In support of July 2019 – ‘Plastic Free July’, let’s explore some single-use plastic alternatives…
So it has become apparent that disposable, is not really disposable… Convenient perhaps, but not disposable. Although modern innovations have helped us move forward on so many levels, simple back-to-basic living has been overlooked, put aside for the most part, and now our planet is suffering.
Approaching fast is July 2019 – ‘Plastic Free July’ – a worldwide movement initiated to help rally a cleaner, greener world by encouraging us to turn down single-use plastics for the entire month of July. This would hopefully encourage more of an awareness, from which these habits could be adopted for a lifetime.
Everybody is on a journey and it’s all about doing the best that we can, as we can. Becoming plastic free or even waste free completely, is not something that would happen overnight. But becoming more aware and making baby steps, can help us all move in this direction. It’s this accumulation of like-minded people doing their best, that can work to improve our dire environmental state.
Here are some things to consider as we look towards Plastic Free July…
*Baby Wipes/Cleaning Wipes.
Single use baby wipes could be replaced with reusable, washable cloths. I hear you, baby wipes are so convenient, but could you strike a median and manage to use reusable wipes at home and disposable when you are out and about?
*Biodegradable Compostable Bags.
If you do require a bag for your waste, there are many out there that will fully decompose. I purchased some this week that are made of cornstarch and using these as an alternative to single-use plastic is an easy switch for us to make.
Each time you buy a large bulk packet, you forfeit all the little individual single packets e.g. chips for lunchboxes – buy 1 large packet and distribute into the lunchboxes as opposed to purchasing multiple little plastic packets.
Also, by shopping at stores that encourage personal selection from bulk bins, you can often take your own glass jars or containers to fill, thus reducing the need for lots of individual packaging of each item.
If you purchase your item locally, the plastic in packaging may not be necessary. Yay!
Purchase a reusable coffee cup and ask your local coffee hang-out to please fill that. Even better, you possibly already have one lurking in the back of a kitchen cupboard, why not use that?
In my workplace, we take a normal cup from the staff room, to the local coffee shop and ask them to please fill that. They are only too happy to oblige.
Could you replace a plastic toy with a voucher for an experience e.g. bush walk, hot pools, tramp park…? Could you manage to replace one gift within the month with a non plastic alternative?
*Grow Your Most Used Vegetables.
I get it, we can’t all drive a tractor and live off the land, but could you grow one thing? Think of something that you or your family regularly buy that comes in plastic packaging… Spinach? Coriander? Perhaps you could consider growing just one of those items. Many of them can be grown in a simple bucket with holes drilled underneath and reused and reused through the seasons.
*Home Made Food.
Although some people manage this, most of us are not in a position to be able to make every food item from scratch to eliminate all plastic packaging. But could you start with one item? Or could you manage a few? What about one loaf of bread per week? That’s 52 less plastic bread bags a year from very little effort. What about one batch of mini muffins every so often, to part ways with individually packaged muesli bars?
*Knife and Fork.
If you keep a set of these in your bag, you can forfeit the need for any plastic sets should you get caught short and need takeaways while you’re out and about.
*Op Shop Hunting.
Op shops are a treasure trove of oftentimes amazing finds. They are full of things that people had the best intentions of using, but they just personally didn’t get around to. Or of discarded unwanted presents, that just weren’t quite their thing. But they might be perfect for you! So consider searching op shops before you buy brand new. These items have already had their day of plastic packaging and by reusing them, you are cutting down on all this next potential plastic waste. Bread makers, yoghurt makers, preserving jars, clothes, blankets, tools…
*Plastic Tape and Packaging.
Biodegradable twine can often replace plastic tape and you can often make gifts look just as beautiful using it with a bit of a creative touch or thought given.
*Plastic Wrap In Lunchboxes.
There are so many incredible lunchboxes out there, with all sorts of compartments available that would quench the need for plastic wrap.
Each of our family use these and it has been a game changer for us.
*Plastic Wrap In The Fridge.
Using a reusable container with a lid should eliminate most needs for plastic wrap on refrigerated items. Other items could be wrapped in beeswax wraps. Or sometimes, do we really need to wrap the particular item at all?
*Saying ‘No’ To Offered Bags / Using Fabric Bags.
In New Zealand, it is almost obligatory to receive store purchased goods in a bag. Oftentimes, it is unnecessary and the items can merely be popped into your own bag. Or having a few reusable fabric bags within your bag, to be pulled out for larger purchases would be ideal.
Do you need to use a straw? If it’s to help for decorative purposes, perhaps consider an alternative, like a herb sprig or wedge of fruit on the side of the glass or freeze edible flowers into ice cubes.
In certain circumstances where you require a straw, there are plastic alternatives available, such as reusable metal straws.
*Substitute Polyester Fabrics.
Essentially, polyester fabric is a form of plastic. The use of polyester could be substituted by using more natural fabric blends, such as wool or cotton, or even better, supporting a recycled fabric blend. Wool is generally more expensive, but it’s amazing what you can find in op shops.
*Supporting Companies That Use Compostable Bags for Their Packaging.
Some companies use fully compostable packaging, so supporting them helps lesson the need for single-use plastic packaging.
Perhaps you could sacrifice one takeaway meal a fortnight in July? Or consider asking if you could bring your own containers to fill. What about setting aside some time on your days off work to write a meal plan, shop to it and hopefully this may reduce the need for some last minute plastic takeaway packaging?
*Taking Your Own Containers To Butchers/Delis.
Lots of smaller businesses and most New Zealand supermarkets now offer the option of filling your own personal containers with meat or deli goods, which helps to reduce the use of single-use packaging. It just takes a little bit of organisation and forethought to begin new practices such as these.
Using a water bottle reduces the need for single-use plastic water bottles. We have water bottles that have been in circulation in our home for 8+ years now. There are so many options available once you start looking.
If you don’t like the taste of your drinking water, could you invest in a filtration system or fill your bottles elsewhere?
We’re all on a journey, including myself. We all place varying degrees of value upon environmental issues. Oftentimes it’s difficult to comprehend that we as a single person alone, could contribute to make a difference, if we were to adopt some more eco-conscious approaches. As a collective, I wish us well in our endeavours for Plastic Free July, in whatever capacity that may mean for you!