Plastic Free July For Beginners

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. 

Mayde Tea: Reducing Plastics in Business

 For tea lovers like us, it sounds like a pretty dreamy job to be crafting up tea all day – how did you end up with your own tea company?

It definitely is! It all started like that, recipe testing and sampling almost all day long, and slowly blending and packaging teas one by one until it became much more than that! Days are now filled with lots of emails, organising accounts and all of those other fun back-end necessities!

So it all started while I was mid-way through studying naturopathy three years ago. I was discovering and experimenting with the magic that is herbal medicine. I was using herbal medicines at the time to help many of my own ailments like anxiety and digestive issues – and I got such wonderful results. I wanted to be able to share this with people, as soon as I could so I figured that organic naturopathic teas would be the most gentle and effective way to utilise natures’ resources, and share it as freely as possible! I actually didn’t really plan on starting a business, it just happened after people were asking to buy the herbal mixes I had made for myself. I’m so glad it started out the way it did, it’s been such a fun journey, without any expectations of where the business should be or needs to go.

 

We’ve heard you talk a bit on social media about cutting plastics out of your company – why was this something that you were interested in?

Waste, its environmental impact; and finding ways to improve it is definitely something I’ve always felt passionate about. I’ve always at the least avoided plastic packaging where possible, and made sure I’m disposing of waste thoughtfully at home. It’s only since starting my business and watching it grow that I’ve been taking the time to research ways to really make a difference and to try and bring attention to how much of a problem packaging waste is. It’s opened my eyes up to how much plastic is used in packaging, even for a small business like mine, and I think it’s really important that people are aware of the changes they can make to help improve the problem.

Something that I’ve been researching is takeaway coffee cups and their impact on the environment – especially because I know my teas are being sold in cafes in these. I think there needs to be more attention brought to the fact they’re not as environmentally friendly as they’re marketed to be – they’re piling up in landfill because they actually have a plastic lining that prevents them from being biodegradable. I know it’s inevitable, takeaway coffee cups are a convenient option for takeaway, but I’ve had some Mayde Tea flasks made to encourage people to use these for their takeaway teas and coffees they buy and hopefully reduce the amount of coffee cups used.

 

Can you tell us what sort of changes you’ve made to reduce plastics at Mayde Tea?

My bulk supplies are almost always packaged in plastic. This is of course required for health standards to prevent contamination of herbs. There are other options though, so I have been conversing with my suppliers and enquiring about how open they are to sending my orders with no (or if not possible, less) plastic. In some cases they switched the plastic to a thick and durable paper bag which is so great!

I’m definitely no environmental scientist, but I did a bit of research and put a lot of thought into the creation of my products to lessen the mark I leave on the natural environment while running this business – all without getting too carried away and feeling guilt for the things I couldn’t change.

 All of my products have always been made with recyclable packaging. The entire packaging of the retail boxes is paper/cardboard and has a small wooden spoon and wooden peg inside; and the tea jars are made of glass. Glass is made of resources more plentiful and less environmentally damaging than to make plastic or metal tins – of which most other tea companies use. Aluminium for example, accounts for more than 90% of the environmental footprint so I’ve stayed clear of using that. Glass also does not degrade during the recycling process, which means it can be recycled over and over. They also look pretty enough to reuse as a vase or for storage of some sort around the house.

 

Did you come across any obstacles in the process?

Absolutely, having a business which falls in the ‘food’ category means I have to comply with all health and safety standards. So this means that using plastic is inevitable to some degree.

While conversing with suppliers about my wish to lessen plastic, some refused to do anything, and one of them continued to send me orders such as 10kg of the same herb in ten 1kg plastic bags! This was pretty frustrating, and their lack of compassion forced me to find a different supplier (who turns out to be incredible so that was a blessing!). With other suppliers I have been ordering an even bigger bulk of everything so it can be packaged in one giant bag rather than lots of little ones (every little bit counts!). I’m okay with it being impossible to run my business with zero plastic, and I’m so happy with how much of a difference I was able to make.

 

Do you have any advice for other companies wanting to reduce plastics in their own businesses?

I think to not feel overwhelmed with trying to make changes toward being plastic-free. In a perfect world there would be none, but plastic serves its purpose, so swapping it out for more environmentally friendly options when possible is all you need to aim for. It’s such a rewarding feeling, just don’t do what I did and get too deep with researching statistics and trends in how much of a problem plastic is, it might make you a little upset 😉

 

Lastly, it’s still pretty chilly here in Byron Bay – what tea should we be drinking to get us energised on these cold winter mornings?

Any hot drink is heavenly on these cold mornings! My morning ritual is always an earl grey tea with my brekkie, no matter the weather. But I think a huge pot of chai with a touch of honey is my favourite tea in winter, it’s so comforting and delicious; and the spices in chai are so warming in their energetics I’d suggest it to be the most warming for winter.

You can find Kate’s delicious organic teas online at www.maydetea.com  or follow her on Instagram @maydetea

All photos courtesy of maydetea.com