It’s Plastic Free July! Let’s celebrate!
Refusing to use single-use plastics and reducing your waste goes hand in hand. The good news is that participating in Plastic Free July is pretty easy. Easier than many transitions towards zero waste, in my opinion. If you’ve ever thought “I don’t have time for that” or “I could never attempt zero waste,” this is the challenge for you.
It’s as easy as:
“No straw, please”
“I brought my own bag!”
“Can you put my coffee/juice/water/soda/drink in this cup, please?”
Or simply, “No, thank you” if anything plastic that you don’t need is offered (free pen, balloon, stickers, etc.)
It can be intimidating to start these practices, but just like anything, once you get over the initial discomfort or even fear of these requests, you’ll find they become second nature.
You don’t need to tell anyone that you’re participating, or you can shout it from the rooftops. Either way, I think you’ll find it’s not difficult to reduce your trash and limit your accumulation of single-use plastics. Choose one week this month or take on the whole month. Here are my top tips on how to reduce your plastic:
- Avoid plastic food packaging. Choose a paper box or glass jar over plastic. They are more easily recycled or upcycled than plastic. If plastic is the only option, choose the largest container. The product-to-packaging ratio will be less, and likely more of the packaging will be recyclable if they are larger. Recycling is certainly not the answer but it is better than sending small plastic packages to the landfill.
- Refuse plastic straws. Straws are energy and resource-intensive to produce and dangerous to wildlife and our planet when they are improperly disposed of, which happens more often than not. For what? Just a few minutes of use. Order “no straw” like its a part of your drink. “I’ll have a club soda with no straw, please.” “I’ll have a gin and tonic without a straw or napkin.” If you’re worried a restaurant will bring straws in water right away, make your request right when you sit down. “Can you ask our server to not bring any straws to the table? Thanks so much!” If you love straws and need them to enjoy a beverage, buy a reusable one for a few dollars that will last for years. I keep a stainless straw stashed in my purse. Glass, stainless, bamboo – just try one. You can likely find them at your local natural foods store or you can order online.
- Bring your own – get in the habit of having what you typically get as a disposable in your bag. You don’t leave home without your phone or keys. You can make bringing a jar for juice or a travel mug for coffee a habit, too. I also bring a set of bamboo utensils and a reusable straw, but there’s no need to purchase anything new at this point if you don’t want to. Other options are to bring a fork from your drawer or grab a set at a thrift store for pennies.
- Bring your own bag …or carry your stuff out of the store. Didn’t remember your bag for the zillionth time? Just carry out that shirt you just bought, or stash it in your purse or backpack. Forgot your reusable grocery bags in the car? Put all of your food items back in your cart, wheel it out to your car and pack up your bags when you get to your car. Plastic bags are horrible on the environment from production to disposal. There is no reason you should accumulate any plastic bags this month. If you typically reuse them for pets or trash liners, ask friends and family to give you some of their stash this month (you know they have some hidden under the sink.) You can do this!
- Take it one step at a time and be nice to yourself. Also try to be realistic about what changes you and your family can sustain over time. No need to toss everything plastic in your home in one day. That’s not what Plastic Free July or going zero waste or reducing your trash is about. Use what you have and when things break or wear out, replace them with plastic-free items. Small changes add up – both in your home environment and for your neighborhood and the planet.
What do you think? I know we all have a lot on our minds and reducing trash can seem like too much to take on, but for me it simplifies my life and these habits were easy to make. If only reducing my love of jelly beans was this easy 🙂