Ditching Single Use Plastic
Plastic Free July is HEEEERREEE!
And everyone is getting pumped up!
But then we glance around our house and we’re like:
This “oh sh*t” feeling is normal. You should be overwhelmed. Our entire lives have been wrapped in plastic for a few decades now.
But we got this. We can buy and use less plastic. For sure. For the sea.
We have to start somewhere, and for simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on immediate results. This means going after the most common offenders of single use plastic. Let’s dive right in.
Start a bag collection.
We have to start viewing plastic differently. It was designed to last years, but we use it for purposes that last hours or minutes.
Start treating the plastic bags in your home as if they were the last on Earth.
I’m talking about washing, drying, folding, and caring for your old shopping bags, bread bags, tortilla bags, ziplock bags, you name it. Paper bags too.
To keep your plastic bags in good shape longer, gently wash with soap and cold water and hang them up to dry before putting them away.
Save and reuse them as long as you can. When they are done, either set them aside for recycling (NOT IN THE BLUE BIN. NO FILM/STRETCHY PLASTIC IN THE RECYCLING BIN. EVER. CAPICHE?)or, once your options run out, send them to landfill if they can’t be saved.
Same goes for your plastic containers, from your best tupperware to the hummus container you’ve just scraped out. Wash, save, use, repeat.
When you’re running low, then you may be ready to start investing in quality plastic-free reusable stuff. Shop here.
2. Buy naked food. (Scandalous.)
You’ve got a beautiful collection of reused bags and containers going, look at you! Now to avoid bringing in more plastic in the first place.
Without a doubt, most of our single use plastic comes through the kitchen. So here’s what we do:
Scout out all the naked food you can find. The best places to start are the farmer’s market, the produce aisle, and the bulk section.
Don’t be afraid that you’ll have nothing to eat! I think you’ll be surprised at what you discover if you take the time to look. You’ll certainly feel a difference in your body, as you’ll be stuck eating unprocessed whole foods, which are crazy healthier than anything in a package.
Find a Bulk Store Near You
Some of my heroes over at Zero Waste Home set up a bulk store locator, check it out!
Clueless in the kitchen?
Not much of a cook? Bring your own containers to the prepared foods section of your deli, grocery store, or favorite takeout place and politely ask if they’ll use that instead. If they hesitate or say it’s against a health code, ask them to prepare the food on a plate to eat in. Then just grab a fork and slide it into your container yourself. BADA-BING!
3. Give your straws and cups a Blue makeover.
If you’re a coffee person, I’m talking to you. If you’re a soda, smoothie, shake, or sangria person, I’m talking to you too.
Single-use plastic cups and straws have GOTTA GO. It’s time. But that doesn’t mean giving up your favorite sips. We just need to give our habit a new design.
This has two parts: having the right tools for slurping or sucking, and training ourselves to have them handy.
Think about your typical week. Let’s say you start your morning with a beverage. Is it hot or iced?
Do you buy a soda or iced tea with your lunch?
At work or school, do you drink from a pitcher or water cooler with cups, or do you use plastic water bottles?
That’s at least 3 plastic containers and 2 straws in a single day. NOT COOL.
If you’re a hot drink lover, you need a thermos. If you’re an iced coffee or smoothie addict, you need a cup and straw. And everyone needs a reusable water bottle. Period.
Next, you’ll need to train your brain to remember your reusables.
We are used to the convenience of not having to think ahead: plastic has been taking care of us at the coffee shop, the takeout place, the tiki bar… so refusing plastic means being prepared.
Let me repeat that one: If you want to refuse plastic, you’re going to want to be prepared with an alternative.
Cover your water bottle in awesome stickers so you love bringing it with you everywhere. Treat yourself to one of those bedazzled iced coffee cups if that’s your thing. (For cold beverages, reusable plastic is an option, as long as you promise to take good care of it.) Keep a spare at the office, in your locker, or in your car.
4. Be prepared to eat at all times.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my plastic-free commitments to prevent me from enjoying any food opportunities that come my way. And I certainly don’t trust myself to say no to the “free sample” guy at the store.
It’s the same as with beverages: if you expect to refuse plastic utensils, plates, and the like, you will need to have another option.
I keep a canvas bag with reusable cutlery, a cloth napkin, and a container hanging by my door for whenever I leave the house.
I love the bamboo option because it is super light and safe for schools and airports, but for the sake of not buying new stuff, you can also just wrap up some cutlery from your kitchen in a napkin with a rubber band.
5. Start collecting jars for bulk shopping.
Your jar and bottle collection begins today.
Plastic Free July will come and go, but your need to buy food and products for your home will live on.
Shopping in bulk is the best way to avoid plastic, if only you have a container to put your bulk items in.
It can cost HUNDREDS of dollars to invest in quality containers and pretty mason jars to store all your bulk items. And while this may make for great Instagram photos, who has that kind of dough laying around?
This month while you try to avoid plastic, choose items that come in glass instead of plastic. Large jars with wide mouths are best, but you will need some smaller jars and bottles too. For now, save them all until you have a nice collection going. Then we can start bulk shopping without the ridiculous plastic bags.
Will your Plastic Free July be a success?
I’m not going to lie to you: Avoiding plastic in our modern society is a frustrating task that takes preparedness and some sacrifice. If this is your first time paying attention to how much plastic you use, you are in for an unpleasant surprise.
Perfection is not what we seek here. Effort is the name of the game. Use Plastic Free July as a baseline challenge for you to start improving on your ocean friendliness. It only gets better from here.