So you’ve heard about Plastic Free July and you want to take part, but your stomach is sinking as you realize how many things you use on the reg that are in fact, plastic.
First, take a deep breath. You can participate in Plastic Free July and still use plastic. Honestly, I find the name misleading and wish it was called Less Plastic July, but I know that doesn’t quite pack the same punch.
Despite it’s “all or nothing” name, according to its website, Plastic Free July “provides resources and ideas to help you (and millions of others around the world) reduce single-use plastic waste everyday.”
So it’s not about never touching another piece of plastic. It’s about reducing your use of plastic, specifically the single-use kind. And while climate change is an incredibly complex issue caused by much more than just overconsumption of plastic, I find that on the individual level, reducing your plastic waste is a great way to feel empowered and eager to learn more about other ways to help the planet.
5 Ways To Participate in Plastic Free July Without Actually Being Plastic Free
1. Write to brands
Instead of writing off the brands you love that use plastic packaging, write to the brands instead. Tell them how much you love their product, and then provide suggestions for how they could adjust their packaging. Don’t forget to include points about how less plastic packaging would be beneficial for the planet and for them.
Not sure exactly what to write? Here are some letter writing tips to help you get started.
2. Find ways to reuse your single-use plastic
Before you throw away single-use plastic, consider whether or not its really reached the end of its usable life. For instance, lightly used Ziploc bags and plastic cups can often be washed and used a second time. Plastic takeout containers on the other hand can be great for packing up leftovers for guests or can even be placed under houseplants to collect water that drains out from under them.
Berry containers can be used as gift boxes, parmesan cheese containers make great to-go cups in a pinch. My point is there are a variety of creative ways you can reuse plastic, so maybe do a quick Google search before you toss your plastic in the bin.
3. Learn how to compost
One of the most difficult places to avoid plastic is at the grocery store. Many people, myself included, become frustrated by just how much food contains some element of plastic packaging.
Now, while there are some strategies for avoiding plastic at the grocery store, I believe what you do with the food after it’s out of the packaging is equally, if not more impactful. Food waste is responsible for about 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. To put it in perspective, if food waste was a country, it’d be the third largest emitter.
This is why learning how to compost can be a an effective long-term way to lower your carbon footprint. When you compost your food scraps, they break down into a type of soil that can return to the earth. When you throw your food scraps into the landfill, they lack the light and oxygen necessary for proper decomposition and instead the release methane, a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.
4. Learn how to recycle properly in your city
Growing up, I was made to believe that recycling was a simple process. Separate your plastic, glass, and paper, a truck comes to pick it up, and it’s all sent off to become something new. Unfortunately that’s not exactly the case. Turns out there are several different types of plastic, not all of which can be recycled. Oh, and every city recycles differently. Not confusing at all.
Good news is, you can divert a lot of “contaminated” recyclables from the landfill, by simply learning how to properly recycle in your municipality. Typically this can be done with a simple Google search. And once you know the details, share them with your neighbors, or if you live in a multi-unit apartment, contact your building manager so they can distribute recycling instructions.
Related: 10 Common Recycling Myths That Need to be Talked About
5. Opt for reusables when you can
And finally, incorporate reusables where possible. Once you’ve used up all your water bottles, or Ziploc bags, or plastic wrap, consider investing in reusable alternatives. Reusable water bottles, Stasher Bags, or beeswax wraps certainly cost more money up front than their disposable counterparts, but in the long run they can actually save you money, and of course reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the landfill.
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