On this first day of Plastic Free July, I’m going to talk about the four biggest offenders in the land of disposable plastics that many people use on a daily basis. But before we dive in to all of that, let’s talk about why I’m going plastic free this month, and why you should too.
Most of the plastic that we use gets disposed of within minutes. Plastic bags, bottles, containers – they’re all made for the short term and yet they are made out of a material that lasts the long term, the way long term, as in forever. Plastic doesn’t break down, it just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces becoming permanent pollution. So where does it go if it’s not breaking down? A lot of it ends up in waterways. Scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more tons of plastic than tons of fish in our waterways and oceans (plasticfreejuly.org). That’s a problem.
One of your big takeaways from this month should be that it’s not all about recycling anymore. Only 33% of recyclable materials actually get recycled (National Geographic), and when they do fossil fuels are used to pick them up and make it happen. The zero waste movement and initiatives like the Plastic Free July campaign are recognizing that when plastic is recycled – if it actually makes it to a recycling facility – it’s just turned into a low grade product (this is called downcycling). Recycling is a great alternative to the landfill – absolutely – but it’s not the answer to our waste problems.
Whew, I’m glad you’re still with me. All of that is kind of a downer. But don’t worry, we’re here to have fun. All of the plastic free alternatives are super cool, you’re going to love this!
Ok, remember how we were going to talk about the big four plastic things that we can give up this month, easy peasy? Right, these four things are: single use plastic shopping bags, plastic drinking straws, plastic disposable coffee cup lids, and single use plastic water bottles. If you can avoid these four things, you can make a huge difference in the amount of plastic waste that is created on a daily basis. Over the next few weeks I’ll be going into a lot of detail about some of these things, but for today – let’s just get the basics down.
Single use plastic shopping bags. If you’re not bringing your own bags to the grocery store, you’re behind the times! Even big ole Walmart sells and encourages the use of reusable shopping bags! I just got some smaller reusable bags that I love taking to the store. They don’t get as full and heavy as the set I was using. Whatever kind you’re into, go for it! I’ll admit, most of mine are made of some kind of plastic-y material, so they aren’t totally plastic free – but at least they are reusable! (I’m going to talk more about this on Wednesday – my grocery shopping day!)
Plastic drinking straws. This is one that a lot of people are getting behind right now. It’s no longer totally weird to add “no straw please” to your drink order at a bar or restaurant. Many restaurants are even switching to a policy where customers may ask for a straw, but aren’t automatically provided one. If you aren’t sure if your drink is going to come with a straw, I recommend preemptively turning the straw down. There are lots of reusable straw options out there for those who just can’t live without one. I have stainless steel and glass, and love both! If you’re still not on board, just watch this.
Plastic disposable coffee cups with lids. If you are someone who drinks to-go coffee, you probably do it once a day. Just think about how much plastic waste that is creating over the course of your coffee drinking life! I encourage you all to seek out a reusable coffee cup that you like enough to use daily. Some really excellent options are the cuppow mason jar lid and the yeti rambler (this is great if serious insulation is your thing). Most coffee shops will provide your coffee in your to go cup with a discount, and some forward thinking places don’t even offer single use cups any more. You guys, it’s the future bring your own cup!
Single use plastic water bottles. Get yourself a cool reusable water bottle, there’s so many kinds and I already talked about the cuppow and yeti so I’m not going to bother linking anything here. I think that the disposable water bottle must appeal to folks who are anti-tap-water. I get it, the water in my city is pretty funky smelling when the lake turns and that’s super gross. Our fridge has a built in filter, so we use that to refill our reusable water bottles. Some other options are: brita filters (or something similar) or buying big containers of water for a water dispenser. Make your water bottle something that’s as glued to you as your cell phone and you’ll be a more hydrated zero waste water drinker who is never without a reusable cup.
Ok, so I feel like I need to address the fact that a lot of my alternative suggestions are still made out of plastic or have plastic components to them. I think that it’s great if you find and use plastic free alternatives to these big four. But, just making the changes listed here keeps a lot of plastic out of landfills (and recycling centers).
As the month goes on we’re going to get more in depth. I’ll dive into every plastic thing I use throughout July and you can learn right along with me. Stay tuned on instagram (@paigelorrabeth) and here on the blog. I can’t wait! Are you ready?