Welcome to Plastic-free July! This month’s challenge takes place in nearly every aspect of your life…
July goal: To participate in plastic-free July by cutting back on overall plastic use.
This month, the OSOF Sustainable Me challenge teams up with Plastic Free July to encourage everyone to reduce their overall plastic use.
Did you know that every piece of plastic ever made is still around? It might look a bit different than it did originally – discoloured, warped, or in smaller pieces perhaps. Some of it has broken down into pieces so tiny, they are practically invisible to the human eye. This plastic litter is found nearly everywhere – city parks, landfills, forests, pastures, roadsides and of course, the ocean. Plastic waste has even been reported in some of the most remote places on earth including an uninhabited coral atoll in the Pacific and the Arctic Ocean.
Plastic is found nearly everywhere in our lives, too. Our food comes wrapped in it, our clothing is spun from it and our hospitals use it to save lives. Plastic is found in our wallets, our toys, our cars and our electronics. Try to go a day, or even an hour, without touching a piece of plastic, and I’ll bet you have a hard time doing so.
It can be overwhelming to think about all that plastic, and to see a path forward to a reduced-plastic life, much less a plastic-free one. Removing all plastic from your life is extremely difficult –prohibitively so for most of us. But every tiny step in the right direction helps, and this month you are encouraged to take one. Consider starting with a pledge from Plastic Free July. Click on the ‘Yes, I accept the challenge’ link and choose your level and duration of commitment. There’s something there for everyone, whether you’re a plastic-free novice or an expert plastic-avoider.
If you’re a newbie, a great place to start is with single-use plastics, which constitute much of our plastic waste and unnecessary plastic use. These include things like disposable cups, plastic bags, straws, plastic cutlery, takeaway containers and other use once/toss in the bin type disposables. These plastics are currently the most problematic and fortunately also the easiest to eliminate from your life.
Beyond refusing disposables, use the power of your wallet to purchase items made from little or no plastic. Shop at your local farmer’s market or bulk store, choose cardboard and glass over plastic containers. If you’re making larger decisions this month, like buying clothes, furniture, electronics, bedding or dishes, find plastic alternatives where possible. As with any behaviour change, it is important to try and find permanent solutions to the problem. Don’t just put off purchasing plastic this month. Instead, pick a new behaviour that works for you and practice it to see whether it can be incorporated into your long-term routine.
What you can do:
Focus on ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’ rather than recycle – buying and using less plastic means less of it enters the waste stream. Simply find ways to use less and dispose of less. Check out these tips for living a plastic-free life and alternatives to single-use plastics. See the resources section below for more!
Pick it up – walking by plastic litter on the street is almost as bad as putting it there in the first place. It often doesn’t take much effort to bend over to pick up that bottle, wrapper or bag blowing down the street. Collect it and dispose of it responsibly, even though someone else couldn’t be bothered.
Talk about it – encourage your friends and family to participate. We are more likely to stick with a new activity if other people can support us, hold us accountable, and model good environmental behaviour.
Share it with your community – Check out this list from Plastic-free July about how to organise a plastic-free event in your community.
How to participate:
Choose the level below that works for you, and don’t forget to upload a picture of yourself finding ways to kick the plastic habit. Include the hashtag #OSOFSustainableMe and you could be featured on the Plastic Free New Zealand page!
Here’s what to do:
Beginner: Start with something simple – pledge to go plastic free for a day or a week. Check out the resources above and below and find something that works for you. Choose a new behaviour and practice it. It’s that simple.
Step it up: Remove all single-use plastics from your life for one full month.
Want more? Can you go one full month without adding any plastic to the waste stream – single use or otherwise? Challenge yourself to give it a try! Even if it doesn’t work, you will probably learn something along the way that you can incorporate into your regular plastic-reduction routine.
How does it help?
In so many ways! Plastics in our environment are affecting life in ways we don’t yet understand. They are found everywhere. In particular, ocean plastics are entering the marine food chain – one in which so many of us participate. They are responsible for the deaths of countless marine creatures who mistake them for food. Reducing your plastic use (and not just recycling!) helps keep plastic particles out of the oceans and other environments.
Resources: (Please note, this is not an endorsement of these organizations, stores or products from OSOF, just a suggestion of how to get started)
Everything you need to know about Plastic Free July
NZ-made re-useable food wraps – great for wrapping up sandwiches, cheeses, vegetables and snacks. Check out these wraps from Hamilton’s Sweetree Honey. They even sell a make-your own kit so you can do it yourself!
Everything you need to know about having a plastic free life
Contributor: Andrea Greene Liberatore