Plastic Free July and beyond - how to nail it
What is Plastic Free July, and how can you make the pledge?
Plastic Free July is a yearly initiative that kicked off back in 2011 to help bring awareness to the astonishing amount of single-use plastic many of us are using and throwing away each day. The Plastic Free July challenge is a global movement where you give up single-use plastic for during the month of July - you can pledge to do it for a day, a week, for the whole month or from now on! By taking on the challenge, not only will you develop more sustainable habits but you’ll inspire those around you to reduce their plastic use, and motivate businesses to consider doing the same. You can make your pledge here!
Why should we care about plastic waste?
Single-use plastic waste is filling up our oceans, choking our sea life and polluting our soils and atmosphere. Many plastic products take anywhere from 450 - 1000 years to break down in landfill, and in countries where they are incinerated, plastics release toxic fumes into our atmosphere. In most situations, it just doesn’t make sense to spend a few minutes drinking from a plastic bottle or straw, when it will be polluting our planet for hundreds of years to come. And we’re not just discarding the item - we’re discarding all the resources (including fossil fuels) that have been used to make that item. You can read more about our story and motivations for promoting reusables over single-use plastics on our about page.
5 Plastic Free July tips to help you along the way
Plastic manages to weave its way into so many areas of our homes and lives - and so much of it is completely unnecessary! Here are 5 tips to help you nail the challenge this Plastic Free July:
Identify the ‘worst offenders’
Plastic Free July recognises single-use plastic bags, straws, drink bottles and takeaway coffee cups as the four worst plastic offenders. However, everyone has different clutches when it comes to single-use plastic. It’s easiest to start with these four items, and then expand from there so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Maybe you love your takeaway coffees but never seem to remember your reusable cup; or perhaps you haven’t yet built up the courage to switch your favourite bottled shampoo for a plastic-free shampoo bar alternative. Before Plastic Free July starts, take a week to observe your habits and make a list of areas where you would like to improve. Remember, it’s not about being perfect, but simply improving on where you’re at!
Build your plastic-free toolkit
Having a plastic-free ‘toolkit’ on hand is a great way to avoid those single-use plastics that sneak their way in while you’re on the go. A good basic toolkit might include:
- Recycled glass jars for purchasing or storing bulk goods
- A sturdy reusable container for takeaways or deli purchases
- Reusable shopping bags and produce bags for shopping
- A stainless steel or bamboo cutlery set
- A stainless steel water bottle and reusable coffee cup for sipping on the go
Once you’ve got these basics down pat, you can start thinking about plastics in other parts of your life. You could consider:
- Ditching the disposable razors for a stainless steel safety razor
- Switching from plastic to bamboo toothbrushes
- Buying solid shampoo bars packaged in cardboard instead of liquid shampoo in bottles
- Switching from pads or tampons to a reusable menstrual cup
- Using soapberries instead of washing liquid or to make your own DIY cleaning products
- Switching to plastic-free toothpaste in a jar, mouthwash tablets and plastic-free compostable floss to care for your teeth
- Switching your plastic roll-on for a solid deodorant bar or plastic-free deodorant paste in a recyclable tin
Ditch the ‘all or nothing’ mentality
Having an ‘all or nothing’ mentality when it comes to sustainable living is not helpful for anyone. If we all threw in the towel completely after making a mistake, we’d never improve! Instead of giving up for the rest of the month after you caved and bought a bag of chips (we’ve all been there), simply decide to make a better choice next time. In this situation for example, perhaps you can be better prepared with package-free snacks from the bulk food store for when you’re next feeling peckish. Don’t give up - your plastic-free journey will have ups and downs. Progress is what’s important, not perfection.
Also keep in mind that there are some items you probably won’t be able to find plastic-free versions of at all, for example, medications, other medical items and condoms. And that’s ok - just do your best.
Eating simple, unprocessed food is not only better for your health, it’s better for the environment too! It’s easy to find fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and eggs packaged without plastic at your local supermarket or bulk food store (don’t forget your reusable produce bags when you stock up). You can also take your reusable containers along to the butcher or deli section to stock up on goodies like meat, cheese, seafood and antipasto. Some Asian grocery stores also have containers where you can buy fresh tofu without the plastic wrap! By eliminating processed, packaged foods and simplifying your diet with whole foods, you’ll reduce a lot of plastic waste in your kitchen.
Don’t be afraid to ask (nicely)
You’ll probably need to ask if you can use your own container for a takeaway or at the deli, or you might have to request no straw at the bar or no plastic fork with your food. Always ask nicely and if your request is refused, try to be polite and understanding and use it as an opportunity to explain your intentions.
For the most part, businesses will be very open to more eco-friendly practices - some may just need a little nudge to make a start. Mention that you’re doing the Plastic Free July challenge and don’t be shy to share more about it with them! The more people raising awareness for reducing single-use plastic, the more normalised it will become in shops, restaurants and cafes. Choose to be the change.
Are you taking the Plastic Free July pledge? It’s a great way to build more sustainable habits in your life, and inspire others to do the same!