This week’s One Small Change is in support of Plastic Free July. Plastic Free July is an Australian initiative that’s been running since 2012 and encourages people to avoid single use plastic for a month. Obviously there’s more to plastic than single use items, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, and this is the best place in my opinion. Single use plastic includes all those layers of packaging that come with consumables, and disposable items that we use briefly then throw away. Except that there is no away. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been created is still here on earth. Every take-away coffee cup, plastic bag, juice bottle, chip packet, yoghurt tub, straw, disposable knife, fork, spoon, plate and bowl. All that plastic is still lying about, buried in landfill, floating in our oceans, breaking down in the soil and leaching toxins into our water supply.
Once you become aware – truly aware – of the magnitude of the problem, it’s almost impossible NOT to do something about it. For a long time I knew plastic was environmentally damaging, but I was still mostly oblivious to it in my own life. I think my awareness began with green bags at the supermarket. It was a good start but I wasn’t 100% committed. I’d often forget and just accept a plastic bag anyway. I can’t remember the exact turning point, but one day I left the store with a haul of plastic bags and realised the walk of shame was no longer about ‘doing the right thing’. I had started to really care. It snowballed from there. Soon after I found I simply couldn’t buy those disposable plates for the party. I didn’t replace the colourful plastic kiddie straws when they ran out. And I started to feel awkward every time I rolled a sheet of Gladwrap over a bowl of leftovers.
Giving up plastic is a pretty huge change, and in fact, it may not be practical for you to ditch all the plastic in your life – this week, or ever. That’s why we focus on single use plastic to begin with. I first became aware of Plastic Free July from Lindsey, who writes a blog called Treading My Own Path. She started her plastic free journey nearly 5 years ago and has heaps to share about making that change (and more) in your life. She even has an e-Guide that you can use to get started called That’s a Wrap – The e-Guide for Plastic Free Living. Check it out if you want some really helpful tips and advice.
Giving up single use plastic is pretty tough once you start thinking about it. Most supermarket items are packaged in plastic, so if you’re really going to embrace the challenge you may need to completely change the way you shop. If it all seems too much, why not just try the Big 4: Plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, plastic bags and straws. If you can ditch those and stick to it, you’ll be making a great start, and an enormous difference.
But what am I going to put things in??
Don’t feel you need to go out tomorrow and buy a bunch of new stuff, but if you think plastic free living is a small change you could embrace, you may find a few new items will make your life easier. The environmental impact of these new things is sometimes debatable and I’m not really qualified to go there. But I do think that anything we can do to change our habits is a really good start, and sometimes you need a few stepping stones along the way to the ultimate destination. Here’s some things I own to help me avoid single use plastic (no these are not sponsored links, I just like this stuff!):
- Re-usable straws for the kids’ milkshakes
- Honeybee wraps for a stylish alternative to Gladwrap
- The ubiquitous Keep Cup for your daily caffeine hit
- Plastic free school lunches with a YumBox
- 4MyEarth Snack pockets and food wraps
- Re-usable shopping bags like Cheeki and Omnisax
Your One Small Change This Week
If you’re feeling really committed, you might want to sign up for Plastic Free July. This means that you’ll attempt to refuse all single use plastic throughout July. If you’d just like to dip your toes in the water, pick one of the smaller challenges below and see if you can stick to it for a week:
- Give up the Big 4: plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, plastic bags and straws
- BYO water bottle and re-usable coffee cup and don’t buy any disposable drinks
- Don’t buy any grocery items that are packaged in plastic
- Use containers with lids (or beeswax coated cotton wraps) instead of Gladwrap
- Carry a re-usable bag and say no to plastic bags
Of course, if you’re really keen, dive in the deep end and see how you go with refusing ALL single use plastic this week. You’ll be amazed at how much plastic is in your life and I have no doubt the experience will open your eyes to just how much of a difference you can make.
Good luck and enjoy your plastic free week!