Illustration by Emer Sukonik
If you saw me outside Best Kebab van at 3am with a plastic fork, no you didn’t.
It’s been three weeks so far and it’s already been a bit of a rollercoaster. My diet has become extremely unvaried although I have made a lot of interesting discoveries. I was refused entry into Park End for asking them if there was a recycling bin for my corona bottle which, according to them, was a sign of extreme intoxication. Don’t make the same mistake as me – if Park End knows you care about the environment, they won’t let you in.
So, what waste have I produced over the past 3 weeks?
– A plastic fork from Best Kebab van
– Plastic wrapper that a frame came in
– A plastic cup I used at the bop (although I have since labelled it and reuse it for socials)
It didn’t take me very long to realise that I would no longer be able to go to the Tesco on Magdalen Street to do my weekly shop. The amount of redundant plastic packaging is honestly infuriating. Every piece of fruit has a non-biodegradable sticker on it to let you know what it is and how far it’s travelled – almost as if you were going to confuse the Guatemalan bananas for the Costa Rican mangoes. But of course, everything is imported these days. Even the shop in the covered market has peaches from Spain because ‘that’s what people want’. We’re already relying on other countries for our produce and it’s only going to get worse.
Thankfully, I had arrived in Oxford ahead of term and done a bit of looking around to prepare myself. In terms of pulses and grains, there are some bulk shops around Oxford although these tend to be much more expensive than shopping at Tesco. However, Waitrose Unpacked, which was first trialled at the Waitrose on Botley Road, is surprisingly priced so that you can get your beans, lentils, rice, and quinoa (amongst other things) at a cheaper price than at the Tesco. Not to mention that you have more control over how much you get and the satisfaction of filling in your reusable containers. So far, the cheapest place I have found which will sell you a loaf of bread without the packaging is Gail’s on Little Clarendon Street which isn’t saying much (£3.90 for a loaf) although it does mean you may have seen me walking through Oxford, sourdough loaf in hand and feeling very cottage core.
On Wednesdays we go to Gloucester Green. This is my favourite discovery so far. Everything is very reasonably priced, and you can get some fun seasonal fruit and vegetables. The only downside of buying 5 avocados for £1.50 is when they all go ripe on the same day, and you can’t physically eat any more avocado – I have learnt to aim for a bowl with varying degrees of ripeness. Since I only really buy my vegetables from Gloucester Green, I buy enough to get me through the week which usually means I have to make an ‘all the leftover vegetables’ soup on Tuesday.
We already live in a world where hunger is rife. As it stands, the UN World Food Programme’s live Hunger Map aggregates 957 million people across 93 countries who do not have enough to eat. This is only going to get worse. Although this varies from species to species, the general rule is that for every degree of warming above optimum temperature, crop yields drop by 10%. The tropics are already too warm to efficiently grow grain, the lands we are currently using have reached optimum temperature meaning that we will have to start shifting towards the poles as temperatures rise. Moving crop fields isn’t as simple as it sounds. There are cities in the way and places like Canada and Russia which will be at optimum temperature haven’t had the centuries of growth needed to produce fertile soil. And we haven’t even started to talk about drought yet. It’s estimated that unless we dramatically reduce our emissions, southern Europe will be in permanent extreme drought as well as much of the Middle East, Africa, South America, and Australia. These are places we currently rely on for food which will turn into deserts. Unless we cut emissions, you can say goodbye to the Guatemalan banana.
Like most students in Oxford this week, I suffered from a severe case of freshers’ flu (which explains the tardiness of this article). You may have noticed that all pills come in plastic sleeves and packaging which unfortunately made them unavailable for me this week.
“How did you get medicine?”
“I didn’t. I just suffered.”
This may seem like an extreme approach, but I was pretty set on making it through the illness without needing to break open a packet of pills. I must admit, I almost gave in to the convenience of pre-made Tesco soup when I could barely make it out of bed. That’s the thing about plastic, it’s so convenient. It feels like you must constantly go out of your way to find an alternative and sometimes, you just don’t have the time or energy to.
Further reading – The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells