Years ago, I developed an interest for healthy food. I started learning about nutrition, organic food, superfoods, antioxidants, the power of vegetables and so forth. I really enjoyed these topics (I still do), however when the reality about plastic pollution hit me, I couldn’t believe my pantry was full of all these healthy foods packaged in plastic!
In today’s post, I would like to share a bit of my journey trying to resolve the conundrum.
“Clashing of key values“, that’s what happened to me when I opened my eyes to the waste problem. I valued my health and that’s why I loved healthy food, on the other one I also care a lot about the environment; I didn’t want to keep trashing the planet with all these products packaged in plastic for the sake of my healthy diet.
One of the shocking moments for me was entering a health shop I used to go, as I looked around I could not believe how blind to this problem I had been for all these years. The majority of the products at that time (this was around 6 years ago) were packaged in plastic, from the deli to the groceries aisles, it was bad, really bad!
I felt so guilty, but also a bit mad at myself; how couldn’t I see the link before? Of course I was being very critical of myself, when in reality I simply didn’t know that I didn’t know.
I must admit the whole thing was a bit overwhelming, because at that time I didn’t really know many alternatives; I was a newbie learning to reduce my waste.
As I learned more about the plastic pollution, one of the ironies I found was that these companies use plastic to package healthy and even organic products. What’s the point in avoiding toxic pesticides if they are wrapped in a man-made material which can also leach toxic chemicals into the food?
Some of these chemicals are bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. According to this article from Choice:
“BPA and some phthalates are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can mimic the body’s natural hormones and thereby cause a raft of health problems…These effects have been seen clearly and consistently in experiments with animals, and when people or wildlife have been accidentally exposed to high levels of endocrine disruptors”
This interesting article (worth reading) from the Guardian states that “Buying produce wrapped in plastic “undermines some of the hard-fought changes and benefits we would like to achieve by eating greater amounts of fruits and vegetables””.
Individually wrapped corn!
I couldn’t get my head around this part. Perhaps they just go for the cheapest and easiest option. Again, very ironic, as we usually pay more for healthy/organic food!!!
Finding common ground
In the end, this new realisation was actually a good thing, because as I couldn’t choose one or the other (I value both my health and the environment), this gave me the motivation to learn more, to seek alternatives, to shop differently.
My big saver was discovering bulk shops. I learned that I could find the big majority of those healthy products I was buying in plastic bags, in bulk, and I could use my own containers/bags.
So, I no longer had to buy a 250 gr bag of almonds from the supermarket/health shop, instead I could get any amount I wanted generating little waste. Bulk shops still get some products from their providers in plastic, but the fact that they buy big bags, instead of tiny ones we get in the retailers, reduces the amount of waste.
Other changes I made over time were:
- Eat mostly food that’s not packaged in plastic. I buy only a handful of products I cannot find free of plastic.
- Buy organic and local seasonal produce.
- Shop fresh produce in a small organic fruits and veggies shop – I stopped buying most of my groceries in supermarkets and those health shops that don’t seem to be aligned with the environment at all.
- Avoid highly processed packaged food even if it says it is healthy/organic/gluten-free/sugar-free/raw/paleo (and I don’t know how many other marketing labels they use these days).
- Eat a diet rich in plant based wholefood.
- Learn to cook more food from scratch. So instead of buying healthy hummus in a plastic container, I can make it myself. And if I don’t have the time, then I can eat something else, I don’t need to eat hummus every week.
- Switch imported food for more local alternatives as much as possible. For instance, I used to buy quinoa from South America (huge food miles), but the local bulk shop offered quinoa grown in Tasmania too, so I switched. I only buy Australian quinoa these days.
- Reduce the amount of imported healthy food.
Am I perfect? No, I am not, I have several cognitive dissonances as I always say it, but I do my best. I believe it is possible to eat a healthy diet reducing the impact on the environment, it is about being more mindful, changing habits and sometimes making some sacrifices.
Please note, this was my personal situation, I know people with health conditions like coeliac disease probably have no choice, and that’s a totally different story.
“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.” – Jana Stanfield
I think if we focus more on the health of the planet collectively, we can all live healthier lives. And what about you? Are you a health enthusiast too? What’s your story?