we sit down at the table, and simply consider the 5-minute washing spree after that part of the family meal time. The kids love helping with this and learn smart ways to reduce water waste as well. However, we often have large groups over for dinner. In this case, we do not want to spend most our time washing tableware and missing out on the fun with our friends. So we pull out the awesome plates and bowls found at our local organic store (see picture above). They are made 100% from wheat bran, so they can be thrown out with the organic trash or even eaten (we tried, they taste like whole wheat bread!). They decompose in just 30 days, so we can upcycle them into compost for our urban garden too. Awesome!
  • We drink tap water. Rome’s tap water is well-known for being the best drinking water in the country. So bottling required here! But for those of you that must buy bottled water, make sure you go for the one in glass bottles. It’s a little more expensive to begin with, but you can refill the bottles at your local deli’s water source at a low cost. Or you could invest in a tap water filter, too.
  • We store everything in glass. We use mason jars with a screw-on aluminum lid or glass pop-top. This is where we store leftovers, flours, grains, as well as dry herbs, dry flowers and spices. Once our plant-based milk is ready, we transfer it from the blender to 1-liter glass bottles. We save glass jars bought at the store to keep our condiments, seeds and nuts in, then stick them in the fridge or freezer when full. And yes – glass jars can be frozen!

In the bathroom

  • We refill our bath soap and laundry detergent. We love taking a trip to our local organic store to refill our glass jug with laundry detergent, bath soap or shampoo. We always leave a spare jug in the car in case we forget ours running out of the house. It takes a little effort and planning, but it’s so worth it!
  • We keep face and body cream in small mason jars. We make our own creams with a simple recipe adapted from one of Rosemary Gladstar‘s basics. Then we store them in small mason jars in a cool, dry spot in winter and in the fridge in summer. They never go bad as the recipe’s process impedes the bacteria that leads to mold from forming. Safe and healthy!

While grocery shopping

  • We bring our “bioplastic” baggies to weigh produce in. When buying produce, it is not easy to forgo the plastic baggies fruit and veggies need to be weighed in. Here in Italy, luckily, the municipalities distribute organic, biodegradable, compostable and upcyclable bags made from starch (called Mater-Bi). These are generally used for organic waste produced in the home. But we bring these along to our organic store when we need to supplement our harvest with store-brought produce. You can use these at your everyday supermarket too. This may help the staff there realize how poisonous something as small as a vegetable baggy and accompanying glove can be. Be the first to make the difference!
  • We take our shopping home in canvas totes. Italy no longer uses plastic bags in any of its shopping departments. It has switched to the Mater-Bi starch bags or FSC paper ones to pack groceries in. Wether we’re at our local farmer’s market or store, though, we use canvas totes to pack our shopping. We think of our trees out there and how important and present they are in our everyday life. So we want to avoid “using” them as much as possible. Be creative in finding ways to save the environment!
  • We buy limited packaged items only if stored in recycled, biodegradable paper. From eggs to tofu to grains. Then we reuse the containers to start seedlings in.

While travelling 

  • We take whole fruit along. Easy – and no wrapping required!
  • We wrap snacks in parchment paper then in aluminum foil. Quick and waterproof!
  • We protect our electronic items (phone and tablet) with all-natural materials. That is to say, we use cases made from recycled wood, bamboo and linen. Sleek and eco-friendly!

In conclusion

We have done much to change our habits over the past year, but do realize we have a long way to go. We still find we use plastic in certain areas of our life, like when buying school items. But we also know that change takes place gradually. So we’re happy with working towards a fully waste-free life in the coming months. Stay tuned for the adventure!

What are your favorite ways of being plastic- and waste-free? We’d love to hear from you!


Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I'm an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here - with your help - where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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