Plastic touches almost every part of our lives, from your car, your clothes, and all over your house. Let’s take the kitchen for example, as there’s plenty of plastic to be found there. Right away, you probably think of microwavable storage containers, plastic cling wrap, brightly colored utensils, and sandwich bags. But there’s tons of plastic you might not even think about. There’s a good chance the rug in front of your sink is made of polyester, and maybe your dish towels as well. Your toaster and microwave almost certainly have some amount of plastic on them or inside them. Even deeper than that, you can find some right inside the walls of your house, in the form of insulation and the plastic sheathing on electrical cables. The stuff is everywhere in some form or another.
So, hooray for plastic, right? If something is so common in our everyday lives, what could be the issue with it? Well first off, the process by which we create plastic is a dirty one. Most plastics are made from the hydrocarbons in natural gas, oil and coal. On the consumer end, once the plastic products make it into our hands, much of it is designed to be single use, meant to be thrown out as soon as you’re finished with it. More than that, when was the last time you went to the trouble to repair a broken plastic item? What usually happens instead, we throw out the broken thing and buy a new one. Add to that the fact that only 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled, and you start to see a huge problem. Look no further than the various patches of garbage occupying space in our oceans for proof that our plastic addiction is wildly out of hand.
Luckily, humanity is beginning to wise up. Individuals and foundations alike are concerned about our reliance on plastic. Once such a foundation ,The Plastic Free Foundation Ltd,is an independent, not-for-profit organisation established in 2017. The mission of the Plastic Free Foundation is guided and informed by these core values:
- Honesty and integrity
- Inclusivity of people, ideas, visions and approaches
- A focus on providing solutions
- Authenticity and collaboration
- The belief that small changes add up to a big difference
Plastic Free July is a key initiative that actually predates the Plastic Free Foundation itself, started in 2011 by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz (the founder of the Plastic Free Foundation) and a small team in local government in Western Australia. Today, it’s one of the most influential environmental campaigns in the world. Millions of people across the globe take part every year, with many committing to reducing plastic pollution far beyond the month of July.
The overall goal of the Plastic Free July Initiative is to educate folks about how plastic has permeated our lives, and suggests in-depth ways we can reduce our usage. It’s website, plasticfreejuly.org is an invaluable resource.
To start you off, the website has a Pesky Plastics quiz you can take to give you an idea of some of the most basic ways you can change your plastic usage. After you take the quiz, be sure to sign up for the challenge itself. The website has a huge array of suggestions in all areas of your life, from personal and household changes, to ways to reduce your plastic use at work and school, as well as ways to make bigger changes within your local government. I’ll be outlining some of the methods here, but be sure to visit their website for a comprehensive look at going plastic free in your own life, this July and beyond!
- Buy a reusable coffee mug and water bottle to bring along with you on your commute, out to restaurants and beyond
- Buy your veggies without plastic bags, or bring your own reusable produce bags
- Refuse plastics straws if you’re able, or bring along your own reusable straw
- Bring your own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, or choose paper bags where applicable
- Do your best to choose food with less plastic packaging, avoiding things such as pre-packaged muffins, and the styrofoam trays meat and fish are sold on
- Have dedicated containers for things like flour, cereal, pasta, etc. and bring these to bulk stores and refilleries, rather than buying a new container each time
- Avoid plastic cling wrap, instead choosing wax wraps, silicone bowl toppers, reusable cloth or silicone storage bags, or simply reusable containers
- Make plastic-free choices for your pets as well. Focus on natural fibres or recycled materials for toys and beds, choose metal food bowls rather than plastic, and consider pet food sold in plastic-free containers.
- When scooping your pets poo, use compostable poo bags or old newspapers. Repurposing a shopping bag might seem efficient, but the bag still ends up in the landfill at the end of the day.
- Consider making the switch to cloth diapers rather than disposable ones, or use a combination of both, reducing the overall need for the disposable kind
There’s room for a lot of improvement in the bathroom specifically with regards to plastic use. Because of the sanitary nature of the things we do in the bathroom, we tend to think that single-use items are the obvious choice, but it need not be that way.
- Swap disposable razors for one with replaceable blades, and recycle the blades where facilities exist. This can actually save you money in the long run!
- Switch from liquid hand soap to bar soap
- Choose wooden or bamboo toothbrushes, or choose one with a replaceable head
- Floss sticks pack a lot of plastic for a single use. Choose regular floss in a glass or cardboard container, or look for a silk-thread floss alternative
- If you must use Q-tips, choose ones with a cardboard stick rather than a plastic one, or look for a reusable alternative. The same can be said for makeup wipes and pads.
