Plastic Free July, is a movement getting some weight behind it in more recent years, where people take on the challenge of either reducing the amount of plastic they use in daily life or go as far as to eliminate single-use plastic from their lives completely for the month of July. Wherever you fit on this scale it’s a fun and awareness expanding challenge, that you can do with friends, on your own or even at work.
Whats so bad about plastic I hear you ask?
As a permaculturalist I like to focus on solutions, however, it’s important to understand the reality behind what drives this movement. It’s important we educate ourselves, so here’s some inspiration to get us started.
Every piece of plastic ever made still exists somewhere…
Whether it’s a plastic bag, a straw, a hairbrush or a the micro-beads found in cosmetics, plastic never actually ‘goes away’, it’s simply broken down into smaller and finer particles. These small pieces of plastic end up in our waterways, farmlands and you guessed it, even in our food!
Some plastics leach toxic chemicals into our food and water causing cancer and hormonal imbalances. In the last 10 years, we’ve produced more plastic than ever before in history and that is on the rise!
Our blue lungs
We live on a blue planet, although we seldom know it, only every third breath we take in was produced by rainforests, the remaining 70 to 80% of oxygen is made by our oceans! Tiny microscopic organisms living in the open seas called phytoplankton release this oxygen as they photosynthesise.
Over 3.5 billion people around the world depend on the ocean as a primary source of food. Although, scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic (by weight) in the seas, than fish and there is already more plastic than plankton in the pacific ocean. (1)
Every minute of every day we dump a garbage truck equivalent of plastic litter into the ocean. Every year, 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals such as dolphins and seals are killed by consuming plastics. As plastic breaks down into smaller pieces, it’s consumed by fish, accumulating as it goes up the food chain and is eventually eaten by people. (2)
What about recycling I hear you say!
Recycling is the first big step people take in reducing the amount of plastic waste they create, which is great! However, recycling is only slowing down the problem and is not a solution.
When we recycle most of that plastic is downcycled into products of less value and even made into things that can’t be recycled after their use. So although it’s much better than throwing away our plastic because it reduces the need to make more, it’s still ending up in landfill or worse yet in nature, eventually.
(please don’t stop recycling!)
Terms to know!
Is the accumulation of all the recourses and energy that has gone into produvcing a product, from mining and shiping, to labour and so on. When we purchase something we often forget that it has a history and we can make a big differenece by being conscious about what we support with our money.
Conscious consumerism is all about understanding the bigger affects of making seemingly small decisions, such as which bar of chocolate to buy. Although it sounds tedious, knowing how our products impact the world around us is actually incredibly empowering. We can choose to support our ethics and encourage brands to change their unethical practises.
What you can do in your everyday life to reduce your single-use plastic consumption!
There’s a huge movement going on in social media at the moment encouraging people to say no to plastic straws which get stuck in marine life bodies and cause harm to the environment. So next time you’re at your local cafe bring your own reusable straw or simply say you don’t need one, then even share it on your social media! #strawssuck
Shop at bulk stores!
Bulk food stores are a great way to not only avoid plastic food packaging but also it saves you money in the long run and you’ll end up eating way less processed foods as a result. You can take your own glass jars and stock up on everything from flour, to washing up liquid, all without needing any plastic packaging! It’s also visually a much nicer way to store your food! Glass jars full of colourful spices, flour, honey and even chocolate is a great feature in any modern kitchen! (much nicer than plastic filled pantries)
Support Conscious companies
There are pleaty of amazing plastic free alteraltives now precoming available. From natural deodorants, to packaging free shampoo and even synthetic-free clothes! Of course you shouldn't throw out what you already have, but as you use up the last of your products try to find ethical replacments. We want shops on our side, to encourage innovation and sustainablity, so support those who are doing what you believe in and the change will happen.
Farmers markets are definitely a growing trend at the moment. I mean who doesn’t like fresh ingredients for a cheaper price! Good for you and your bank account. Most importantly it’s really fun to explore what’s available locally and which seasonal goodies you can turn into delicious dishes. Something a supermarket just can’t give you…
Take your own coffee cup! Many of us drink coffee or tea as part of our daily routine, but how often do we think about the plastic that leaves behind? You can easily buy reusable, portable coffee cups and bring it with you to get your morning coffee. Cafes will be happy to oblige as it cuts down on their packaging costs.
Even if you’re not a gardener, making your food waste into compost will greatly reduce your need for plastic bin bags. You can create a treat for your plants to help them grow, or if you live in an apartment drop your compost off at a local community garden. There are some great initiatives happening to reduce urban waste and grow food! Have a google to find out if there are any near you.
These are just a few easy and fun things you can do to get you started on your plastic free journey whether it’s July of any other month, it all counts and it’s amazing how much we can reduce our consumption just with a little creativity. I would love to hear how you guys go and if you have any questions feel free to comment below!
Being part of the zero waste movement is bigger than just plastic; it's about walking closer to source, valuing resources, challenging our perspectives and creatively adapting to change. Living within the rhythms of nature is a power of its own, the earth provides in abundance if only we opened our eyes to potential. The closer we are to natural cycles, the more we can experience the bounty of nature.
-Photographed and written by William Verschuur