Plastic Free July: Take the challenge

Have you taken the challenge? Plastic Free July is a  environmental challenge originating from Australia, but which is available to pledge around the world. The challenge runs the entire month of July, and is simple, “Choose to refuse single-use plastics during July”. Sounds easy, right? Well, in one word; yes. The challenge is easy, but you’re going to want to come prepared. 

This post will be from a Zero Waste standpoint, as that is how I look at reducing my footprint on the earth. Most advice will be on reducing ALL waste, not just plastics, but plastic-free to zero waste isn’t that big of a leap. I hope this inspires others to take the July challenge and see the difference that can be made just 31 days.

My tips and tricks to tackle the #ChooseToRefuse Plastic Free July challenge:

  1. Pack a Zero Waste bag before the month starts:

My staples in my Zero Waste kit are:

    • A wide-mouth 500mL and/or 1L mason jar and lid
    • A steel container for takeout
    • 1-2 Reusable straws (I prefer steel to glass, but as long as it’s reusable it works)
    • Cloth napkins
    • Cotton Drawstring bags – For bread or dry goods
    • A set of utensils (and a plastic-free carrying pouch)
    • A steel water bottle
    • A travel mug – Personally I use the 500mL jar but that doesn’t work for everyone!
    • A Totebag

These are the staples that I have with me more often than not. I keep them in my backpack at all times so even when I’m running late for the bus, I never have to worry about leaving them behind. Don’t feel obligated to go out and buy every on this list or keep a hardcore kit with you at all times. Any and all efforts to reduce your plastic consumption helps the environment.

2) Start Small

Start with small steps like remembering to bring a totebag over the single use plastic ones. Then next day remember your water bottle. The next, refuse plastic utensils. After taking small steps every day in July, you’ll become a Zero Waste Guru in no time! Thinking oh the bigger picture in terms of your environmental impact will help to motivate you towards a plastic-free lifestyle long after July is over.

This challenge isn’t about jumping in headfirst and purging all the plastics from your life in one fell swoop. If you can handle that, then all the power to ya. You’ve just had a whopping success in reducing your environmental impacts from day one. But that doesn’t work for me. I’ve been slowly achieving a plastic free life since April 2017, and I’m still not there yet. July is a time for me to think about my consumption and make changes that I didn’t think I was ready for (I’m looking at you, reusable menstrual pads), but that doesn’t mean I’m giving my Nalgene bottle the boot just yet. When it breaks, I’ll replace it with steel, but in the meantime it’s still perfect, and it would be a wasteful shame to throw it away.

3) Don’t be shy!

Speak up when refusing single-use products. There is no point in throwing away a product after a single use when it’s designed from an indestructible material. Say “May I please have [my favourite drink] without a straw?” Or “I don’t need any napkins, thank you!”. Most people will be happy to obliged, and if they forget and still give one to you, just politely give it back to them for another patron. I found when I was working in that sector, especially during a rush or a busy day, the daily routine from customer to customer becomes second nature and you wind up on autopilot. They may have heard you, and then immediately forgot your request because it’s not the normal course of action. Just politely decline the item again and enjoy with your reusable counterpart. If that’s not an option, bring the product home and try to repurpose it, but remember; the best way to remain plastic-free is to refuse plastic items.

4) Think Ahead

When creating your own Zero Waste or plastic-free kit, think to what situations you may encounter. Are you a Starbucks junkie like me? You’ll definitely want a straw and cup at all times. Do you enjoy a lot of salads? Utensils are a must. Bringing your lunch from home? Choose a steel container over plastic. Do you buy in bulk? Masons and cotton bags, galore!

If you’re choosing to go out and buy products to help you during the challenge, think forward beyond the month of July. Choose products such as steel or cotton that will last far beyond a month. There is a plethora of well-priced plastic alternatives at stores such as terra20, or available online like Etsy or NuGrocery. A quick Amazon search will help too, if these stores do not ship to your country. The “Buy-It-For-Life” mentality will allow you to reduce your waste over the course of several years. A product would still be wasteful if you had to replace it every month versus a product that could last several years.

5) Get Others Involved 

Getting friends involved in a challenge will not only help you stay accountable for the decisions you make for July, but will also make it more fun! Who can go the longest without plastic? Who can make the most impactful changes? More friends, more fun, more challenges and rewards! Getting involved in online communities such as r/ZeroWaste, r/PlasticFree, or Instagram/Twitter with the hashtag #ChooseToRefuse and #PlasticFreeJuly can be helpful for getting inspiration from others, even if the people around you aren’t interested in the challenge. Feel free to follow me at @ZeroWasteSpace on both Instagram and Twitter, and my blog for Plastic Free July Updates!

Don’t feel discouraged if you feel that all these changes feel overwhelming for you. Start small, think big. You are making a difference, and every piece of plastic and waste we can keep out of the environment and the oceans is a big step forward for not only our local community but for the world as a whole. Good luck!

Amanda Bird

Amanda Bird

Amanda is a Canadian university student studying in the field of Biology. She has recently begun her Zero Waste journey and is working towards reducing her consumption of plastics, one mason jar at a time.
While not at school, Amanda spends her time outdoors, camera in hand, exploring the waters and hiking through local provincial parks. On rainier days, she can be found between the pages of a novel in her favourite used book store.
You can follow her Zero Waste Journey at @ZeroWasteSpace on both Instagram and Twitter.
Amanda Bird

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Amanda is a Canadian university student studying in the field of Biology. She has recently begun her Zero Waste journey and is working towards reducing her consumption of plastics, one mason jar at a time.
While not at school, Amanda spends her time outdoors, camera in hand, exploring the waters and hiking through local provincial parks. On rainier days, she can be found between the pages of a novel in her favourite used book store.
You can follow her Zero Waste Journey at @ZeroWasteSpace on both Instagram and Twitter.

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