By Mala Persaud, owner, Trace–The Zero Waste Store

This article originally appeared on the Trace–The Zero Waste Store website.

If you took the 350Fairfax Plastic Free Challenge, the last month has been a combination of sacrifice, and learning.

I’ve been at the plastic-less thing for a while now. My college-age son lives at home, and between the two of us, we throw away a half-bag of trash a week. We’re no Lauren Singers, but considering I haven’t yet begun the adventure of composting, that’s pretty good. Even the recycling is full of junk mail, mostly. We get takeout occasionally, but we prioritize restaurants that offer eco-friendly packaging. Our footprint is pretty small.

One thing that does end up in our trash, though, is cheese wrapping.

Growing up, my family didn’t eat much meat. But cheese? We ate tons of it. Gooey pizza. Caribbean cheese rolls. Grilled cheese. Mac and cheese. (I could do a whole Bubba Gump shrimp scene focused on cheese but I’ll spare you.) For nearly a half-century, I thought I’d starve without it. I admit I ate too much of it, in all its yummy, gooey forms. As I got older and watched the cholesterol levels climb, I knew I’d have to get that under control.

So on October 1, I went cold turkey on cheese, because of the packaging. I also quit plastic-wrapped snacks for the whole month, but that’s easier to work around. Homemade popcorn from the bulk section, Rolos, and fancy paper-wrapped chocolates are there in their plastic-free glory to curb my snack attacks. But there is no. substitute. for. cheese. Even vegan cheese is wrapped in plastic. WAAH!!

But here we are 30 days later and guess what! I didn’t eat cheese and I didn’t starve. I can hardly believe it. And since my body’s been telling me I need to kick cheese to the curb anyway, because of this year’s plastic-free challenge, it will now, much more easily, become a “sometimes” food.

I often say that plastic-free living is an adjustment. It is an adjustment and a sacrifice. I’ve missed my melty cheesy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but it hasn’t been that bad. I won’t be ordering a pizza for Halloween. Because eating well for your body and eating well for the planet are one in the same.

Every little step adds up to a whole lot less plastic.