The concept is actually quite simple...but the impact could be huge. Plastic Free July (www.plasticfreejuly.org) is asking people from all over the world to "Choose to Refuse" single-use plastic for the month of July—and hopefully beyond.
The site is loaded with amazing resources that can help us all cut down our plastic waste consumption. I have taken the pledge myself on behalf of Team Pela and I know that it won't be easy. Single-use plastics are insidious in my life...like the individually plastic wrapped ice cream sandwiches in my freezer and my addiction to instant ramen noodles. Note to self: you're a grown up, stop eating instant noodles so much!!
Anyways, I know that to succeed with my pledge I need two things: commitment and preparation.
Beyond those abstract sentiments I'm also going to remember to carry a few things with me. Now everyone will have a different pack-it-in-the-morning list but here is how I avoid many plastic pitfalls on a regular day:
Reusable Tote Bag
I use my TEDx Toronto swag tote a lot (because it can be crumpled real small to throw in my purse) but I've also inherited a lot of reusable bags over the years from people bringing beers and wine over for dinner parties. These are great for grocery shopping and of course bringing beers and wine over to other people's dinner parties (and continuing the cycle of leaving a bag behind hah!)
^Like this bag, but more Toronto-ey :)
Carrying a tote or reusable bag saves me at least 1-2 plastic bags anytime I shop. Sometimes I do use plastic bags at the grocery store so I can line my trash bin. I feel like this makes it less single use and I don't have to buy plastic bags for that sole purpose -- not sure how all zero-wasters stand on this issue but I'll keep researching to see if there's an even better way to go!
Reusable Coffee Cup
I recently had my coffee knocked right out of my hands and broke the lid into three non fixable pieces (SOB) —it was an awesome Contigo stainless steel reusable cup that kept my coffee warm for hours. I drink coffee at a snail's pace so this was the perfect cup for me.
Alas, for Plastic Free July I have found a stand-in cup that I bought at a local coffee shop. It's plastic and it's not great (or leak proof) so I'm kind of mad that I impulsively purchased it but I will use the crap out of it.
This saves me roughly TWO plastic lined cups and plastic lids Monday to Friday. So 10 a week...that adds up to around 520 LESS waste just from one person doing one thing. It really does add up!
Here's what I was carrying around before aforementioned mishap:
RIP Contigo #missyou
Reusable Water Bottle
I have drank the S'well Bottle Kool-aid...and it's oh-so cold and refreshing! Even after 24 hours...I mean, what is that sorcery? They are pricey but they're beautiful and functional so I say it's a great investment. That being said, I did get mine as a gift ;)
Reusable Tumbler with Straw
I'm a smoothie nut but I hated how much waste I was creating (not to mention money I was paying) to get one from a smoothie shop. They're so easy to make in my NutriBullet and luckily, I got a reusable plastic tumbler in another swag bag many moons ago that I never had a reason to use.
Side note: I have been to a lot of tech events in my lifetime, hence swag bags. Yes there was ample amounts of useless crap but as you can tell from this blog, also some practical things.
This tumbler set I have comes with its own straw and I am worried it's not the best grade of plastic but for now, it does the trick. I clean it with a bamboo skewer and a little bit of paper towel. I think when I'm ready for an upgrade, I'll get those cool Eco Jarz I've been seeing or just some stainless steel straws with cleaning brush. But for now, it's all about the use what you have principle.
Here's the dream smoothie jar I've been eyeing:
Reusable Glass Containers
When I moved into my new apartment, I pretty much started from scratch. Not because I threw everything out but because I actually didn't own anything. #squatterslife
So when it was time for bowls/tupperware I opted for glassware (I bought Pyrex brand and I didn't know they were a contentious brand until reading a few Facebook group comments) but they are so handy for what I need them for.
I pack my lunch in them in the morning or sometimes I even carry an empty one in case I eat out and can't finish my meal. If I can remember.
Again: commitment AND preparation, right?
Sometimes I'll admit, it's a lot to remember and it's a lot to carry. I feel like a bag lady most days and if I need to go somewhere after work, it can be a little bit of a nuisance.
But when I think about complaining about these things: the weight, the inconvenience etc I remind myself that I'd rather carry this bag every morning than a guilty conscience every day.
And as inconvenient as it may seem at a micro level, the big picture is that trashing our planet with waste will lead to long term detriment in the future aka climate chaos, killing innocent species and ecosystems, lack of clean water and oceans and I could go on.
The days I feel weakened resolve, I just turn to some of the awesome people who are constantly providing tools and words of encouragement to keep the groundswell growing.
Shout out to those peeps:
- Kathryn from Going Zero Waste
- Andrea from Be Zero
- Lauren Singer from Trash is For Tossers and Package Free Shop
- Rob Greenfield
And so so many more inspiring people and content channels.
Good luck on all your journeys to reducing waste. Remember, it's not about being perfect, it's about doing better, little by little.