This month I decided to participate in Plastic Free July, a worldwide initiative to encourage the reduction of everyday plastic usage.
Aside from being made from fossil-fuels, plastic takes millennia to biodegrade, polluting our rivers and oceans–and their animal inhabitants–in the meantime. Many plastic products are designed to only be used once, which makes their long life-span even more ridiculous. Plastic also wastes our money; though its particles last basically forever, plastic is designed to lose its usefulness quickly. Plastic bags, plastic water bottles, plastic razers, and plastic food containers soon become crumpled and ripped, and can also leach toxins into your home. They’re not designed for longevity; they’re designed to keep you coming back for more.
Thankfully, there are many re-usable, durable replacements for throw-away plastic (and paper!) items:
🐳 Swap cloth towels and napkins for paper.
🐳 Use a glass or stainless steel water bottle.
🐳 Pack your lunch in glass, cloth, or stainless steel containers.
🐳 Bring your own cloth bags to the grocery store (including produce bags!).
🐳 Buy loose produce instead of the pre-chopped packaged kind (this will save you money, too). A great place for this is your local farmers market.
🐳 Get what you can from bulk bins and fill your own jars/cloth bags with nuts, seeds, beans, dried fruit, grains, etc.
🐳 Stop using a straw, or keep a re-usable one in your bag.
🐳 Likewise, keep a wooden or metal fork/spoon/knife kit in your bag for restaurants with plastic silverware.
These things were easy and money-saving, and I had already been doing most of them. That being said, there were still some areas where I struggled:
🐳 Ziploc bags while traveling:
What should I put my toiletries in? I use sweet almond oil as a body moisturizer and it always leaks, so I’d be afraid to pack it in a reusable bag in case it were to bleed through and stain my clothes. And I use a new one each time because re-using an oily Ziploc is pretty messy. Also, I still put my shoes and dirty clothes in plastic bags because, again, I don’t want my clothes to get dirty.
🐳 Shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, detergents, etc.:
I’ve yet to find a good homemade haircare recipe so I’m still buying natural, albeit plastic-entombed, hair stuff. Same goes for dish and laundry detergent, and other random beauty products like witch hazel or aloe vera.
🐳 Plastic bags for meat:
Sometimes the butcher doesn’t have the cut I want and I need to buy some pre-packaged (or frozen) chicken thighs or ground beef. Meats can be sticky and prone to leakage, so, unfortunately, I put them in horrible thin plastic produce bags.
Sometimes I want store-bought kale chips, or just one slice of gluten-free dairy-free cake, or some other snack wrapped in plastic, and it’s easier to buy things like this than to make them from scratch.
It’s okay to not be perfect; a snack now and again or a few Ziplock bags a year for traveling won’t do too much damage in the long run.
Plastic Free July has been a good exercise in mindfulness. I’m way more aware now of what I’m doing right and what needs improvement. I’ve decided I’m going to turn Plastic Free July into a Plastic Free Journey, and continue to reduce my plastic usage long after this month had ended.