Have you heard about the Plastic Free July challenge? The initiative started in 2001 by the WMRC Earth Carers in Perth and has now transformed into the Plastic Free July Foundation, an independent not-for profit Foundation.
The foundation’s mission is to build a global movement aimed at reducing plastic use and improving recycling.
#PlasticFreeJuly is not just a challenge but also an awareness campaign to highlight the growing waste problem. It supports behaviour change by helping people to avoid single-use (disposable) plastics.
So how do you participate? If you accept the challenge your mission is to 'Choose To Refuse' single-use plastic during July. Are you ready to Choose to refuse?
Starting your first Plastic Free journey can be a daunting task. Here are some tips that will help make your first 30 days a little easier.
1. Don't be hard on yourself
It's a journey. As we learn more about the journey it becomes a process of discovery. We start to discover more and more items in our everyday lives that we didn't realise were part of the plastic problem. The fact that you're taking the time to read this article means you're likely already aware of the problem and are looking at ways to reduce your impact.
Know you are doing your best to reduce the effects of plastic pollution and although it's easy to get discouraged, there are thousands of other people just like you, all over the world, trying to reduce their impact too.
2. Going Plastic Free requires baby steps
You won't be able to remove all single use plastic from your household right away.
Focus on what you can replace today that will make a difference. It can be just one item. One of the easiest products to start with is replacing your plastic cling wrap with Bees Wax Wraps or Home Compostable Cling Wrap to wrap your lunches or leftovers. Just remember that any compostable plastics will need to be composted in order for them to break down. So if you opt for compostable or bio-plastic options make sure you have a means of disposing them correctly.
You don't have to throw your traditional plastic cling wrap way. Keep it in your cupboard and only use it for those rare occasions when you don't have enough beeswax wraps or the item is something that's not suitable for a wrap or reusable container. You'll find that box of cling wrap will stay in the cupboard or draw for a lot longer than you'd expect.
3. Seek out alternatives or go DIY
EORTH'S online shop is full of great zero waste, plastic free alternatives to many household and day-to-day items. If you already have a toothbrush that you recently purchased, don't rush out to buy a Bamboo Toothbrush, wait until your current brush is ready to be disposed of.
You can also go the DIY method. Don't have any more plastic bags under the kitchen sink and are wondering what you're going to use to put your garbage in? Use a paper bread bag or try making a bin liner out of newspaper, there's a plethora of websites and YouTube videos that will show you how it's done.
4. Check your garbage
Looking at what you're throwing away is a great way to discover items that can be replaced with more eco-friendly, zero waste alternatives. Can those items be 100% recycled? Can the packaging be reused or repurposed? Can the packaging or item be composted, or are they destined to end up in the landfill? You'd be surprised how much you can compost: your hair, dryer lint, vacuum dust.
Items like dental floss you'll want to eliminate. This doesn't mean throwing away the container and floss you're currently using, but rather replacing it with more eco friendly options once the container is empty. Plastic Free Silk and Vegan Dental Floss are both great alternatives to regular dental floss.
5. Be kind, we're all in this together
We are all on different paths in our journey. Some people may simply be unaware of the global problem we are facing. Some may have recently come to the realisation that single use plastics are a problem and are just beginning their journey. The only actions we can control are our own. Do the best you can while encouraging and supporting others, regardless of what stage they are at in their journey.
It doesn't matter how far along on the journey we are, we are all working towards the same goal. Eliminating single use plastics from our homes and lives.
Going zero waste won't happen overnight, and it probably won't happen within a year. Do what you can to reduce your use. You'll be surprised how easy some changes are to make, an in turn how much less waste you'll be contributing to the landfill.
Have you participated in a previous #plasticfreejuly challenge or participating in your first challenge? Share your experiences and tips below.
Author Bio - Catherine Anne Earle
Thanks for reading. I'm Cathy the founder of EORTH Australia, an online store that stocks only plastic free products.
I started EORTH after participating in a Plastic Free July many years ago. A few days into the Plastic Free July challenge I soon became aware of just how damaging plastics were to the environment, and although I was conscious of my consumer choices, products packaged in single use plastic and household products from of plastic materials were still very high on my list of purchases.
After lengthy searches for alternatives to plastic products I soon realised that there were a lot of eco stores that sold some plastic free products, but very few really got down to the heart of the plastics issues and said a big hard "no" to selling products that contained plastics — and that is exactly what EORTH is all about.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Management and was the owner and founder of Sun Peaks Independent News, a community newspaper based in British Columbia, Canada.
After moving back to Australia several years ago I now reside in Palm Cove a beachside suburb in my hometown of Cairns — the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.