Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Plastic Free July

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I did not invent this, Plastic Free July exists, I promise, and you definitely want to participate.  So, what is it?  Exactly what it sounds like - making the extra, concentrated effort to not use single-use plastic during the month of July.  Not only will you cut down on the amount of waste you would have otherwise produced, the hope is that you'll continue your progress for the rest of your life.  Because once you make a few changes, you'll see just how easy it is to keep going.

What is single use plastic and why does it suck?

It is plastic that's designed to be used just one time and then thrown away.  Here's some information straight from the Plastic Free July website:

"The plastic bottles, bags and takeaway containers that we use just for a few minutes use a material that is designed to last forever.  These plastics:

  • break up, not break down – becoming permanent pollution 
  • have low rates of recycling (only 9% of all plastics ever made have been recycled) and are mostly downcycled (made into low grade product for just one more use) or sent to landfill
  • ‘escape’ from bins, trucks, events etc. to become ‘accidental litter’
  • end up in waterways and the ocean – where scientists predict there will be more tons of plastic than tons of fish by 2050 
  • transfer to the food chain – carrying pollutants with them 
  • increase our eco-footprint – plastic manufacturing consumes 6% of the world’s fossil fuels

Every bit of plastic ever made still exists and in the first 10 years of this century the world economy produced more plastic than the entire 1900's!"

You read that?  Every bit of plastic ever made still exists.  It's killing the planet and the adorable critters in the ocean.  And us.  Yes, there is plastic in everything - your car, your computer, etc. - but at least you don't use those things for 5 minutes and then throw them away.  July is the month to concentrate on those things you just use for a few minutes and find ways to stop that behavior.

What are some ways to reduce single use plastic?

Bring your own reusable bags This is the easiest change to make.  There are so many great reusable bags available now so you can choose what works best for you.  Bigger bags you leave in your car for grocery runs, small ones that fold up tiny to fit in your purse for impromptu shopping trips, and everything in between.  There's just no reason to accept plastic bags from stores anymore.

And reusable produce bags.  I really can't stand those plastic baggies next to produce stands in the grocery store.  They're unnecessary because you're just putting the produce in your cart, onto the conveyor at checkout, and then into your car/home.  Why is a plastic baggie necessary for any of that?  You'll have to wash everything regardless.  John likes things corralled though, so we got some mesh bags for this purpose.  At least they get reused every time!

Stop accepting plastic straws.  Even if you claim you'll re-use plastic bags, you just can't make the same claim about plastic straws.  They are truly single use because you'll place them straight into the garbage once you finish your drink.  There are so many reusable options available now, including silicone, glass, and stainless steel, so there is no reason to buy or accept another plastic straw again.  You can even keep a foldable one in your purse.

Refuse pre-packaged fruits and vegetables.  Pre-cut produce is always served in those plastic clam shell-like containers.  Which of course get thrown out right away.  Just get the fresh fruit or veggie and chop it yourself.  You'll save money too.

Eat less meat.  Meat at the grocery store is individually wrapped in styrofoam and plastic wrap.  Even if you're able to get it from the counter and convince them to use your own reusable containers, the meat still came to the store wrapped in something.  Eating less meat is good for the environment in a lot of ways, but the focus this month is on all that plastic wrap you're saving.

Bring your own reusable utensils If you eat outside your home often and find that you use a lot of plastic utensils, invest in your own set to carry with you (or leave in your office.)  You could, of course, simply bring ones from your home, but some people like to have the neat little roll of utensils on them at all times.

Bring reusable water bottles and coffee mugs Bottled water is totally unnecessary in most of the USA (looking at you, officials who failed Flint, Michigan), because you can bring a reusable bottle and refill it wherever you go.  They even make bottles with built in filters if you really can't stand the taste of tap water.  The same goes for your coffee mugs; invest in a reusable version and commit to carrying these with you when you leave the house.

Get reusable containers and avoid wrapping leftovers in plastic wrap.  There are a lot of great glass containers that you can use to store leftovers.  You can even take one with you to the restaurant if you often bring home half the meal (restaurant portions are insane these days.)  If you usually reach for plastic wrap to cover something, try a beeswax wrap alternative.

Buy your bottled products in glass.  There are a lot of packaged liquids that come in plastic, besides just bottled water.  Think milk and cleaning supplies.  But milk is always available in glass bottles, as are many cleaning supplies.  If you can't find cleaners in glass bottles though, at least make your own.  All you need is vinegar (which comes in glass but if you can't find it, at least you can get one giant container of it instead of tons of small plastic cleaner bottles!), baking soda, and lemon to clean just about everything in your house.

I'm just me, why should I bother?

Because it matters.  Just like being vegetarian, using only cruelty-free makeup, voting, attending a march for a cause you care about - it matters, it all matters.  There is no change without individual action.

The fact that big companies are the main source of the problem when it comes to polluting the environment does not mean that your individual actions don't matter or that you shouldn't bother, because that logic is inherently flawed - just because you're not the worst, doesn't mean all your actions are negated.  I tell my mom that about decluttering; just because you aren't on Hoarders doesn't mean you don't have a problem.  

Okay, what are we doing?

Participating in all kinds of stuff with me and Steph at Life According to Steph!  Next week we'll be posting 'day in the life' type posts, showing what our typical days look like, with a focus on any plastic we do or don't use.  We'd love for you to post your own day in the life and if there's interest, we'll definitely make it a link up.  We plan on having a report in at the end of the month so we can all share the ways we've improved since the first day.  There will also be a giveaway, so definitely check out Steph's post and Instagram for more info on that!

So what can you do this month to stop your personal use of plastic?  

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