Plastic Free July – Success?

Plastic Free July was a success in that I reduced my plastic intake and learned A LOT, but I was definitely unable to completely eradicate plastic from my lifestyle.

I got better as the month went on and learned where and how to cut back on plastics, but this was not an easy task. In today’s world, plastic is so ingrained in our lives that I was finding it in every single thing I bought. I thought I’d share a few things I learned over the month:

  1. Buy less or buy more! Contradictory I know, but if everything you buy comes packaged in plastic, think to yourself if you really need it (usually you don’t). If it is something you need, see if you can buy it in bulk. Buying bulk saves a lot of plastic packaging and it usually comes out cheaper. Pasta is a great example of something you can buy in bulk, is non-perishable, and will reduce your plastic use (even the boxes of pasta have silly little plastic windows!).
  2. Plastic bags were the easiest thing to get rid of! The only plastic I managed to completely eradicate was the plastic bag, and it was a lot easier than I thought. Keeping a canvas bag in my purse (for impromptu purchases) and bringing numerous canvas bags for grocery shopping was the way to go!
  3. Convenience = Plastic! Getting drive-thru instead of making food at home = plastic; same goes for delivery (unless it’s pizza!). Coffee/Tea places were far better set up for reusable mugs than other places. Every time we got a cold beverage, it came with plastic. And let’s face it, it’s summer!
  4. Reusable food containers are the best! You can do without plastic sandwich bags and cling wrap if you have enough reusable containers. We’ve got a big drawer full of them ranging in size from dip containers to ones hold a whole loaf of bread.
  5. Buy local! Buying bread from the local bakery is less likely to come packaged in plastic than bread you buy from the store, and the same goes for loads of fruits and veggies. Visit your local farmer’s market, help local farmers, get better tasting food, and enjoy plastic free!

Next step? Not stopping tomorrow! The point of this challenge is not to go plastic free for a month and then slide right back into old habits. Make the changes and stick with them. Don’t beat yourself up when you get stuck with some plastic; simply recycle it and plan on how to avoid it next time!

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Plastic Free July

The title basically says it all! This July, join me and countless others at www.plasticfreejuly.org and reduce our use of single-use plastic items!

Coffee lids, straws, plastics bags and much much! These plastic items are made to be used once (for a half an hour mostly) and thrown away! Plastic lasts in our environment longer than we do and much of it winds up in our oceans where wildlife ingest it.

First step, identifying all of my common single-use plastic items! It was honestly surprising realizing how many items are ingrained in our every day lives.

Second step, replacing all of these items with a plastic free alternative (or at least a multi-use plastic alternative).

So here’s my starting list:

  • Coffee Lids. The best option is to just avoid getting beverages to go in the first place. it’s better for the environment and better for your pocketbook! If you’re still stopping at your local Tim’s or Starbucks, use a reusable mug instead. Lots of places actually offer discount if you bring your own mug, so there’s another incentive. I’ll be leaving a mug in my car for those spontaneous trips!
  • Plastic Bags. Whether its your grocery bag or sandwich bags, both are meant to have a very short life span. Luckily however, you can substitute both for reusable options! Take canvas bags when you’re headed for groceries. The bags hold more, and you can avoid the 5 cent charge for plastic bags too. Packing a sandwich for lunch, opt for the Tupperware containers instead.
  • Plastic Straws. If the liquid is in a glass, you don’t require a straw. If you’re at a movie theater though, it’s a little harder to drink from your cup and you still get the unavoidable plastic drink lid. Here’s another option that’s also cheaper; sneak in beverages in reusable drink containers or at least bottles that you can recycle.
  • Water Bottles. Another reusable option that happens to be cheaper (there is a trend here)! Fill a reusable water bottle at home before you go out and keep it in your purse, car or backpack. Lots of places have fountains where you can even refill your bottle.
  • Packaging. This one is trickier! Look for alternatives to the plastic packaging. Examples include buying pop in cardboard cases instead of plastic rings or using paper bags instead of plastic bags for your bulk items.

I’m off to a rocky start today already since we decided to order in food for Canada Day. My current tally is:

  • Two forks
  • One bag
  • One straw
  • One lid

Everything got recycled at least, and now I got my game face on! The point of this is to try and reduce your plastic, not beat yourself up over a straw. If you get stuck with some single-use plastic items, make sure you’re reusing or recycling them to keep them out of our landfills.

Cleaning up our Environment, One Shoreline at a Time

This Earth Day I set up a Shoreline Cleanup through the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and it was a spectacular success! If you’ve never heard of the event before, I highly recommend checking it out. Events are available all over Canada and you can either join a public cleanup or coordinate your own event.

The event was a success in that we cleaned up bags of garbage from the shoreline of the Bow River, but also as a personal success. There are times I don’t feel like I do enough “on the ground” environmental work, which is actually funny since I work on the ground in the environmental industry. But literally picking up garbage from shoreline makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside and really gives me the sense that I’m contributing to the health of our Earth.

In total, we removed 3 large bags of garbage! The most common items were cigarette butts, food wrappers and little bits of plastic. When you look at the common garbage that winds up in our rivers, its plain to see that humanity has a dependence on plastics and convenience items.

So if you’re ever struggling like me and not feeling like you do enough for our planet, just step back and think of all that you do in fact do. Every time you “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, you are keeping garbage out of our landfills and out of our natural areas. Every time you pick up a piece of garbage from the sidewalk or opt for low waste packaging, you are making a real difference in our world. Together, lets just focus on taking these small steps toward eco-friendly living and over time, you will see a difference!

7 Ways to Use Less Plastic!

1) Buy in Bulk!

A lot of our plastic use comes from packaging! An easy way yo reduce this is to buy certain things in bulk! Pasta and other dried goods, such as beans or spices, are easy to buy in bulk and store in reusable containers. You can find some great ideas for food storage on Pinterest!

2) Stop Buying Water Bottles!

It takes more water to make those bottles than they hold. Ditch the plastic water bottles and grab a reusable bottle. Better yet, grab a filtered water jug and keep fresh water in your fridge at all times.

3) Be an Eco-Friendly Shopper!

The reusable shopping bags are much more sturdy, can carry a lot more, and save a lot of plastic! One complaint I hear is that they take up a lot of space, but you can get some sweet bags that fold up all pretty in your purse. Keep a few in the trunk of your car and use them when you buy groceries. Lots of grocery stores are starting to charge for plastic bags, so this is also a great way to save money!

4) Smarter Food Storage!

When saving your leftovers, use reusable plastic containers or even glass containers. Single use plastic sandwich bags can really add up (in cost as well!). Save your containers from food purchases, such as margarine containers; the big ones make excellent food storage for soups and stews!

5) Don’t Be Lazy!

I know how tempting it is to have plastic plates and cutlery, especially when you have company over. Take the extra time to use your dishware and just throw it in the dishwasher. If dishware just isn’t feasible (ie. camping), opt for recycled paper products instead!

6) Opt for Non-Plastic!

There are lots of items that come in plastic and a non-plastic alternative. If you’re shopping for a new items, take a look at the different materials and opt for the non-plastic. Storage containers are a great example here. You can get some really nice wicker or cloth baskets to store things, instead of going with the plastic container.

7) Lastly, Recycle!

If you can’t completely get rid of plastic, make sure you are recycling the plastic you have. This plastic goes back to the manufacturers and gets remade into products. Plastic is still being used, but at least you’re helping the manufacturers use less plastic too!

Take a look around your house and you’ll soon realize how much plastic we own! Have other ideas on how to reduce your plastic use? Share them below!