In 2017 I started my zero waste journey. Zero Waste is the goal, mindful practice is the action. When I use the term Zero Waste, that is my ultimate goal, but Less Waste would be a more accurate description of my evolving lifestyle.
Plastic Free July is a month to give up or at least be mindful of not using disposable items like plastic straws, bottled water, plastic bags, disposable coffee cups, etc... and it's a time to be mindful of your plastic consumption in general. This is a great time to think about how our purchases and practices effects the world.
Plastic Free July doesn't suggest you tear through your house abolishing every item of plastic, you can start going plastic free this minute, by simply deciding that you want to.
This can be a a really intimidating undertaking, even if it's only a minute or a month at a time. Here are a few steps you can take today to get you started to have a great Plastic Free July:
1. Get Over Your Own Convenience.
The majority of the plastic we use daily was created to make life "more convenient" for us. Plastic water bottles to get water anywhere and easily, straws to keep our teeth from staining and make our drinks that much closer to our faces, plastic grocery bags, plastic tooth brushes you can buy and just throw out, disposable razors, etc... etc... these items might be helpful to us in the short term but ultimately it's the waste of these items that are creating problems there is currently no solution for, like micro plastics in our oceans and drinking water, like pollution in our rivers and cities. By thinking and being mindful and putting our own convenience aside, we can start to think about healing these problems. Bringing your own water bottle instead of buying plastic might be slightly inconvenient, but it makes a huge impact and all you have to do is get over the idea that everything should be convenient for you!
2. Think About The Life Of Items You Use.
When you buy that disposable plastic water bottle, think about the factory where it was made, the machines filling it, the stream they blocked to get the water, the towns that effected, the truck driver bringing it to the grocery, the stocker putting it on the shelves, and how it got to you. Then think about where you will throw it in the trash, who will pick it up, where it will go, how long it'll be there or if it will make it's way somewhere else, like onto the beach, into the ocean, and into our water. I find this exercise makes it easy to make the decision whether I need an item or if I really don't. Before I buy anything I think about how I will throw it away which has made a huge change in what I buy. This is a simple moment of mindfulness practice that anyone can do. And you can start right now.
3. Learn to Refuse.
One of the easiest ways to cut down on the plastic you use is just to refuse the plastic that is given to you every day out of hand. Ask for no straw at the restaurant, ask for paper bags at the check out, buy soda in cans not plastic bottles, there's a ton of alternatives out there! Once you start refusing the items that are given but you don't need, it's easier to seek out non plastic alternatives.
4. Choose Something To Give Up.
Now that you are getting comfortable saying, "no straw please", or asking for a real cup at the coffee shop, it's time to pick a thing that can give up. Maybe you can give up plastic coated paper coffee cups and bring your own reusable mug. Maybe a water bottle to replace plastic water bottles. Maybe a metal fork so you don't use a plastic one. Now, this doesn't mean you have to run out and buy a bunch of stuff!! You can bring a fork from home, a mug you already have, a tote bag you had lying around, you can reuse the last plastic water bottle you bought until you're ready to get a new one. It's not hard or expensive to have a reusable item and give up a disposable one.
5. Start a Plastic Free Kit.
Now that you've given up using a plastic fork for your lunch and bring a metal fork from home, pick the next thing to give up. Maybe you're used to refusing a plastic straw but you really miss straws, now might be the time to invest in a metal straw. Now you carry a reusable fork and straw! Now you have a Plastic Free Kit! You can continue to give plastic disposable items, and replace them with reusable items. Again, this doesn't mean you have to run out and buy a bunch of stuff. You can, if you want, but you can also look around your house for these swaps, ask your friends and family if they have something that might help you, or seek low cost alternatives at the local thrift store.
I hope these steps help you on your plastic free journey and let you have an easier and less intimidating Plastic Free July. It's about starting where you are and doing what you can. It's about shifting your mindset and your habits. It's not easy but it is simple. Mindfulness is the key.
Need more details? Let me know what you want to learn more about! Let me know what wasn't clear. Want more plastic free tips? Share your PFJ questions and insights in the comments.