Plastic Free July

Ella Shares her Tips for a Plastic Free July.

Plastic Free July is the movement that first made aware of the amount of single use plastic that I was consuming and throwing away.

The idea is that you use July to take some steps towards choosing to refuse single use plastic. If you’re not sure why single use plastic is such a problem then check this out:

Recycling is helpful but it’s not the solution

So it seems that old ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ that we were taught growing up in the ‘80s is the right way to look at it. If you don’t purchase something with single use plastic packaging in the first place then you don’t have the problem of trying to reuse or recycle it.

I for one do not want my kid to grow up in world where there is more plastic in the ocean than fish (projected to happen in 2050 at our current rate of pollution) so 3 years ago I joined in a Plastic Free July. I was living in London at the time (on a very long OE!) and they had recently introduced a charge for single use plastic bags in shops/supermarkets, I had noticed that it had definitely changed people’s behaviour which made me hopeful that more change was possible.

The main thing I found at first was that once you start seeing single use plastic it is everywhere – and I mean EVERYWHERE!

At first this was a bit overwhelming but as I slowly started incorporating different plastic free ideas into my life it felt more manageable. Some of the ideas are simple easy to make changes and some require more thought and time. The following ideas are things I have found easy to change and they are good first steps towards using less plastic:

1. Get a re-usable coffee cup and keep it in your car/bag. It doesn’t take much practice before you get in the habit of taking it along with you if you think you might get a coffee while out and about. If you forget it then you can always take a bit more time and drink in!

2. Ditto a reusable water bottle.

3. Take a Tupperware with you if you need to go and get a takeaway lunch or snack. Most places are happy to fill them for you (at PENZL we have some office lunchboxes specifically for this purpose). Also there are now some supermarket delis that will put things into your own container.

4. Take re-usable bags to the supermarket/shops and that includes some string bags for the veggies. This is something most of us do since plastic bags were banned in NZ last year - something that used to be ‘alternative’ when my parents used to take their own bags in the ‘80s and ‘90s is now totally mainstream.

5. Use beeswax wraps for food storage in the fridge and wrapping snacks instead of gladwrap.

6. Switch to plastic free toiletries. It might take a few goes to find brands you like/that work for you but there are some great products out there. Here are some ideas:

  • Ethique Shampoo and face cleanser bars

  • Good old fashioned bar soap

  • A beautiful stainless steel safety razor with proper blades – no more ugly pink plastic ladies razors (also applicable if you are a guy who shaves his face rather than legs!). It may cost a chunk of money to start with but it’s much cheaper in the long run.

  • Deodorant that comes in a glass jar

  • Rosehip oil and coconut oil (both in glass jars) as moisturisers.

  • Moon cups and period pants – as a bonus these save you tons of money in the long run. I just wish someone had told me about these years ago!

7. Re-fill bottles for your cleaning products, I can re-fill my Ecostore cleaning and laundry products at the Huckleberry shop just down the road, also cheaper than buying a new bottle of whatever. Ecostore have lots of refill points

There is also not much around the house that you can’t clean with baking soda made into a paste with a bit of water!

Here are some more ideas from Plastic Free July:

Sometimes there are nice surprises like when the company that makes my kid’s multi-vitamins switched to aluminium tins instead of plastic bottles. As consumers we can change things by voting with our wallets and seeking out plastic free products. There are some great ones out there and lots that are made right here in NZ.

I’m still on this journey to reduce my plastic consumption and this July I will be looking at the area that I find hardest and trying to make some more changes. That area is food – it is so hard to do a supermarket shop without buying a bunch of single use plastic wrapping. There are of course options like Bin Inn and more fancy bulk food shops like The Source but it is hard to get everything you want and it is often more expensive. So this year I will be trying to find alternatives to products I currently use and experimenting with making a few more things from scratch.

Maybe you already do some of these things or even most of these things, I hope that this year you might consider taking on the Plastic Free July challenge and seeing what other changes you can make. Share these changes with your friends and family and you may inspire others to make changes too.

"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." - Mother Teresa