July is upon us, and for the second time I am partaking in Plastic Free July. Although I am more prepared than last year, my expectations are much higher – this year I aim to avoid plastic completely. Last year, about 120 million people participated, and with today’s strong momentum for anti-plastic movements, I dare to hope the numbers will rise this year!
Last year’s Plastic Free July was when I really started adapting new habits to reduce plastic, and although I learned a lot, I still ended up using more than I expected. That might partly be explained by the fact that I measured my plastic consumption for the first time! A year later, with more knowledge and more plastic free alternatives available, I am ready to raise the bar and hopefully go completely plastic free! Here’s my top 5 tips for success:
• A minimalist approach
As great as it is that sustainability has become trendy, it makes it slightly harder to navigate. Many fast fashion brands use buzzwords in marketing to promote products that are far from sustainable. Even airlines are now promising to become carbon neutral!
Research and self-education will help you identify products that are less damaging for the planet, but it is just as important to reduce overall consumption and use what you already have. You probably don’t need a new pair of earrings, three different shampoos, 20 pairs of shoes or a new phone every year. Keep fewer things and mend when needed.
• Never leave home without a reuse bottle
If you ask any zero-waste blogger what to carry in your hand bag, you’ll get an endless list of everything from cutlery to napkins and jars. This is not always realistic when running out the door, going to an event, or carrying a smaller bag. If you can just grab one thing, make sure it’s a reusable water bottle! I know I’ll end up buying a plastic bottle if I forget mine, and with the increasing number of refill stations popping up, there’s no reason not to bring one!
• Allow more time
A lot of plastic free alternatives require some DIY. Set aside time to make your own cleaning products, deodorant, or face scrub. You’ll also realise that making food from scratch helps a lot. Pesto, milk, sauces and nut butter are easy to make but takes some time. Lastly, a packed lunch will save you plastic at work.
• Get it tailored!
It’s no news that we are buying more clothes than we need. It’s not enough to buy organic cotton – we need a shift in our habits and attitudes towards shopping. Fashion is responsible for 92 million tons of landfill waste each year, which makes it clear that we need to buy way less.
Missguided’s recent launch of the £1 bikini is a symbol of the throwaway fashion culture, and is problematic on many levels. Most of us have enough clothes, it can get a bit boring after a while without shopping. Visiting your local charity shop, taking old garments to a tailor to refit or redesign is a great way to renew your wardrobe.
• Go the distance
Food is often mentioned as the hardest area to eliminate plastic. Although some supermarkets are taking steps in reducing packaging (high five, Waitrose!), It’s still impossible to get everything you need plastic free.
Making the effort to go to different shops is not the most convenient, but it makes it easier to avoid unnecessary packaging. Visit your local market for fresh produce, the bakery for bread, and bulk shops for grains – bonus points for bringing your own containers or produce bags. It’s also a great way to explore new areas!
Freya is an environmentalist from Oslo who moved to London four years ago. Freya loves traveling, dogs, and summer evenings in hidden beer gardens. Her favourite eco product is Georganics Natural Floss, who doesn’t love flossing? – not only is it plastic free and biodegradable, it’s even PETA certified!