- Look online for tutorials on how to make your own bathroom products, from toothpaste, to shampoo & conditioner, to soaps and lotions
- Try out some alternatives to disposable pads & tampons, like reusable pads, period underwear or menstrual cups. Tampon applicators alone make up a significant portion of plastic waste.
- Choose towels and facecloths that aren’t made from microfibre, as microplastic particles can come off in the wash and contaminate the water supply
- Make the switch from bottled shampoo & conditioner to a bar-type formula, with no plastic packaging (Oh hey, Upfront Cosmetics! :P)
Once you’ve started your own household’s journey to a plastic-free July, you can bring other parts of your life into the fold, by pitching some of these changes at work or school:
- If you have an office break room or kitchen, do an inventory of all the single use plastic found in there. Switch to reusable products where you can, such as ceramic mugs, stainless steel cutlery and glass cups.
- Suggest setting up a more in-depth waste management system, with a bin for paper recycling, a bin for compost, and a bin for soft plastic recycling. This includes things like bread bags, plastic wrappers, etc
- When packing your lunch, buy an insulated lunch bag or bento box, and choose reusable containers or wax wraps rather than snack baggies. Don’t forget to add reusable cutlery!
- Suggest an office- or school-wide plastic-free lunch day. You can even make it into a fun competition!
- Choose to refuse canteen items wrapped in plastic
- Talk to your friends and co-workers about starting a plastic-free initiative and/or a sustainability committee
Once you master the personal and workplace spheres of your life, you can work outward and take your knowledge and passion into your community. Some ways to get your community involved:
- Throw a plastic-free picnic! Invite your friends and neighbors over (at a safe social distance mind you) with guidelines as to how best achieve a plastic free outing: bake, don’t buy, stock up on bulk foods, and encourage everyone to bring their own plates, cups and utensils. Consider making it a monthly outing!
- Grab a projector and a sheet and host an outdoor movie! Just pop some air-pop popcorn, spread out a blanket, and you’re good to go. It’s a great waste-free activity that everyone can enjoy, while keeping plastic free.
- To that end, there are plenty of informative documentaries you might show on the topic of plastic waste. The Plastic Free July website has a list of fantastic options!
- When decorating for events, skip the balloons. Balloons are a choking hazard to any animals that may come upon them, and helium is a precious resource used in medical procedures that’s wasted on single-use balloons.
- Ditch the plastic confetti sequins. Like balloons, confetti can easily blow into drains and on down to the ocean, where they remain in the environment forever. If you’d still like to use confetti, grab a hole punch and make your own out of colorful paper or leaves.
- Organize a clean-up of a green space in your community with your family, friends and neighbors. Promote the event around town, and suggest people bring their own gloves, buckets and other tools. Sort the waste collected, making sure to recycle what you can. Have a plan in place for the waste you collect, whether it be in a bin nearby, or a trip to the landfill. And be sure to post about your event on the Plastic Free July website!
- Contact your local government, or sit in on a public council meeting. Bring your expertise to the table and make suggestions to help your community set achievable goals in plastic reduction, and encourage them to take part in Plastic Free July.
- Plan and host a plastic-free workshop or event. Get like-minded community members to help you, and find community members who are already tackling the plastic problem, and invite them to speak about their work.
- Take care to make any and all events plastic free; you have to walk the walk!
These are all fantastic ways to get started on a Plastic Free July journey, but it’s by no means the end. The Plastic Free July website has an entire detailed list of ways to continue your journey, as well as resources for expanding into your community. In the past, 250 million people from 177 countries have participated in Plastic Free July. Those participants have reduced their household waste and recycling by 23kg per person per year, with a total savings of 825 million kg of plastic waste each year!
At Upfront Cosmetics, we try to do our part not just in July, but all year round! Since the beginning, we’ve done everything we can to cut out plastic from our products, from the production floor, to packaging, to shipping our products. Our bars will always be found in recyclable cardboard packaging rather than wrapped in plastic, and every order we ship is sent in recyclable boxes with paper fill. We even forgo plastic packing tape, instead choosing sturdy paper tape. It just happens to be very pretty as well! We want to do our part to chip away at humanity’s reliance on plastic, both single use and over the long term. Choosing shampoo and conditioner bars over liquid is a fantastic start, but more bold action is required. Visit https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ today, and sign up to take the challenge!