Plastic Free July is a global movement aimed at reducing single-use plastic and raising awareness of plastic pollution. There are an estimated 326 million people spread across 177 countries taking part in the challenge. If you want to take the challenge yourself, you can sign up plus get lots of tips and see inspiring stories here: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
Here are some of my tips to get you started.
1. A plastic audit (it’s much easier than it sounds!)
Start by keeping a diary of how much plastic you’re actually using. Write everything down room by room in your house. Then put a star next to anything that will need replacing soon. Start by looking for plastic free alternatives for these items only, rather than trying to change everything all at once.
2. Remember your reusables
I have a reusable kit that I take with me wherever I go; a water bottle, coffee cup, cutlery and bag.
I always recommend a double insulated reusable water bottle. That way it keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot so you can use it for water or coffee or anything else you fancy. A collapsible coffee cup is a great way to save space so you can always have it in your bag ready. A reusable cutlery set, including a straw, is another great item that’s always in my bag so I don’t get caught out on the go. Finally, I always have at least one reusable bag with me just in case (plus more in my car).
3. Plastic free shopping
Supermarkets can make it very difficult to make plastic free choices. Farm shops, markets and refill shops are all great places to find plastic free, quality food. Markets and farm shops are especially good for fresh fruit and veg and some have dried goods and other plastic free items too. One of my local farm shops now has a refill station for things like oils, pasta and importantly, organic chocolate buttons! We just had a new refill shop open locally too. You just take your own reused jars, bottles, tubs etc to fill up. They usually have some options there too, or paper bags for dry goods (which I always reuse).
More and more refill shops are opening around the country and supermarket refill trials seem to be successful so hopefully we will all have refill stations near us soon. How close is your nearest refill shop or farm shop?
4. Plastic free periods
Have you tried reusable period products yet? If not, Plastic Free July is the perfect time to give it a go! My personal favourite is my Mooncup. I find this menstrual cup so comfortable and convenient. I love my Wuka period pants too. I tend to use them on the last day when my flow is lighter. They are so comfortable and the perfect product to try if you’re not keen on internal products. You could try reusable pads too.
5. Plastic free cleaning
There are a wealth of eco-friendly cleaning products on the market now including lots of refillable options, cutting down on plastic bottles. Most refill shops sell cleaning refills and we have some refillable and plastic free cleaning products online too. You can also try making your own. Check out my previous blog post on eco-friendly cleaning.
It's not just the products in plastic bottles to watch out for but many cloths are made from plastic too. Microfibres from cloths and plastic sponges are released every time they are rinsed or washed, polluting waterways and causing harm to wildlife. Try swapping to compostable, plant based cloths and sponges or coconut fibre scrubs.
6. Shop second hand
When we buy new products, they almost always come wrapped in plastic packaging. The very best thing we can do is buy less stuff. When we really need something, always try and source it second hand. It saves on precious resources needed to make new products, emissions created in the production of items and plastic packaging. It’s usually much cheaper too! Try charity shops, car boot sales, vintage shops, Facebook Marketplace, local Facebook groups, eBay, Depop and more. There are a growing number of rental shops too, for clothes and also things like electrical items. Check if you have a “library of things” near you.
7. Reduce food waste
Food often comes in plastic packaging, sometimes it can be avoided (see point 3) sometimes it can’t. Either way, we don’t want to be wasting it, not only due to the packaging but also because the emissions involved in growing, transporting, refrigerating etc all adds up. Plus food rotting in landfill emits methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.
Always check the fridge and cupboards to see what you have before writing your shopping list. Plan your meals so you know exactly what you need to buy and only buy what you need. Don’t be tempted by special offers unless you know you’ll use it on time or can freeze it. Love your leftovers, have them for lunch the next day or turn them into something else. Search online for recipes using ingredients you have left over so they don’t go to waste.
If you do realise you won’t get through everything you’ve bought, try sharing it! Use Olio, the sharing app. This is a great way to share the love and reduce food waste (you can also share household items, clothes etc on the app now).
8. Organise a litter pick
Finally, why not organise a litter pick in your local area to keep your area clean, tidy and plastic free. Your local council may be able to lend litter picking equipment including separate bags for recycling. If you don’t have time to organise a group litter pick, you could just commit to collecting a few pieces of litter you see on your walk, particularly plastic.
Let me know if you’re taking part below. What plastic free swaps have you already made and what are you planning to tackle next? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.