{Plastic Free July} : the top 4 things you can do

Think about it, why would you make something that you’re going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever, and you’re just going to throw it away.

What’s up with that?”
— Jeb Berrier (Bag It movie)

If the idea of spending a whole month without using ANY plastic sends you into a mild state of panic (as in "but everything seems to made of plastic!) then panic not, because this challenge is about reducing our dependence on single use disposable plastic

So no need to stop driving your car, using your phone or computer or camera or TV or - wow, it really IS in everything isn't it??? No, no, this challenge is much more straight forward. And there are 4 items that we can all stop using immediately without much hardship, which will make an enormous difference to the amount of plastic which either goes to landfill, or worse, ends up in our oceans. 

1. Disposable Coffee Cups

Take your own (there are lots of brands now making these, which are based on the original Keep Cup design). We each have Keep Cups, and carry them with us whenever we are out and about.

Or simply take your own mug - most cafes will happily fill your own container with coffee nowadays, and a lot will even offer a discount to do so. If they say "no", move on and find another cafe that will. It's the power of the consumer to create change for good!

And here's a novel idea, remember when we all took the time to sit down in the cafe and enjoy the coffee? Why on earth do we need to drink coffee while walking about anyway? It tastes a lot nicer if you take the few moments to sit down and enjoy it - so embrace the moment of calm in your busy day - la dolce vita. 


2. Ditch the Straw.

Ask the bartender not to give you a straw in your drink, or carry your own re-usable type. If you're throwing a party, colourful plastic straws are just another waste of money to give a few moments of colour and pleasure - there are better alternatives.

You can get straws made from bamboo or stainless steel which can be used over and over. Or simply avoid the straw - use colourful fruit cut up into little pieces to provide a splash of brightness. Kiwi-fruit, banana, cherries, strawberries, mandarin - whatever's in season is easy. 
Note: most "paper" straws are lined with plastic, so while they seem environmentally friendly, they are greenwashing. 


3. Avoid Single Use Plastic Water Bottles.

This one is so simple - because it's an easy habit to tuck your own refillable water bottle into your bag each day. With a bit of practice, it will become second nature before stepping out.  

There are SO many brands and designs to choose from now, made from glass, steel or aluminium, all of which are fully recyclable in their own right when they finally reach the end of their life cycle. And they are properly recyclable materials, unlike plastic which is lower quality every time it is recycled, meaning most of it is ultimately going to end up in landfill or the oceans. 
We love our stainless steel drink bottles, as they are unbreakable and steel is inert. Yes they do have plastic stoppers, it is true, but if we could find a version that was all steel, we'd love to have it! Let us know if you've come across a leak-proof version like that. 


4. Refuse the Plastic Shopping Bag.

Last on the list, because it's the single most important thing to avoid, is the plastic shopping bag. 

When a retail assistant reaches for a bag (often to pack a single item) simply say no. Often times if buying one or two items, they can be simply carried in your hands, pockets or bag. And if you always carry a little fold up bag with you, you'll always be prepared. We mostly remember to carry our own bags, but if we forget, we'll carry the items in our hands, pockets or handbags. It's a good reminder not to forget them next time!! 

And when we are doing the weekly shop, we'll carry our collection of vintage wicker baskets & hessian shopping bags. Some of these hessian bags are a little worse for wear after 5 years of faithful service, so they'll be going in the compost bin, and I've ordered some of the shopping bags from the Tote Project, to replace them. They will be fabulous for shopping expeditions that are plastic free. Made from organic cotton and recycled saris, they'll not only be useful, but beautiful too, and importantly are making lives better as they are made by rescued victims of trafficking, in a fair trade certified factory in India. (So they tick ALL my boxes!!) 

For more tips and tricks, visit the Plastic Free July website which is full of useful information about how we can all make simple changes to reduce the amount of plastic from single-use disposable items. Because as somebody famous once noted, 

“There is no Planet B.”
— UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Ocean & bee image by FKQ.