My journey to go plastic-free
Some people are afraid of spiders. Other people are scared of heights. My current aversion? Trash. No, I don’t get scared when I pass by a trash can on the street or when I need to take out the recycle. What creeps me out is knowing how much trash is generated everyday by every single one of us, and knowing how much of it ends up on landfills, in the ocean, in nature.
So I decided to take the Plastic Free July Challenge and live a whole month without single-use plastics. That means no plastic bags, no straws and no beer-pong cups. It sounds scary, but I am excited for the challenge and can’t wait to see what the outcome will be.
Over the next few weeks, I will update this story to tell you how my endeavour is going, and I would also love to hear from you as well: Have you ever tried going plastic-free? Do you have any questions or suggestions?
Week 2 without plastic: how to be socially awkward in a grocery store
“Hi, I don’t know how to ask you this, but I am trying to go plastic-free and I noticed all the cheese here is wrapped in plastic. I was wondering if there is another way I could get a slice that hasn’t been wrapped yet?”
Sounds awkward, right? That’s how I approached the person working at the cheese section of the grocery store last weekend. Fortunately, they answered my question with a “Yes!” I was not the first person to ask. It made me happy to know that some stores are prepared and willing to provide options for people who are concerned about plastic pollution and excessive packaging.
However, my trip to the grocery store also it made me realise most of the products there still come in a plastic container. Many food and cosmetics companies simply do not provide non-plastic options to consumers, making us deal with plastic packaging as part of our shopping routine. I mean, have you ever bought toothpaste that did not come in a plastic tube?
Sadly, even though I had a successful trip to the grocery store, some plastic did end up coming into my life this week. I am keeping all of it in a jar, so that I can know exactly how much plastic I consumed over the month, where it came from, and how to tackle it in the future.
How’s your plastic-free July going? Any tips to share? Please respond here to keep the plastic-free conversation going.
Week 3: That feeling when making all those DIY Pinterest boards pay off
The first time I went to the grocery store during my plastic purge, I was mostly focused on how to avoid buying food that came in plastic containers. Then I ran out of laundry soap. And shampoo. And toothpaste.
My laundry soap, shampoo bottles and many other hygiene and cleaning products come in recyclable plastic containers. However, between reducing plastic and recycling plastic, it’s better for the environment to go with the former. Eventually I was able to find some cleaning and hygiene products in bulk in my local store, but that may not be the case for everyone, depending on where you live.
And here is when all the time you’ve spent bookmarking DIY pages will pay off! If you go online you can easily find recipes for several products that can be made at home and replace the one you buy. Not only that, but you will also see that many entrepreneurs are investing in products that do not come in plastic specifically to address this issue. Supporting these small businesses is another way to send a message to big corporations and show them it’s time to start caring more about our planet and act on it.
So far, I’ve made my own toothpaste based on this recipe and have been using it for a while. I also have a recipe to make my own yogurt, which I haven’t tried yet, but will report back with the results.
And I also want to hear from you. Do you have any tips? What DIYs have you done in order to avoid single-use plastic? Tell me on the comments below!
Week 4: Choosing between what’s right and what’s easy
A wise wizard once said “Soon we must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy.” For me, the time came last week, when I went out of town. I knew it was going to be my hardest plastic-free week yet because I wouldn’t have as much control as I usually do at home.
To start with, I didn’t have control of what food I ate — or what packaging it came in. I didn’t think about that on the first day of my trip, so I ended up adding a few pieces of plastic — a sandwich bag and a little sauce container — to my jar. On the next day, I decided to get a salad, only to find out that the restaurant I had chosen used plastic bowls. I finally found a place that served food in compostable containers instead. Even then, the lid was made of plastic so I just asked the person behind the counter not to cover it. He curiously asked why and complimented me for my plastic-free endeavor.
At this point, I don’t feel awkward anymore when people ask why I’m avoiding plastic — it can actually be a great conversation starter! Every time I make someone think about how much plastic affects our planet, my heart fills up with hope. Between carrying my own DIY toiletries and choosing fruits over packaged nut bars to snack on, here is what I learned this week: If you don’t pay attention to how plastic makes its way into your life, it will pile up without you even noticing.
There is one more week before the #PlasticFreeJuly ends, but I am confident that my plastic purge will not end on the 31st. How is your #PlasticFreeJuly going? Share your story in the comments below!
#PlasticFreeJuly is over, but my plastic-free journey is just starting
If you’ve ever watched Fight Club, you know first rule: do not talk about Fight Club. Now that #PlasticFreeJuly is coming to an end, I’ve realised that when it comes to plastic pollution, the first rule must be: do talk about plastic pollution.
I was happy to see how many people were interested in my journey, giving suggestions for alternatives and sharing stories in the comments. However, this has also made me realise that if we’re always looking for an alternative, the “normal” packaging will still be plastic. That’s what needs to change. It’s time to make demands.
And that’s what I’ve decided to do. I had been avoiding the grocery store near my house because it was nearly impossible to escape from plastic while shopping there. I could keep going somewhere else, but I knew I could make a bigger impact. So last weekend I talked to their manager. I told them about my concerns, and asked them to reconsider the bags they offer in the produce section. This seems like a small change, but how many plastic bags are used in every supermarket in the world?
Looking back at this month, being plastic-free was not that hard. August, September, October, every month can be plastic-free in my life from now on. It is definitely not convenient, but once I learned how to avoid plastic, it became part of my routine. Unfortunately, plastic is so embedded in our daily lives that we don’t even notice how much of it we throw away and how it affects our planet.
Going plastic-free should not be such a stretch. This is why, even though the month is over, I will continue not only living my life without plastic, but also trying to tell everyone — my friends, stores I go to, bars, restaurants — say no to plastic.
How did your #PlasticFreeJuly go? What demands can you do in your community to make a bigger impact? Share in the comments below!