A Change in Snacking Habits

Out of the three goals I set myself for the month of February, I knew that changing how and when I snack would be the most challenging. Sugar, and more specifically chocolate, have been my greatest vice and I often indulge myself whenever I am craving. However, buying sweets for home, or when I’m out, creates a lot of unnecessary waste through its wrappings. My plan for the month of February (and beyond) was to create a weekly schedule of snacks that would be prepared ahead of time to prevent the outside purchase of snacks. As I would be outside of the country for three weeks, I needed to choose snacks that I could easily make with common ingredients in most cupboards. For that reason I choose these four recipes: chocolate-chip cookies; Banana bread (both classic and chocolate chip); and ginger snap cookies.

Date: Location: Snack
February 1st – February 9th Edinburgh Chocolate chip cookies
February 10th – February 16th Edinburgh Chocolate chip cookies and Banana bread
February 17th – February 21rd Edinburgh   Coconut milk chocolate Chip Cookies
February 22nd – March 2nd Vancouver Ginger cookies and chocolate chip banana bread

The first week did not get off too a good start. I found myself 30,000 feet above land on a large passenger airplane headed for the U.K. I was already contributing big to my ecological footprint. I did think ahead to bring my own snacks (leftovers from my cupboard) but the flight was nine hours long and I needed the on-board meal. As I unwrapped my tray, and looked at each separately wrapped portion of the meal, I couldn’t help but feel a large dose of guilt. The only highlight (waste-wise) of the meal was that it came with a reusable cup for tea or coffee. When mealtime was finished, I looked around the plane and eyed the amount of rubbish that each person was throwing away, and wondered why no one had come up with a more sustainable system.  Had I not had this challenge set for February, I am not sure if I would have thought critically about the amount of waste airplanes create. When I got off the airplane, I decided to do a little research on just how much waste airplanes create. Many news articles had similar numbers but an article written in the Guardian quoted 5.2 million tonnes of waste in 2016 (https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/apr/01/airline-food-waste-landfill-incineration-airports-recycling-iberia-qantas-united-virgin). The most frustrating part is that even if you come prepared and bring your own meal thinking that you aren’t personally contributing to airplane waste, the meal that you have denied will still end up in the trash with all of its wrappings. Therefor, you are contributing to food waste and plastic waste. More needs to be done to hold airlines accountable for the waste they produce.

After the distressing experience on the airplane, I was doubly determined to make the rest of my month as waste-free as possible. This was hard. I am not sure if you are aware, but British Dairy-milk is so much better than the Canadian equivalent. However, I ignored the rows of purple wrapped confection in the supermarkets and focused on ingredients for my homemade snacks. I had made a list of ingredients already in my husband’s cupboard so I wouldn’t buy unnecessary products. I also paid attention to the actual packaging of the product I was buying. I shopped for products that had recyclable or reusable packaging, or went to the dry ingredient section to get items that I could buy in bulk. The one problem with bulk—at least in regular supermarkets—is that you have to use the plastic bags provided because the scales are not calibrated for your own containers. However, the chocolate chips didn’t come in any recyclable option so I went with the bulk. Luckily, most larger supermarkets in the U.K. will have a plastic bag recycle on the way out so you can dispose of the plastic and transfer you ingredients to a reusable container. I decided to stick mostly to chocolate chip cookies while I was the U.K. as they were fast and easy to make, and could easily be transported in a small container in my purse. I found that my snack and sugar cravings increased when I was inactive or just after an activity, and so I prepared myself for those moments. Overall, baking my own sweet snacks in the U.K. was effective in reducing the amount of waste I created. However, the one thing I didn’t plan for was sugar overload: after eating so much sweets, I would need something savory to balance it. I bought three bags of crisps due to this. The only other setback in the waste department was due to my husband: the man goes through bottles of sparkling water like its air. Hopefully, that’s a problem a SodaStream for his birthday will solve.

After another very wasteful return trip home, I was prepared to work even hard to be waste-free. Luckily, I only had to shop for the perishables such as banana’s and eggs (on a side note: one thing the U.K. supermarkets do better is offering a half-carton of eggs. I often struggle to use up a full one) for my banana bread, the rest of the ingredients would be using up what I already had. Due to being home more regularly, I could bake more often and with more variety so that I wouldn’t get tired of the items I was eating regularly. I could also pack several different kinds of snacks on the go that involved less or no waste like a medley of fruit and vegetables. I found carrots to be an easy and satisfying snack to have and bought full carrots I could cut into sticks therefor forgoing the plastic packaging. It’s probably no surprise to anyone how much easier it was to be waste-free at home versus on holiday, but taking a packed lunch to work or school is much easier than taking one on city-walks or visiting friends Edinburgh.

In conclusion, being mindful and reducing the amount of waste was not as hard as I thought it was going to be. It became more about creating sustainable habits that became more natural as the days went on. The largest challenge I had was impulse control. If left unheeded, I could eat a full plate of cookies in one sitting. I had to limit the amount of sweets I was consuming–I think my health also thanked me for this. If I continue to keep up with this habit, it will be easy to keep up with it outside the month of February and make it something I do organically. I think it is something that others should consider doing as its small act and easily changeable, and can help one think critically about other areas of their life that they are being unnecessarily wasteful. No one is perfect: at the airport I bought a large fruit and nut Dairy Milk bar as a treat for the first day of March and it was great, but I have banana bread made for the first week so that my snacking habits can be satisfied.

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