For the past 4 years I have heavily reduced my plastic waste, but this July I excelled. With just over 5o pieces of plastic between my partner & I, we were pretty stoked to reduce our single-use that much.
What I didn’t realise though, was all the hidden benefits to my health, social life and moral for being so committed.
Here are my lessons, musings and experiences I got out of ‘doing’ a whole month (almost) Plastic Free.
A huge thanks to the people who started and continue Plastic Free July.
Crisps just aren’t as good as they used to be.
August 1st we went straight out to do a ‘big shop‘ and came home with some of the plastic wrapped crap we had been intentionally avoiding for the past month. I have no idea what came over me… like I had been deprived for the whole of my life! I bought a packet of dark chocolate Tim Tams and a bag of CC’s (and an extra one because they told me I should get two).
After scoffing them down and feeling horrible after a 3-day binge, I realised that they just don’t taste that good anymore.
And the guilt – oh the guilt of throwing that bag away after such a good effort!
Shops were more likely to support my request for no plastic if I said “No plastic please – I am doing Plastic Free July”
In the past I never had an easy answer or a quick retaliation to the refusal of bags, straws or an automatic plastic offering. Often they’d scowl, take the items out of the bag and just throw them straight in the bin anyway.
But last month was different. When I’d say “no bag please – I am doing Plastic Free July” their ears prick up, eyes brightened and would usually ask what it’s all about. 100% of shop tenders approved and were genuinely excited to be supportive of my request.
So from now on you’ll hear me ‘doing’ Plastic Free August, Plastic Free September, October, November and so on. Try it, they won’t know.
Plastic Free could be the next diet fad.
During my ‘Chip Free July’ as I sometimes called it, I lost a few kilo’s and also lost my cravings for crisps and chocolate in the afternoons. (See next lesson)
Who is going to do the next craze diet ‘I quit plastic’ A 12-month diet for everyone?
Could be a money spinner and good for the environment – Imagine that!!!
Processed, packed and wrapped foods are often cheaper, easier and tastier… but only in the beginning.
I have found the food I wanted that comes in plastic had so many additives, preservatives, sulphites, sugar and sometimes things that are not even edible!
Admittedly, as a city dweller at the moment, I did pay a premium for plastic free food this July but I didn’t mind as I knew it was going to be REAL food – and good for me.
I am not a wealthy girl by all means and we don’t have excess cash, but from all the research I have seen – a sugary diet equals the need to eat (and buy) more, and if it’s more of the same, then you need to feed the cravings too and in general need more food for energy… and THAT costs more in the long run.
Limiting the amount of foods without beneficial nutrients or sugars reduced the amount of food I needed in general. So overall I saved money, ate less and stop buying the crap in the middle for a quick fix.
PFJ is not actually about how many bits of plastic are collected, but how much are refused and avoided.
Initially I was enjoying challenging my friends and family, showing off my collections one at a time and feeling pretty chuffed about it. I spent the first week of July in a Mauritian resort and collected just one 1ltr bottle full of small plastic things I could not refuse.
On my return in mid-July, my Mum, who was trying really hard with four grand kids and a husband who loves strawberry’s and milk every day, put her weeks rubbish up to show on Facebook her progress.
She posted that she was ashamed.
But the post didn’t make sense because on the phone, she’d ring me up all proud with…“Your Dad didn’t get his blue berries and cream today because I did a Plastic Free shop this time”.
So it occurred to me that we also need to count all the times we refuse the plastic as well. But how do you measure that in a fun and social media kind of way?
I did it once hen my partner and went to buy bacon. The new owners of the local butcher had absolutely no paper bags for us. They were keen to support us but just couldn’t. With a huddle outside and some quick thinking, my partner and I ‘stole’ an out of date A3 billboard poster from the newsagent next door and took it to the butcheress to wrap our bacon.
Going plastic free is not trying something new, but more like going back in time to the way it used to be.
Think old fashioned country and westerns… leather water bottles with a cork or a sea sponge for cleaning… or how about your arms and hands for carrying things?
It’s all been done before and everyone survived (in fact I bet everyone was a little bit healthier on the inside too).
My partner is very busy with finding good sea sponges at the beach for our dishes with just hot water. I remember when I was in remote coastal PNG in 2006, the locals were just using the middle husk of a coconut to scrub the dishes – after it was simply thrown back to where it came from – something that still happens these days but not doesn’t break down.
Even though it seems we don’t have a choice – we do. Thinking outside the box and asking what the old-timers used to do can give us a way to go back in time and find something just like it for the future.
A lot of people can’t ‘do’ without milk.
During my PFJ a lot of people asked how to avoid plastic with their milk consumption.
Just don’t drink it.
Did you know that we are the only adult mammal that drinks milk?
Personally I weened myself off dairy a few years back due to gut intolerance and owe my good PFJ count to eliminating cream, milk and cheeses from my diet.
But, if you can’t give it up; be prepared to spend a little more money for better quality milk that is often found in your local organic store or farmers market in a glass Jar.
Yeah but what about cartons I hear you say… or soy, almond and coconut milk?
Remember not only do the tetra packs have those unnecessary plastic pourers, but they also have layer upon layer of plastic, paper and aluminium that can’t be recycled.
Plastic Free July means more date nights!
Takeout is a big loser for PFJ. Coming home after a big day at work or feeling lazy and ordering home delivery is the worst way to consume more plastic (unless its pizza of course).
Making a date night out of it means no Chinese takeaway containers were needed and a sweet night out was had by everyone.
PFJ was actually a lot of fun.
Getting friends and family involved on the social media was a good challenge. We had little competitions and posted our daily fails and sometimes our invisible wins.
Having a birthday in July always makes it a fun one, as although I need for nothing; I love to watch my close friends and family find a way around gift giving.
International travel, customs and luggage limits had their moments but I got home in full comedic style: surfboards, clothes and rubbish all in tow. (I probably looked like a bag-lady in the process but it was fun and well worth it).
We could have done better.
I can tell you exactly the angst we had for every piece of plastic collected this July.
Every piece was disused, weighed up with pros and cons and then used. Every piece made its way to our ‘dilemma basket’ with an apology to the planet and a vow to find an alternative.
Obviously we failed Plastic Free July.
It’s not all our fault. I can’t get a new work shirt without either going to the shops and buying one that had been delivered in a plastic bag on a single-use disposable hanger or; going to the fabric shop and buying a piece of fabric that arrived in the store from China, wrapped, and then sew it on my plastic sewing machine with plastic cotton reals and yadda yadda yadda.
To combat this in July, I instead shopped at the opportunity store first or bought exactly what I needed new and made sure it was of good quality.
In this day and age without our own farms and/or communities it is really hard to be plastic free – especially with food.
To become a responsible consumer might mean changing some habits.
It’s about having a lifestyle less plastic.
In my opinion and in my real experience; reducing your space, eating healthier and making a commitment to put less pollution into the environment is the 1st step to a happier and healthier life for you, the next generation and the planet.
To sum up consumerism nicely, watch this extremely sexy celebrity explain why it’s up to YOU and I to start the change. To stop buying stuff we don’t want and to make company’s change their packaging or products and, why it’s up to us to keep our environment clean and healthy.
Take it away Woody….
Happy Plastic Free August!