Plastic Free July. You may have heard those three little words being thrown around a lot lately – a whole month without plastic? Are they for real?! Yes, we are for real. But no, you won’t have to turf out every single plastic item in your house on 1 July (yes, your plastic TV can stay).
First things first, Plastic Free July is about going a month without generating any plastic landfill waste – of course, there are things in our world that need to be made from plastic, like medical equipment. So before you you start itemising your furniture based on material composition, perhaps it’s easier to think of this as ‘Disposable* Plastic’ Free July. This is about ridding your household wheelie bin of plastics (your plastic wheelie bin can stay too).
If this seems like the craziest, most impossible, task in the world, then read on, my friend – here is our quick-fire guide to attempting Plastic Free July for the very first time.
1. It’s time to think trashy thoughts
Before you set down this path to plastic freedom, you need to start taking note of what plastic waste you are currently creating. Ignorance is bliss, but right now you need to take stock of what ends up in your rubbish bin. Think about what you bought or consumed yesterday – was it packaged? Was the packaging recyclable? What do you remember putting in the bin yesterday? For the forgetful types, you might want to take a peek in your bin and see what plastics are clogging it up. Knowing what plastics you’re already sending to landfill will make you more aware of what you need to avoid during July.
2. Are you a bit-by-bit person, or more all-or-nothing?
We like to think of the plastic-free journey like a diet – for some, diving in full-hog is a sure-fire way to success, while for others small changes are the key to lifelong habits. So which approach do you think will work best for you? Decide if you want to accept the challenge to cut out all plastics from your life for a whole month, or if you feel more comfortable tackling a few select items. If you’re the latter you might want to focus on cutting out ‘the big 4’ – takeaway coffee cups, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bags and plastic drinking straws.
3. To jar or not to jar
If you’re feeling game, keep a jar of all your plastic mishaps during the month. Make it a competition between you and your housemates or colleagues, and see who has the least amount of plastic in their jar come 1 August. Keeping a mental note of any slip-ups is also fine if you’re shy about putting your trash on display.
4. Keeping clean without plastics
Let’s go through this room-by-room. Our bathrooms are full of plastics that we may, or most likely, may not, need. If your cupboards and drawers are brimming with plastic packaging, take a moment to see what you can go without. There are lots of plastic-free bathroom products available – swap your body soap and shampoos for bar alternatives (Ethique has some soap bars for every part of your bod); opt for a plastic-free deodorant (Ethique has some solid deodorant bars too, or try making your own with bicarb soda, arrowroot powder and coconut oil); give DIY toothpaste a whirl (bicarb soda, coconut oil and food-grade peppermint essential oil); and the easiest of all, switch to a bamboo toothbrush (check out our bamboo toothbrush sets here).
5. Cooking without plastics
This might seem like the most daunting part of all – how to stay fed and nourished without all the plastics and packaging. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. The key to keeping plastics at bay in the kitchen is just a little bit of planning and preparation. Opt for the unpackaged fruit and vege at the supermarket – for loose leaf items, use the paper mushroom bags instead of the thin plastic bags. For your grains, nuts, spices, flours and other dry foods, your local bulk food store is your best ally – here you can buy your dry goods in paper bags, or take your empty jars and vessels to fill with your goodies. The best part about shopping in bulk is that you can buy as much, or as little, as you need. Check out The Source and Naked Foods for some stores near you. Get back to basics and cook with real produce and ingredients – skipping the processed treats are the easiest way to avoid plastics (remember, we said it was like a diet!).
6. Out and about
You can be on your best behaviour at home, but slip-ups are most likely to occur when you’re eating and drinking out on the town. Find your voice and get ready to pep up with a ‘No…, please’ at every encounter – ‘No straw, please’, ‘No bag, please’, ‘No plastic cutlery, please’. You might have to repeat yourself a few times too. If you’re out and have forgotten to bring your own coffee cup, cutlery, or straw, take the time out to eat-in. Remember, this is about slowing down and consciously consuming – you can spare the 5 minutes to drink your coffee sitting down in your favourite cafe, or eating your lunch at the restaurant rather than at your desk. Treat yourself!
7. get back on the horse
Lastly, this is a journey and on a journey we make mistakes, hit roadblocks, take the wrong turn and sometimes have to make a u-turn – if you slip up and find yourself lumped with some plastic, don’t beat yourself up. It happens to us all. Pick yourself (and the plastic) up, dust yourself off and get back on that horse. The longer you stay in this plastic-free journey, the easier it will become.
Don’t forget to register for Plastic Free July and feel free to share you own plastic-free tips and tricks in the comments below! Let’s learn from each other.
*P.S. While we say ‘disposable’ plastics, that really is a misnomer because no plastic is disposable – like diamonds, plastics are forever – but for the sake of this, let’s consider ‘disposable’ plastics as things you turf into the bin when you’re done with them.