3 Guaranteed ways to set yourself up for a successful Plastic Free July
Today marks the start of "Plastic Free July®", a global movement seeking to help people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. Plastic Free July challenges us to dedicate an entire month to reducing our plastic waste so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and communities (Plastic Free Foundation, 2022).
The great thing about this movement is that it isn't a competition. It's a personal challenge to find ways you can reduce single-use plastic in your own life (which will look different for everyone).
What does this look like?
Aiming to use less plastic in your day-to-day life
Focusing on building new habits that will last
Doing what you can with what you have access to
While you can challenge yourself to do this at any time of year, Plastic Free July seeks to mobilize individuals and raise awareness about plastic pollution and ways we can reduce our impact.
As someone reading this blog post, I'm assuming you're someone who is looking to be part of the solution to plastic pollution. Thank you!! Becoming more aware about the impact of our actions through education and finding inspiration around us is a great way to make progress in our sustainability journeys.
In this blog post, I'm sharing with you three guaranteed ways to set yourself up for a successful Plastic Free July.
Before we jump into it, let me say that I recognize my position of privilege when it comes to making certain choices, especially when it comes to plastic-free swaps, and acknowledge that it is not a privilege everyone has. The goal is never to compare or judge, it is always to connect, share, and progress.
1. Use what you already have
One of the most sustainable things we can do is to use and reuse the things we already own.
Throwing away all your plastic containers or the single-use items already stocked in your cupboards, and running out to replace them with new, fancier 'eco-friendly' alternatives can be both wasteful and expensive.
Sure, locally made soap bars are better for our environment than plastic bottled body wash, a stainless steel safety razor is more sustainable than a plastic one, silicone stasher bags are an excellent alternative to plastic zip-lock bags... but if we're throwing away unused product or items that could be reused or upcycled, then we're only creating more waste.
Use your plastic products before making the swap to a more sustainable material. Wash and reuse your bags and containers until they're no longer suitable for the job. Start with the things you already have access to.
One of my favourite items to reuse over and over again is the plastic containers our margarine comes in from the grocery store. They make excellent containers for leftovers. Plus, you can freeze them or use them to send home with guests after dinner without worrying about losing track of your dishware.
At the end of the day, overconsumption and unnecessary purchases generate more waste. Using what you already have is an easy and cost-effective way to reduce plastic pollution in the long run.
2. Plan ahead and consider alternatives
Unfortunately, avoiding plastic, especially single-use plastic, altogether is pretty dang difficult. But, by planning ahead and getting into the habit of asking yourself simple questions, you can certainly reduce your amount of plastic consumption by a significant amount.
Before leaving your home, think of what activities you may be participating in and what reusable items may come in handy that could help you to say no to plastic. For example, I rarely leave the house without reusable bags or my reusable water bottle. I also try to make my coffee in advance at home and pack it in a to-go thermos so I don't have to purchase one while I'm out. Packing my own utensils from home can also be helpful if I know I'm going to be eating on the go.
Some swaps really are simple. Sometimes, it's literally a choice of choosing plastic vs. no plastic. For example, ever notice at the grocery store how some items like fresh produce are packaged in plastic and others aren't? If you can, opt for the 'naked' option and leave the packaged stuff on the shelves.
Another simple one? Ice cream! If possible, opt for a cone over a cup. This simple alternative helps to reduce the use of plastic bowls and plastic spoons.
While some alternative choices are a bit more cut and dry than others, it's important to remember that every choice has the power to have a positive impact.
If there isn't a better alternative, can you just go without? I've generally made a habit of asking for no straw when I order a drink. Although many places have now made the swap from plastic to paper, sometimes I just save the potential hassle altogether by not using one at all.
3. Prioritize progress over perfection
Debatably the most important thing I hope you take away from this post is that it's better to prioritize progress than it is to focus on perfection. It's important to be kind to yourself and recognize that it is impossible to be perfect. This kind of thinking can lead us down a negative spiral, setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.
By prioritizing progress, we exercise a growth mindset and are more likely to seek out new solutions and build better, more sustainable habits. Focusing on progress also helps us to avoid comparison and go easy on the judgement. It's not fair to compare one's sustainability journey to another's because sustainability looks different for everyone.
Find out what being "more sustainable" means to you and where you can cut down on plastic use and consumption. Then, go from there.
"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." -- Anne Marie Bonneau
Source: Plastic Free Foundation (2022). Plastic Free July. https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/