It's pretty rare to go a day online nowadays without seeing a post about pollution, plastic waste or even the #RefuseTheStraw movement. But chances are, you probably haven't heard of Plastic-Free July. It's a campaign that actually started in 2011 that asks people to pledge against single-use plastic for the month of July. If you've found that simply asking for no straw with your drink is super easy and a great way to cut out unnecessary waste, then this challenge is definitely for you. We may already be a bit into July but it's never too late to start! And who knows, maybe you'll keep doing these things after the 31st.
1. Use A Reusable Water Bottle
This one probably seems obvious but until it becomes ingrained into your everyday routine it can be difficult to remember. Water bottles are key to staying hydrated while reducing your plastic waste. Even if you are used to recycling your plastic water bottles, reducing and reusing always comes before recycling. Bonus points for using a stainless steel or glass bottle!
2. Use A Reusable Tumbler
This probably just sounds like a fancy version of another water bottle to you but just hear me out. If you’re used to getting iced drinks from your local coffee shop, a tumbler with a straw is one of the best options to reduce your waste. It’s easy for the barista to fill and has the convenience of a straw that you don’t have to worry about forgetting at home. If you like to get Starbucks Frappuccinos, however, it’s best if you buy your tumbler directly from Starbucks so that it has the correct measurements on it (otherwise, the barista will use and throw away a plastic cup!).
3. Bring Your Own Take-Out Containers
Summer is the best time to try out new restaurants as well as visit old favorites. If you go out to eat, try to pack some reusable containers so you can bring any extra food home with you. It’s a double-whammy: not only will it reduce your plastic waste but your food waste as well! It may take a few times before you consistently remember it but once you do you’ll be wondering why you never did it before.
4. Weed Through Your Makeup Supply
Chances are that if you use makeup, you’re wasting a lot more than you should be. Going through your supply and taking inventory of how often you use items as well as whether or not the packaging can be recycled is a great way to feel more organized and reduce your waste. Knowing your own usage will help you to refine your purchases in the future, which saves your wallet and the environment respectively. And even though most makeup packaging can’t go into your recycling bin, anything that has a green dot symbol on it means that the company has a program to recover and recycle the packaging themselves!
5. Go Thrift Shopping
Thrift shopping is one of the simple joys in life, whether or not you take the environmental impact into account. Thrift stores usually don’t use more than one tag per article of clothing or sometimes none at all. Even though it may seem small, all the small plastic bits that hold the tags to the clothing add up. Thrift shopping also gives you a higher chance of finding vintage or slow-fashion items that don’t include plastic fabrics (such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex) and that have increased in popularity over the last several years. You can watch this video to learn more about choosing your fabrics, but it’s okay to have some synthetic fibers. Speaking of, this brings me to my next point…
6. Use A Microfiber Catcher With Your Laundry
When you wash your clothes, tiny microfibers come off of the clothes and drain out with the rest of the water. When this happens with a biodegradable fabric such as cotton or linen, it doesn’t present an issue to the environment. But fibers made from plastic (such as the ones listed in the point above), are one of the largest contributors to plastic pollution in the ocean. Some washing machines are already equipped with a microfiber catcher but they can wear down over time and don’t always catch everything. You can get the microfiber-catching Cora Ball here; and after a few washes, you’ll be shocked by the amount of waste your clothes really produce.
7. Make Your Own Snacks
The last item on this list is definitely my favorite. The summer heat and extra activity probably make you want to grab for that granola bar or other snacks a couple of times a day. But since school is out, there’s so much free time to simply make your own! It seems expensive to buy all the ingredients at first but since you can make big batches of treats all at once it saves you a lot of money in the end! Not to mention the fact that you don’t have to throw away any individual packaging. Here are some recipes to get you started. Bonus points if you invite your friends over to join in!
As you can see, it's super simple for anyone to start reducing their plastic waste. Some of these things you can start right away but it's okay if it takes some time to adjust to these new habits. Responsible consumption isn't about perfection and just making the decision to work towards less waste is the most important step. So take that motivation and start looking at the role of plastic in your life: soon enough you'll wonder why you ever needed it in the first place.