Plastic Free July: What I've Learned

The end of the month is fast approaching and first of all I cannot believe how quickly July flew by. The times of summer days spent lounging and wondering how a day was going to be filled are sadly gone. I am trying to work out an idea for a monthly challenge that will hopefully make my August a little more leisurely than July has felt, so check back soon for that.

I wanted to summarize how the month of Plastic Free July has been for me. I was able to make lots of positive changes over the course of the month, but I think my biggest accomplishment was becoming aware of just how difficult it is to live plastic free. Plastic free living takes planning and  it takes research. I have never been more aware of how second nature it is to use unnecessary plastic. I still reach for plastic produce bags. I have made the choice to go without a morning tea or take out food because I'm having a disorganized day and the reusable containers from home aren't with me (I have also found myself without any other choice but to use the single use plastic thing and there's  no guilt, nobody is perfect!). I was really good at leaving a plastic free kit in my purse and car at the beginning of the month, but as the month went by I inevitably would use those items and they wouldn't make it back. 

As Plastic Free July comes to an end I've also been thinking about how many unnecessary products are targeted towards people wanting to live a zero-waste lifestyle. There are many beautiful, creative, products available, and I have enjoyed replacing some of my used single-use, or too worn to use, or recycle, products with sustainable plastic free  products. I'm also all for supporting local business owners, but I've been reminded lately about why I started this challenge. The heart of my choosing this challenge was de-cluttering! I feel like I did well in learning about, and practicing reusing, and recycling this month, but my overall goal, which was ultimately reducing, didn't go as well. Before the month ends I want to take an inventory of what I have and figure out how I can use everything, or whether someone else could benefit from the item. Hopefully I can reduce what I own, use what I have, and be more mindful before I buy.

Here's a summary of some ways I would like to continue reducing as I move forward, as well as some positive things that happened this Plastic Free July.

Yay!: I have significantly reduced the amount of packaged goods I buy from the grocery store. I have really been enjoying buying bulk from local dispensary and refill stores. I have not only reduced my plastic but I now also buy less unnecessary grocery items. I have also been declining plastic bags and using no plastic produce bags.

What's Next: I would like to get better at planning ahead so I have to make less spontaneous grocery trips. I find the spontaneous drop ins for quick dinners are where I end up collecting the most plastic. If I plan ahead I have more ability to source out plastic free options, hit up a farmers market, or make things from scratch.

Yay!: I've mostly only used my reusable cup for coffee shop trips. The one time I didn't have my cup the coffee shop I was at had cups that could be composted. I have managed to save some money bringing my own cup, which is always nice.

What's Next: Although I didn't use many single use cups I did sacrifice having a beverage from a coffee shop several times because I didn't have my cup on me. I need to get better at leaving (or putting things back) into my bag, or car, so they are accessible for when I need them next. 

Yay!: I decreased my overall trash by a considerable amount! Between my roommate and I, we were probably throwing out a bag a week, but now with the new recycling system I put in place (and after researching recycling so I actually know what goes where!) we have had 1.5 trash bags for the entire month!

What's Next: All the recycling we've been collecting and organizing that can't go to the curbside is still sitting in the recycling box. I need to make a trip to the recycling depot, and figure out how I can fit more regular recycling depot trips into my schedule.

Yay!: I have said no to plastic straws and other disposable take out containers by carrying my own stainless steel straw and reusable take out containers. Although awkward at first, I am getting better at requesting no plastic with my take out and that my food  be placed in my container. So far all the restaurants I've done this at have been really agreeable in accommodating me.

What's Next: Because I find it awkward to sometimes ask for things in my own container, especially if I'm with bigger groups, I haven't always had the time to communicate what the reason is behind my request. This means sometimes I get it in my own container, but also in a plastic bag, or as the picture below shows, with every individual component inside my container plastic wrapped! I'd like to improve my communication in asking for things plastic free!

Yay!: I started this challenge and it has opened the door to so many amazing conversations with people who have been reading along and/or participating in Plastic Free July. I have loved sharing what I have been learning and hearing how other people in my community have reduced their plastic use. Some highlights are: my grandma brought our theater snacks that she usually packs in Ziploc in reusable containers this year; my roommates grandma is moving towards eliminating plastic water bottles. Lots of family and friends have traded their single use plastic products for reusable products. I've seen snacks wrapped in Abeego, stainless steel and glass straws being used, friends trying their hand at refilling and using glass containers for their bulk buys!

What's Next: I want to keep the conversation going! I love learning from each person I talk to about reducing plastic, you encourage me to stay motivated in reducing my plastic and waste. Although I will be moving onto a new monthly challenge for August, I will continue to reduce my plastic as much as possible. I also have focused most of my efforts this month on reducing plastic use in the kitchen and when I'm out and about, over the next months I want to get better at going plastic free in the bathroom and with my personal care products! Continue to check out my Instagram for plastic free living inspiration, and to follow along as I continue learning. 

Living plastic free is difficult and at this point in our world it is not a completely attainable goal for everyone. I want to commit to continuing to reduce the amount of single use plastic products I use beyond the month of July. Every little thing makes a difference, so I will continue to take baby steps and not beat myself up when sometimes the convenience of plastic wins. I challenge everyone to keep making little changes. Change can be slow but it's a valuable process to press into.  Be non judgmental, be approachable for teaching, try not to critique and condescend to people who just don't know. Observe your community and note where plastic is used, dream up ways it can be reduced, take little steps, or be bold to approach businesses and leaders in your community to advocate for bigger change. 

Thanks for reading along! Keep posted for the August Monthly Challenge coming soon!

-Victoria