Make a difference this Plastic Free July
There's no excuse for single use.
We’re all guilty of having to buy the occasional plastic bag at the grocery store, or a bottle of water when we’re thirsty, or the pre-cut and packaged watermelon cubes because it’s easier than lugging the whole one home.
While it’s easy to fall into these plastic-mad habits when it comes to favouring convenience, it’s also impossible to ignore the extreme damage single-use plastic is having on our environment and communities. Enter Plastic Free July a global movement that aims to inspire and educate people on how to be part of the solution to plastic pollution.
Starting out in 2011 as a local initiative of a community council in Western Australia, the Plastic Free July challenge has become a global movement engaging millions of people who want to do better by the Earth.
While it’s important to try to reduce your plastic wastage 365 days a year, Plastic Free July is a monthly challenge to get you started with baby steps, and help you realise that it’s not that hard to go plastic free!
Here are tips to help you cut back on single use plastic, as featured on Plastic Free July’s amazing online resource.
(Full disclosure, this list could go on forever, so we’ve decided to focus it on making your shopping habits slightly more plastic-conscious).
First things first, ditch the plastic bag! Keep a canvas or other alternative in your handbag, car, or even hanging by your front door so you don’t forget. (Extra points for using bags made out of recycled material!)
Fruit and veg
Next step, try and avoid plastic-wrapped or packaged fruits and vegetables. Instead, look out for loose fruit and vegetables in your local grocery store, or head to a farmers market or organic store where plastic packaging is less likely to be favoured. It might sound like a lot of extra effort but once you do it a few times you’ll realise how much plastic you’re saving!
The same goes for your baked goods. A lot of local bakeries, stores and markets have freshly baked goods that are yet to be packaged. By bringing your own reusable bread bag or containers, or even asking for a brown paper bag as opposed to plastic, you can avoid plastic packaging.
Meat and fresh deli products
The goal here is to try and avoid products packaged and sold on polystyrene trays (you know the ones), as they’re extremely difficult to recycle. Avoid large supermarkets and try to look at smaller local butchers, fishmongers or delis that sell unpackaged items and can help you package your products in your own containers.
Bathroom, grooming and dental products are massive contributors to plastic waste. Try to look for products with cardboard packaging (which is compostable) or places that let you take an empty bottle and refill it in store.
Toothbrushes are one of the most common plastic products to wind up in a landfill, but there are non-plastic alternatives made from sustainable, compostable materials, such as bamboo. That said, bristles are often still made from plastic so you’ll need to cut them off before composting or reusing your non-plastic toothbrush handle. If you want to ditch plastic bristles altogether, some retailers like Faithful to Nature have embraced clever alternatives, like castor oil
While you might be extremely used to the plastic tubes that toothpaste comes in, some smaller retailers and health stores package toothpaste in alternatives like glass jars, which also means your toothpaste is likely to last you longer!
And lastly, while dental floss might seem harmless (I mean how much are you using really?) it’s still a non-biodegradable product that will get chucked out somewhere it’s not supposed to go. The labelling can be confusing, and you’ll need to check the fine print, but according to Plastic Free July, “dental floss in cardboard or glass packaging with silk thread is generally plastic-free, while dental floss made of bamboo fibre is generally not plastic-free.”
This is one of the easiest things you can do on the list! If you want to reduce your plastic consumption when it comes to shower products, switch from shower gel to bars of soap.
The reason being that bar soap is more likely to have plastic packaging alternatives, like cardboard, or even be sold without any packaging at all.
Easier on your wallet (and the planet), opt for razors that have replaceable stainless steel blades. This will minimise the plastic you go through since you don’t need to replace the entire handle component each time.
Make your own
I know this sounds a bit far out there, but there are plenty of great recipes and methods out there to help you make your own (usually all-natural) bathroom products. You’re likely to save money and skip the plastic packaging if you go this route and you can find how-tos on everything from soap, shampoo, shower gel and toothpaste to scrubs and lotions.
Click here for some ideas.
As daunting as this all seems, if we all make a small difference wherever we can, we can do some serious good for our communities and environment! Now excuse me while I go wash my reusable bamboo coffee cup.