Did you know there’s a monthly event in July called Plastic Free July? Their motto is “choose to refuse single-use plastic” and you can join the free challenge and commit to ditching plastic at a level that feels realistic for your lifestyle. While many of us make an effort to minimize our plastic consumption all year round, I love Plastic Free July because it gives me extra motivation and inspires me to assess the plastic in my life and where I could cut back.
Before we dive in I want to note the privilege it requires to be able to choose plastic-free alternatives in today’s world. While some things that are packaged in plastic are more expensive (i.e. pre-washed and cut fruits and vegetables), they also are convenience items for people with limited time and ability. This post is not to shame those who consume a lot a plastic, but rather to shed light on the issue of plastic in our world. While this problem is not the responsibility of the individual (corporations need to make major changes), if you care about this issue and have the means, there are some changes you could consider making. For instance, for people who buy cases of bottled water every week instead of refilling a reusable bottle from the tap or filter.
The goal of Plastic Free July is to analyze the plastic you’re currently using and determining if there are any areas that you can cut back. If you can’t cut back but are still passionate about this issue, that doesn’t mean you can’t help! Contacting companies whose products you buy and asking them to offer plastic-free alternatives is a great place to start.
Why is Plastic Such a Problem, Anyway?
Before you commit to reducing the plastic in your life, it can be helpful to understand why this is such an important cause. Simply put: plastic is killing our planet. It’s draining our resources, filling our landfills and polluting our oceans. It’s extremely resource-intensive to produce and ends up in landfills where it takes thousands of years to degrade. Here are some quick facts about plastic:
- Only 8% of plastic gets recycled (leaving the rest in landfills and oceans, where it pollutes our environment, kills sea life and takes up to thousands of years to decompose – releasing harmful chemicals into our environment)
- Recycling often is contaminated and thrown away (when soiled materials or non-recyclable materials are put in the bins, the whole bin may be tossed)
- Plastic can only be recycled once or twice and still ends up in the landfill (unlike stainless steel and glass, which can be recycled indefinitely)
- Recycling plastic is very resource-intensive (it’s best just to avoid it all together!)
Many think, “It’s OK that I’m buying this thing in a plastic bottle, I”ll just recycle it.” I used to think that for a long time too. I was proud of my overflowing recycling bin. But the more I learned about plastic and the myth of recycling, the more I realized I was a part of a problem. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re doing good by recycling plastic. The better option is to avoid it altogether. Of course, if we do need to use plastic that is recyclable, cleaning it and putting it in the recycling bin is a good choice.
How Can We Reduce Our Plastic Consumption?
OK, now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that plastic is terrible and you should avoid it as much as possible and practical, here are some tips and alternatives:
- Use reusable bags for produce, groceries and other things you buy
- Bring your own reusable cutlery and straw to work or anywhere you may be tempted to reach for a plastic fork/knife/spoon/straw
- Use food storage containers and jars instead of plastic wrap and baggies
- Make your own coffee and/or bring a reusable cup to your coffee shop
- Always carry reusable water bottle!
Ready for more ideas? Here is a list of 100 steps to a plastic-free life.
Quality Products for Transitioning to a Plastic-Free Lifestyle
The tips above are great for beginners and can make a huge impact. I like doing a “plastic audit” and save up all the plastic I use for a month and then dump it all out and come to terms with my plastic use. It can be demoralizing but also eye-opening. Like, “Wow, I didn’t realize I went through so many X.” It can feel overwhelming so I suggest noting the top three to five plastic items you use and switch to sustainable alternatives. Here are some of my favorite products that helped me make the switch!
- Stainless steel water bottle. I’ve been using reusable water bottles for more than a decade but I’ve gone through lots of plastic and glass bottles that have broken, which kind of defeats the purpose when you have to keep buying more. I finally bought myself an indestructible 20-ounce steel bottle from Tree Tribe and I LOVE it! It’s high-quality, leak-proof and is the perfect size for my bags. Click here and use code WHOLEGREEN10 for 10% off your purchase from Tree Tribe.
- Refillable, stainless steel bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion. This was a serious game-changer! Not only because I’m not going through so many plastic bottles of product but because my husband and I now use all the same stuff (thanks to the lovely light rosemary-mint-vanilla scent of Plaine Products) and our shower is so much less cluttered with ugly plastic bottles. I love Plaine Products because you clean out and send back the bottle (they give you a free shipping label) which they refill and send back! Genius. Use this link and code TAYLORWOLFRAMRD for 15% off your purchase from Plaine Products.
- Lip balm and deodorant in compostable tubes. I’ve been a lip balm junkie my entire life. You know how they say that your lips no longer produce their own oils and so the more you use lip balm, the more you need it? That is totally me. And I’m not changing anytime soon. I don’t want to know how many plastic tubes of lip balm I’ve gone through in my life (hundreds) which is why I was so happy when I discovered Natural Vegan Club’s luscious lip balm that comes in a cardboard tube that I can toss in the compost bucket when I’m done with it! I also love their lavender deodorant which is the best natural deo I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot). I sweat when I commute, and definitely am a stress sweater at work, and I like to take walking breaks or squeeze in a yoga class on my lunch break so I need strong odor protection for the work day! Get 10% off zero-waste goodies from Natural Vegan Club with code TAYLORWOLFRAMRD when you click this link.
There are some eco-friendly products to get you started on your plastic-free journey this July! Remember: there is no such thing as perfection. A billion people cutting back their plastic use by half has a far greater impact than just a few people going entirely plastic-free. Take stock of the plastic you use, determine where you can cut back or switch to alternatives and do your best! Connect with other people who are taking the challenge and having fun with it. I’ll be right beside you.
This post includes affiliate links which means if you click them and make a purchase, I get a small kick-back. I love sharing products (and discounts!) for things I use in my real life.