Plastic Free July is a global movement, whereby people commit to eradicating single use plastic from their lives for a whole month. Here’s what I’ve learnt along the way!
Let’s get one thing very clear: If you’re taking part in Plastic Free July, you probably aren’t going to have a completely plastic-free July. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but that shit is hard!
Plastic is a cheeky bugger and is in places that you wouldn’t even begin to suspect it. If this is your first year taking part, don’t expect yourself to nail it straight away. As a PFJ veteran, I’m pretty sure that I still couldn’t get through the whole of the month without at least a minor slip up.
So, don’t be too hard on yourself.
That being said, I think that the event is an amazing opportunity to re-assess where you’re at on your journey to more eco-friendly living, or to kick start that journey in the first place.
It’s a month-long exploration of the waste that you produce. It forces you too look straight in the eye of our plastic pollution problem and see how you, in your small way, can help to reduce it.
And with 120 million people across 177 countries taking part in 2018 alone, there’s no doubt that it will make an impact. Not only in terms of our influence on the planet as a group of individuals, but in terms of showing huge corporations and governments that this is something we care about!
It’s about making our voices heard, doing what we can as individuals and learning how we can fit sustainable practices into our own lives.
When I first did Plastic-Free July, I messed up. A lot.
In fact, I’m not sure I got through even two days at a time without accidentally buying something wrapped in the stuff! But, like I said, it was a huge learning curve for me and one of the major motivators in me wanting to cut down on my unnecessary waste in every area of my life.
Having learnt from them, I thought that I would share my mistakes with you, as tips for taking in Plastic Free July.
Let’s say I was taking one for the team.
Not planning my food in advance
This was probably the biggest mistake that I made throughout Plastic Free July last year.
The truth is, if I’m on-the-go and haven’t prepared food to take with me, I’m more than likely going to end up grabbing a Boot’s meal deal or a Maccies. Either way, that spells “single-use plastic”!
So, planning my meals and snacks in advance was something that I very quickly learnt I needed to be doing. That way, I could make sure that I was prepared with low-waste goodies and wouldn’t end up doing that last-minute supermarket sweep.
Things like loose fruit and veggies stored in a Stasher bag and chocolate in foil or paper were my go-tos throughout the challenge.
For more tips on shopping low-waste in a conventional supermarket, check out this post.
Not looking out for labels, stickers and elastic bands
Loose produce doesn’t always mean “plastic free”!
Labels and elastic bands on fruit and veg are common, even in farm shops and greengrocers, and can be pretty tricky to avoid. Of course, it’s still way better to get get a bunch of bananas with stickers on them, than a bunch wrapped in plastic. But it’s worth checking whether you can find a shop near you that stocks them completely naked!
Not learning about hidden plastics
Like I said: Plastic is a cheeky bugger.
Just when you think you’ve got it nailed, BOOM. It’s in your tea bags, drinks cans and even CHEWING GUM.
Unless you’re buying something completely packaging-free, it might be worth double checking online or on the packet to see what materials it’s actually made of.
Or, alternatively, just check out this list from Moral Fibres with the 11 main items that contain hidden plastics.
Not saying “no straw, please”
Times have changed since last year, with more and more food outlets switching to paper straws or going straw-free unless requested.
However, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
I got caught out on multiple occasions whilst ordering drinks out and ended up with some kind of plastic. Expressly requesting not to have a straw (if you’re able to go without one, of course) and saying that you want to drink-in should mean that you’ll get a reusable mug and glass, instead of something disposable.
Unless you end up with a barista who makes your drink in a plastic cup and then pours it into the glass, which totally happened to me one time…
Not assessing my waste before starting
I went into Plastic Free July more or less blind! I had pretty much no idea where I was starting from and what changes I was going to have to make in order to succeed.
In turn, that meant a lot of time staring at supermarket shelves in confusion and doing background research that I wasn’t expecting! It also meant that I fell into a tonne of traps along the way out of ignorance.
That’s why I would massively recommend conducting a waste audit before the month begins. Knowing where your plastic waste is coming from means that you can go into the challenge prepared. You can research plastic-free alternatives to the things you often use, or even how to avoid them altogether.
It will make the whole process feel less overwhelming and will make you more likely to stick with the challenge. Trust me!
I think that this is a hugely important step in making your PFJ as successful as possible. So, I decided to help you eco-warrior babes out with a little resource to guide you through doing a super simple waste audit before the challenge begins. So, for more plastic free July tips with your Rubbish Bin Audit, sign up to my newsletter below.