My first day attempting Plastic-Free July did not go well.
Fast approaching a dizzy spell, I rooted around in my bag, only to find that I’d already eaten the last emergency snack I’d packed. (I have low blood pressure, so bringing food with me is essential.) I had to go into the supermarket to find a sugary snack.
Lesson one? Always be prepared.
I packed lunch and took two snacks (an oat bar and an apple) next time I knew I’d be out of the house for a while. And then I got a lovely surprise from my menstrual cycle, and ended up dashing into Tesco Express to buy a box of tampons. (I figured they’d be packaged in less plastic than pads, since they’re smaller and come in a cardboard box. These ones were also free from chlorine and bleach. Normally I wear washable cloth pads, which are so much more comfortable than their disposable counterpart, but you can’t immediately get hold of them while you’re on the go.)
I guess it’s true what they say: life keeps sending you a lesson until you learn it.
But these slip-ups also made me realise that living completely plastic-free is impossible when plastic is the default for most companies. There’s only so much I can do—but that doesn’t mean I won’t try my best to cut down.
What is plastic-free July?
Plastic-Free July is a global initiative that encourages people to reduce the amount of single-use plastic they use. Every July, people can pledge to avoid single-use plastic for the entire month, and the movement will help you find alternatives. They have ideas for things you can do at work, events, and in your community, as well as at home and when you’re out and about.
Why is it important?
Plastic is a huge problem.
The world produces nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, with approximately 50% of plastic products used once and thrown away, and much of it ending up in the oceans and landfill. This is harmful for the environment, harmful to wildlife (who can ingest broken down plastic) and harmful for humans, who may end up digesting this plastic if they choose to eat fish. Plus, there’s only a finite amount of space on the earth for landfill sites. Only 9% of plastic is recycled—chucking your waste in the green bin isn’t as eco-friendly as it feels—and most plastic isn’t biodegradable. Instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics. This is what ocean-dwelling wildlife and humans end up ingesting.
The plastic panic has been in the news for a while now—we’ve all been witness to the plastic straw chaos—and a lot of us are thinking about the changes we can make in our day-to-day lives.
My rules for plastic-free July
I’m more confident in some areas than I am in others. I’m having fun finding plastic-free and zero waste beauty products, and my reusable water bottle is one of the most practical things I’ve bought. But I can do better—especially when it comes to food shopping.
- I’ll avoid buying anything packaged in single-use plastic whenever it’s possible.
- There’ll be some exceptions—I can’t not take my medication.
- I won’t buy unnecessary zero waste items when I already have a plastic-free alternative at home. For example, I won’t buy bamboo cutlery because I can use the knives and forks I already own.
I don’t think it’s possible for me to lead a lifestyle that’s 100% plastic-free. But I do hope that by making more of an effort throughout Plastic-Free July, I’ll be able to make changes this month and beyond, and maybe even encourage the people around me to do the same.
Are you doing Plastic-Free July, or have you been trying to cut down on plastic use? What have you found easy? What’s been more challenging? Let me know in the comments.
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Beth, 25, South East England.
Lover of books, dogs, yoga, travel, gin, and the Oxford comma.
I write about ethical & eco-friendly living, minimalism, and mental health, as I muddle through one step at a time. Enjoy!