You may have heard of Plastic Free July (or #PlasticFreeJuly). This yearly initiative aims to encourage people around the globe to take up the challenge to go ‘plastic free’ for the month of July. The long-term aim of Plastic Free July, which is an initiative within the Plastic Free Foundation, is to work towards creating a world which will become free of plastic waste in the future.
About Plastic Free July
The Plastic Free Foundation Ltd, which is a not-for-profit, independent organisation aims to work together with businesses, individuals and governments to help influence and bring about change to reduce the amount of plastic that is used and wasted globally. Last year alone, it was estimated that approximately 250 million people took up the Plastic Free July challenge across 177 countries.
Yet the impact of Plastic Free July isn’t limited to the month of July itself. For many people who take up the challenge, they find that they are able to make changes which they can commit to and sustain beyond July.
One of the key messages that the initiative promotes is that “small changes add up to a big difference”. As with so many other acts of sustainable living, making one small, simple change per household can have a dramatic and significant impact on our global impact.
It can seem overwhelming knowing where to begin. However, with Plastic Free July, you don’t need to go completely plastic free in all areas of your life (although you may choose to do so!)
Instead, take small steps and start by reducing your plastic use and consumption in just one or two areas. If you find that you can do these easily, then take up the challenge in other areas of your lifestyle too. There are lots of ideas and resources on the Plastic Free July website. Helpfully, the organisation also has ideas and offers partnerships to businesses looking to take part or move towards a plastic-free way of working.
As a way to help you get started, here are four plastic-free choices and challenges you could take up this month.
1. Plastic Bags
Many of us have already committed to using fewer plastic bags and increasingly greater numbers of people are reusing their existing plastic bags. However, you could take this one step further and refuse to use single-use plastic bags at all for the duration of July.
Instead, try to use a reusable bag that is made from natural fibres. For example, you might use a Tote bag, bags made from ethically-produced cotton, hemp or jute. Alternatively, you could even make your own bag from fabric. Remember to keep them somewhere that’s easy to find and take them with you when you go out shopping. Often, fabric bags are very easy to fold and store, making them very portable.
2. Reusable Cups
Increasing numbers of people already use reusable coffee cups and, in many cafes, you can even get a discount for bringing your own reusable cup. There are many choices available, with some bigger brands even offering their own range. Many of the reusable coffee cups have lovely designs and there are different sizes available, as well as collapsible coffee cups which are particularly good for transporting with you.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, some cafes are no longer accepting reusable cups due to health concerns and fears. This decision has been taken in order to help limit and stop the spread of the disease. Instead, takeaway coffees will be served in takeaway cups, which are often made from paper or recycled materials, depending on individual cafes.
However, you could still purchase your coffee in the takeaway cup, but ask the barista not to place a lid on the cup, as these are usually made from plastic. You could then either drink your coffee directly from the paper cup or transfer it into your reusable cup. Make sure to recycle the paper cup where possible. Alternatively, you can also make your own hot drink at home and take it out with you in your reusable cup.
3. Plastic Straws
Many places have reduced the use of plastic straws in recent years, often replacing them with paper straws. However, you can take this one step further by bringing your own reusable straw with you and asking to have your drink served without a straw before it is made. By refusing plastic straws, you will help to encourage businesses to only provide straws when they are requested, rather than supplying them by default with their cold drinks.
There are also a number of sustainable alternatives to plastic straws. Aside from paper straws, you can also purchase glass, bamboo or stainless-steel straws. You can even chill metal stainless steel straws in the fridge, so you can have an even cooler drink. In some cases, you can even find reusable, foldable straws which are even easier to carry around with you day-to-day.
4. Water Bottles
Rather than buying a plastic water bottle which you later discard, choose to buy a glass bottle of water instead and reuse it for future occasions. Even better, buy your own reusable alternative which you can carry around with you. There are a number of alternative styles and designs available made from environmentally-friendly materials, including glass, steel or safe aluminium.
If you run out of water, you can always refill your reusable water bottle at a fountain or ask to refill it with tap water at a café. As well as being a more sustainable and eco-friendly choice, it will also be a healthy habit to develop Carrying a reusable bottle of water with you will likely remind you to drink more water, as well as help you to stay away from other (often unhealthy) drink choices, such as fizzy drinks. For a cooler drink, you can always add some ice or cool your water bottle in the fridge beforehand.
There are a range of suggestions and alternative ideas for you to explore and help you to get involved in the Plastic Free July website. Some other ideas to consider which we have previously discussed in the blog which you may want to try include plastic-free toothpaste and toothbrushes, choosing eco-friendly food packaging alternatives and giving reusable sanitary products a try.
The above are just four simple, actionable ideas that each of us can take today. The beauty of the Plastic Free July challenge is that it only requires you to change one small aspect of your lifestyle at a time.
So, this week, we invite you to join us in taking up the challenge and going plastic free! Go as big or as small as you like with your involvement. Take up the challenge as an individual or involve your whole family and all work together to encourage and spur each other on. It can be a particularly useful opportunity to discuss and educate children on the negative impact of plastic for our environment.
By taking small steps individually, we can help contribute towards a big, meaningful impact collectively. Better yet, you may find that this challenge is one which you can continue to take and extend beyond July and into your day-to-day lifestyle.
As always, we warmly invite you to share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below. What plastic items have you chosen to refuse this July? Let us join together in discussion and support all members of our community in our efforts to lead more sustainable lifestyles.