Plastic Free July (and beyond!) : Setting Yourself Up For Success!
For the month of July, my husband and I are attempting to go plastic free as part of the global Plastic Free July challenge. By accepting the challenge, you're agreeing to refrain from using single-use plastics, and refusing them when offered to you (a single-use bag at the market, or a straw, for example).
If you're not prepared, it's actually pretty challenging to go an entire day without having to use single-use plastics in some way. You're bound to encounter it; whether you're at the market and you forgot your reusable bag, you purchased berries in a plastic container, there was a straw in your iced coffee that you never asked for, or the vegetables you bought for dinner are unnecessarily shrink wrapped.
Being prepared and setting yourself up for success is step one. The rest is entirely up to you - get yourself into the habit of keeping your plastic-free reusable items on you all the time and you'll find that you can cut a lot of single-use plastics out of your life.
The following are the items that would replace the most commonly found single-use plastics in your life and where to buy them.
Think of it as a plastic free starter pack!
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Pack your meals in travel friendly reusable lunch boxes.
Another inexpensive option I like is using glass mason jars for easy-to-cary snacks like almonds and trail mix, or for a functional grab-and-go breakfast; overnight oats and chia puddings work great in mason jars.
Eating out less is obviously one way to reduce food packaging and waste, but let's be honest - sometimes you just don't want to cook or you need to grab food on-the-go.
In those situations it's a great idea to keep some sort of reusable container in the car or easily accessibly for restaurant leftovers. If you're ordering to-go, ask the person preparing your food if they'll use your container. It's definitely not always feasible when getting take-out, but do it when you can.
If you must use a straw - make it a reusable one. And if you're hosting a party or an event where drinks will be served, offer paper straws upon request.
Keep a straw in a handy place: your purse, car, or anywhere you can easily grab or have access to on a whim. In fact, some reusable straws are sold in packs, so you can keep them everywhere!
Minimally Packaged or Bulk Food
I realize that not everyone has access to bulk foods, or to a farmer's market where they can find fresh, local, unpackaged foods. If you're not sure where to buy bulk, a simple Google search will show you if you have any bulk markets nearby. You'll find that bulk is often less expensive than buying packaged foods like beans, nuts, seeds, oats, grains etc.
When possible, do your best to avoid purchasing foods that are excessively packaged. Choose unpackaged vegetables - load them individually into your cart, or bring your own mesh or woven bags to keep them together. For example, if you have the option between buying loose veggies versus veggies that are sold shrink wrapped onto a foam tray or pre-cut, then please opt for the loose ones.
Reusable water bottles have most definitely caught on, and the use of reusable straws appears to be more widespread; however, it seems like reusable cutlery still has yet to make it into the mainstream. So much focus and attention has gone to straws and water bottles (and for good reason!), but think about all the single-use plastic forks you've used in your lifetime. Yikes!
Once you get into the habit of keeping these with you and actually using them, you'll find that you can avoid a lot of plastic waste. It might seem like a small gesture, but every bit counts!