For those of you who don’t know, this month is Plastic Free July – a fantastic initiative that raises awareness of the impact single-use plastic has on the environment. Essentially, any plastic ever created still exists today. It doesn’t biodegrade. In fact, some types of plastic break down into smaller pieces of plastic (called microplastic) which is then ingested by animals and ends up in the food chain. Gross.
Despite the emphasis our governments place on recycling, this is really a bandaid fix, because plastic can only be down-cycled. This means it’s recycled once and then the end product cannot also be recycled. So as a society we really need to cut down on plastic in general – and especially plastics that are designed for single use – think plastic bags, straws, plastic packaging and your takeaway coffee cups. I am participating in Plastic Free July, with the hopes of making some permanent changes to my lifestyle. But as you will see, it has not been all smooth sailing so far!
Already in the last six months I have made some changes to avoid plastic. I have stopped buying bottled water, and I make my coffee each morning at home and take it to work in a stainless steel travel mug. I also purchased reusable produce bags to buy my fruit and vegetables – mine are from Onya and they are fantastic. They come in a little pouch which I have clipped to the handle of my reusable shopping bag so I don’t forget them. The mesh is quite fine so I can even use them to buy nuts and dried fruit. Plus they’re super light-weight so they aren’t adding to the weight of my purchase.
But in the spirit of Plastic Free July it is time to go a step further and consciously look at other plastic coming into my life. It’s the end of week one of the month and already there have been hiccups. I was going to type failures, but hey, there’s still three weeks to go and I won’t give up! Here are the realisations I came to this week:
Originally the subheading for this section was “beware hidden plastics”. Because, on day one of this challenge, I purchased a box of Qi green tea from the supermarket. I love this tea. The teabags are unbleached and can be composted, they don’t have staples or glue and the tea is organic and delicious. I purchased the box without thinking, got home and realised the box itself was wrapped in a layer of plastic. Or so I thought. Prepared to accept this as a failure, I wrote up my paragraph for this post. Then I decided to email Qi and tell them how much I loved their tea but I wish they didn’t wrap their box in plastic. To my surprise, and joy, one of the owners, Julie, replied and happily told me it isn’t plastic after all! It’s actually cello, a 100% plant-based material that is also compostable! #winning Plus she’s a consultant on Ban the Bag so totally supported my concerns. What a champion!
So the big lesson here is, don’t be afraid to email your favourite brands and ask about their plastic. Best case scenario is you get a super lovely email back like I did and good luck wishes for Plastic Free July. Worst case scenario is you’ve at least passed on your feedback – and the more of us that do that, the more the brands will have to listen.
There’s little room for convenience unfortunately, when you’re avoiding plastic. In the same teabag shopping trip, I also
failed hiccupped epically by buying a bag of tortillas because I needed them that night for dinner and hadn’t thought ahead to learning how to make them from scratch. And honestly I’ve never been able to find tortillas in anything other than plastic packaging. (If you can prove me otherwise, please comment below!) Later in the week I also failed to provide anything other than pre-packaged biscuits for a morning tea at work, simply because I forgot and had to make a hasty pre-work dash to the supermarket.
Alternatives can take more time, but are rewarding and often healthier
Despite my hiccups, I did make Nutella from scratch this week! All the ingredients were plastic-packaging free – except for the tetra-pack my soy milk comes in, and the bottle of vanilla extract (there was no glass alternative). And it is being stored in a jam jar that I saved. So I am classifying this sweet-tooth fix as a plastic-free win. For anyone interested, the recipe came from an amazing blog called Pick Up Limes.
It actually feels really good knowing I’ve made something from scratch, and I know exactly what ingredients have gone into it. You’ll find that by picking ingredients with no packaging or non-plastic packaging you’ll most likely be buying healthier, less processed foods. And that’s a win-win.
Don’t give up
This isn’t going to be an overnight change. I think it would be impossible to have woken up on July 1 and automatically gone totally plastic-free. But each day I am more and more aware, and next week is a new week. With that in mind, next week’s goals include finding a natural alternative to shower cleaner as I am about to run out. Plus going grocery shopping again. Let’s see how I go!
Incoming plastic this week
- Marie Claire subscription – it came in a plastic sleeve!
- tortilla packaging
- Mint Slice and Tim Tams packaging. Oops.
Outgoing plastic this week
- Finished a large bottle of Dove body wash and this has been replaced with Thank You bar soap that came in cardboard packaging
- The last of the bread in my freezer that came in plastic packaging
If you would like more information about Plastic Free July, please head to their website at http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
Need some inspiration? Clare Press’ podcast Wardrobe Crisis is worth a listen – especially the plastic episodes – 1 and 3. She tackles the issues affecting our environment from a fashion point-of-view and interviews some truly amazing people from the industry.
If you are participating, or have a tip you would like to share, please leave a comment below!