The busy person’s guide to going plastic free

I’m not a fan of the glorification of busy in modern times. While we have some hard and fast parameters and bookends to our time, there is a culture of shunning rest and slowing down that is a huge burden and causes unnecessary stress for many. I am working hard towards slowing down, shifting my priorities and being mindful of the choices I make that impact how my time is spent. The truth is that time is a valuable resource in our lives and one that can hinder or all together prevent us from taking on new projects.

If you have even a vague desire to do something to help the planet, reduce your personal trash, or limit potentially harmful toxins in your life, keep reading.

plastic free july

With a toddler and 5 month old at home, a career in transition and countless other demands on my time, I get it! Adding one more thing to my mental load isn’t attractive.

That’s why I’ve come up with these so-easy-anyone-can-do-them ways to get involved with Plastic Free July that don’t require tons of time to plan or going out and buying a $50 stainless bento box (::sigh:: they are gorgeous though). These actions will prevent single-use plastic items from becoming your property and your responsibility.

The Top Four

Going plastic free isn’t about throwing out everything plastic that currently exists in your life or house. The plastic-free challenge can take on many forms but at it’s most basic level it’s about refusing to accept (and therefore using reusable alternatives or going without) single-use plastics. You can then take it further and start doing an audit of other things in your life that are too-often tossed  find plastic-free alternatives. This step should be gradual and as needed. Back to right here, right now. No matter where you are on your low waste or plastic free journey, follow this advice and make an impact without getting overwhelmed.

  1. Don’t buy anything. Seriously, don’t go out and buy anything new – like the aforementioned plastic-free lunchbox. While you’re at it, stop buying single-use plastic you keep stocked in your kitchen. I’m looking at you, plastic zip-top baggies and plastic cling wrap. Even if you use each bag or piece of plastic multiple times, this is a habit you know you need to break. Use up what you have but then do not buy them again. Maybe you won’t run out during July but whenever it happens, challenge yourself to pack things in other containers you have in the house. Actually clean out that nut butter jar or pasta sauce jar and use that to bring leftovers to work for lunch or store cut-up fruit in your fridge. If you feel like your particular situation is impossible, drop me a comment and we’ll work out a solution together. 
  2. Don’t take anything. Free pen? No thanks. Do you want a lid on your to-go coffee? Nope, go topless. Paper or plastic? Neither. Carry out in your arms or stuff into reusable bags (or your backpack, purse, jacket pocket…) Buying loose apples? Don’t grab the plastic bag, stick them straight into your shopping cart instead. Or put them into a cloth bag. Go one step further and announce your intent to go plastic-free in advance. “I’ll have an iced tea without a straw, please.” “I don’t want a receipt printed, is that possible?”
  3. Don’t apologize. Just do. Politely, sure. But just do. I am a relatively outgoing, confident person but at the beginning of my plastic-free journey I found myself apologizing and feeling embarrassed that I was making these “special requests” even with family and friends. Maybe especially with those I’m close with. I still do feel a little awkward parading my eco-friendly tendencies around. I’m revealing this to show that challenging the status quo is not always easy. But I realize now how much mental space and time I wasted worrying in advance about how my requests or behavior might be perceived. Here’s the wonderful thing: most people either 1) do not care at all what you do or 2) love it and are inspired.  If you do run into someone who says “No” or is generally cranky, that’s a bummer. Hopefully it’s few and far between and you can shake it off. Maybe that person is having a bad day. Or maybe they’re just a cranky person. That has nothing to do with you.

Ready to join in? Go take the pledge at PlasticFreeJuly.com.

Shout it from the rooftops, tell your family and friends or keep it to yourself and lead by quiet example. I still highly recommend actually signing up at the website above. It will keep you engaged and accountable. The ripple effect is one of the absolute most powerful and wonderful things about this challenge. No matter what changes you make you will not only have a personal impact that you’ll want to keep up but you’ll have an impact on those around you.

Take a look at this interesting chart of actions you can take to participate in Plastic Free July. Depending on where you live some might be easier than others but take a few minutes to go through the list one by one and see if you can make it a focus this month.

Keep an eye on my Instagram page (and my stories!) all month for simple, low-cost ways to quit plastic.

Thanks for reading and joining me in reducing plastic in our lives and on the planet.

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