Around June each year we start hearing people talking about 'Plastic Free July'. But what is it all about? Living completely plastic free seems like an impossible task so why start something you're bound to fail right?! Maybe the marketing team got the name wrong on this one...
What is Plastic Free July?
Plastic Free July is a global movement that raises awareness and helps people like you look for solutions to one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time... plastic pollution.
But don't worry, it is not about living an entire month without any plastic, even for the most eco conscious of us, that would be impossible. Plastic Free July is more about giving you the chance to stop and think about your lifestyle and to give you a short period of time to focus on some small manageable changes that could really make a BIG difference long term.
So have a think about one or two areas in your life where you, or even the people around you, could use less plastic.
Plastic Free July Ideas
Reusable Coffee Cups - Have you got a reusable or do you choose to dine in whilst you drink? If you're at a place that serves takeaway cups even to those that dine in, do you ask for a proper cup and make them wash up?
If you've got reusable coffee cups sorted, then could you try to help someone else get to where you are? Could you get your work colleagues to all agree to a month of reusable coffee cups?
Reusable Cutlery and Straws - Cutlery and straws are a big single-use plastic problem. So many people eat on the go because life is just too busy and takeaways are just so convenient, (not to mention delicious). So rather than deprive yourself, is it possible to keep some reusables cutlery and a straw in your bag so that you can refuse the single-use plastic ones?
Reusable Bags - You own one... probably even a few reusable bags, but do you remember to have one handy for EVERY time you need a bag. What could you change to do better? What about the other kinds of bags? Are reusable veggie bags something you could try this Plastic Free July? Or how about using some reusable bulk bin bags and you try cutting down on plastic food packaging?
A Reusable Water Bottle - We all need to drink throughout the day, so are you someone who remembers your water bottle or do you depend on shop bought drinks in plastic single-use bottles? What happens at work? Does your workplace have a water cooler? Do your colleagues use singe-use cups? Is there potential for change?
Reusable Sanitary Pads, Period Underwear and Menstrual Cups - Half of the population menstruates and the majority of those people still use plastic filled disposables. But reusables sanitary products are becoming more widely used and many women are preferring their reusables over disposables. Is this something you could try this Plastic Free July?
Challenge yourself this Plastic Free July to think about some of the single use plastics you use on a regular basis. Pick one, or more if you're feeling motivated, and consider what you could use to reduce or even eliminate these single use plastics from your life.
Plastic Free July is all about small steps, so you can challenge yourself with as many or as few changes as you think you can manage. The ultimate goal is to change your habits so that you are then able to maintain these changes beyond July.
Sign Up To Plastic Free July
Sign up to the Plastic Free July challenge and you'll get weekly emails that will help to keep you motivated. You'll also get some tips and tricks and get to hear about other peoples inspiring stories.
A great way to think about the impact of the plastic we use is by considering the 5 R's. Number 1 - Refusing, has the least environmental impact with the impact increasing with each number.
If you can refuse to use an item of plastic, or reduce how much you do use it, then that has the potential to make a huge difference to how much plastic gets thrown away.
Think about things like single use plastic produce bags, straws, cutlery, cups and bottles. If you can avoid them completely then the impact can be huge! If you allow yourself to use them, but only very occasionally, then you're also onto a winner!
Reusing a plastic item that already exists, or repurposing it to another use, is another great way to reducing the amount of plastic that gets thrown away.
Think about things like plastic cups. snack bags, sandwich bags, plastic bottles and cutlery. A lot of them can be easily washed and reused. If you made yourself the goal of reusing everything at least once, then you could reduce your plastic waste by at least 50%. Halving your plastic rubbish would be a great achievement!
Recycling is often the first thing we think about when it comes to reducing plastic waste. If we can recycle it, it's reused right? Yes, but no. It takes a lot of energy to recycle plastic into something new. Not to mention all the transport required. Recycling should always be one of the last things we consider if we want to live sustainably. Try to remember, first refuse, reduce, reuse and then recycle.
Note; plastic doesn't rot, so this part of the 5 R's isn't relevant for plastic items.
Challenge Your School, Work Place or Community
So maybe you're an eco warrior and there's not much left for you to change to live more sustainably. You've got all of your reusables and you've cut as much plastic out of your lifestyle as possible.
But I am sure that there is a place that you visit that makes you cringe every time you go when you see the amount of single-use plastics being thrown away. This could be your work, school, church, local community club or even the home of someone you know.
So, why not challenge yourself to use this Plastic Free July as your motivation to encourage changes in one of these places. Imagine the impact you could have!