What does it take to live a plastic-free life, or at least strive for it? It honestly sounds too hard to even try. But here’s how I’m tackling it with 3 personal challenges.
What is Plastic Free July?
Plastic Free July is a month-long initiative by the Plastic Free Foundation that encourages citizens to use little to no single-use plastic.
Is it accessible?
I originally thought this was a thoughtless and privileged hashtag for the ‘gram. However, luckily, it turns out that is not the case. This initiative is well-organized. They have challenges for people who want to refuse plastic for one day to people who want to refuse plastic forever! While it is important to realize that, no, not everyone can realistically participate in Plastic Free July, and no one can actually be 100% plastic free, this initiative did the work to be inclusive of people of varying levels of wanting to be plastic-free. You can read more on my thoughts about Plastic Free July being accessible.
My Plastic-Free Challenge to You & Me
Here’s a 3-part plastic-free challenge that I think will help me, and I think many of you will be able to relate, so I wanted to share it!
1. Utilize something that is REUSABLE
When you incorporate even one reusable item into your everyday life, you automatically start to use less of the plastic version of it. What folks don’t normally talk about when it comes to reusables is that it takes practice to remember to use them! It also takes courage to use them when they aren’t normally used by the people around you. I’ve taken my reusable bag to the grocery store and received open mouth stares when I request that the person who bags the groceries use it. That’s not a good feeling. However, insisting that they ONLY use your reusable bag is a good feeling, in the end.
Reusable items that you can incorporate in your life:
- Reusable straws
- Reusable grocery bags and produce bags
- Reusable utensils
- Reusable food containers (snack bags, bento boxes, etc.)
- Reusable mug/coffee cup
2. Utilize something you ALREADY OWN
There’s nothing more sustainable than something you already own. Why’s that? Because it means you don’t use up new resources, sustainable or not, and that’s better for the Earth. If you already have a few reusable tote bags from random events, don’t go buy new bags just because they’re cute. Use what you already own! If you have old clothes that aren’t in good enough condition to be donated, downcycle them into cleaning rags.
A Few Ways To Use What You Have
- Make produce and grocery bags from old t-shirts
- Plan ahead so that you know when to use what you have instead of being caught off guard and needing to buy something at the last minute
- Borrow – it’s a way to also use things that are already owned, but still new to you.
3. Utilize something totally NEW TO YOU
It is important to note that when I say something “new to you,” it automatically doesn’t mean go buy something. This could be a new process/way of doing things that helps you to create less waste. An example of that would be planning ahead to pack lunch for a road trip so that you don’t collect a lot of plastic waste by stopping at fast food restaurants and gas stations to eat.
Continued Learning + Creativity
This part of the challenge requires RESEARCH/LEARNING and BEING CREATIVE. You’ll have to know more ways that you can be sustainable, so it would be wise to research in order to learn more. Your research can take place on Google, Pinterest, or even Instagram. For example, if you search my hashtag #SustainableLivingTips on Instagram, you’ll see posts from several people who practice sustainable living. We all share tips and hacks that we’ve learned along the way.
- Write your government official, your favorite brand, or a local store and ask them to incorporate more reusable items and less single-use plastics
- Make your own food that usually comes wrapped in a lot of plastic
- Donate plastic-free supplies in the next school supply drive you support
- Have a family/besties learning night where you talk about the harmful impact plastic has on the planet, and then discuss ways to use less plastic as a family/group
“Plastic Free” is a Journey
It sounds super philosophical and cheesy, but it is true. A plastic-free life requires everyday effort, grace and forgiveness for yourself, lifelong learning, and realistic expectations. I’m not plastic-free or zero-waste, but I am always trying my best to use less plastic, incorporate more fair-trade and sustainable items in my purchases, and think about the bigger picture when it comes to the impact my individual actions have on the world.