I spent the first 2 decades+ of my life blissfully unaware of the impact my consumption habits had on my health and the planet. Can you say Red Solo Cup? Slowly, as I became more aware of how I was nourishing my body, I also became more aware of waste associated with food items and the like.
Now, I try my best every day to live plastic free. I am nowhere near perfect, but it's worth every effort to live less wastefully and more mindfully. I'm committing myself to a plastic free July to test myself and push my limits. I urge you to try it too! Even if it is as simple as rejecting a plastic straw when going out, make the commitment for just 31 days. It may become second nature over time. Or try to eliminate the the big four: plastic straws, to-go cups, plastic grocery bags, and plastic water bottles. Whatever you choose, it will be worth it!
I think a month long commitment is just long enough to test the waters to see if you can sustain the lifestyle change. Hey-- it only takes 28 days for form a new habit, right? By then you'll be so used to having reusable grocery bags in the car or in your back-pack, that you won't even think twice about needing a plastic one!
Even if it seems daunting and difficult, try making just one simple change and you'll recognize how empowering, simple, and fun it really can be.
Attack the Big Four:
Say Goodbye to Plastic Straws:
I've tried lots of different straws. My current favorite is the stainless steel variety. Since they come with a little scrub brush I don't fear sipping the unknown through the straw (you know...since you can't see through it). They work like a charm and don't have a metallic flavor like you might think. I've been using them for about a year and highly recommend them!
I've also seen the newly popular pasta straws. Those look fun and they're biodegradable! I haven't tried them yet, but I'm pumped for the day I do. I may shed a tear for the first restaurant I enter that serves me a pasta straw. I'm not kidding.
I'm also very drawn to the aesthetic of glass straws. My only fear with glass is that it breaks. With that, I'm skeptical about bringin them with me outside of the home. I want something that will last a long time without fail. BUT they still beat plastic straws 10 times out of 10!
Another popular straw of choice I see these days are those very nice looking paper straws. They look like every blogger's most beautiful party setup. But the problem? They break down quickly and turn to mush while you're using them. Plus, once they are soggy and soiled, they can't be recycled. Don't get me wrong, they've still got plastic straws beat by a landslide! And if you need a large number of straws for a crowd, these are definitely the way to go!
Say Goodbye to Disposable To-Go Cups:
This swap has taken the most time to become habitual, but now I almost always have my own container for impromptu purchases at a cafe. If I don't have my own cup, I simply decide not to get a drink! In case you didn't know, many paper cups are lined with wax or plastic and can't be recycled. You may think you're doing good by using a paper cup instead of a plastic one but sadly it's mostly all the same. Props to those cafes who have brought in compostable cups. They deserve more credit!
Currently the travel mugs my husband and I use most are our Tervis Tumblers (which are plastic but long-lasting) . I'm in a weird predicament because I don't want to use plastic for health and environmental reasons, but I also don't want to just throw these cups away! They are something we received as a wedding gift and have been extremely handy. Throwing them away would be wasteful. They also sport our favorite Boston sports teams so we get to choose based on what team is winning. ;-)
I typically prefer to use my favorite Kleen Kanteen because it's from the best coffee shop ever: Onyx Coffee Lab. It's beautiful, sports my favorite coffee shop logo, it's stainless steel, and it keeps my hot drinks hot and my cold drinks cold. I also love that I have an additional lid that makes it easier to drink from depending on the heat of the liquid.
I also love using mason jars because they're ALL over my house. They're best suited with a reusable coozi because they can be too hot to hold. But they're fun and with all of the new tops out there to help keep your jars as versatile as ever.
Anything with a lid that fits in your cars cup holder, or the pocket of your back-pack, is a good choice. You can DO THIS!
Say Goodbye to Plastic Grocery Bags:
Saying bye to those plastic bags is so much easier than it seems! First, if you forgot a reusable grocery bag ask if they have paper instead of plastic. At least paper breaks down quicker and is better used when recycled. But if you have compact, reusable bags with you at all times it's easy to solve this problem! Just remember to put it right back when you've finished unloading your groceries. Mine go right in the backseat of my car, and 2 of them hang right outside my door for easy grab-and-go when I am walking to my destination. Put those bags by the door so they're annoying you until you deal with them. Make it a habit to keep them handy!
Another lifesaver for me has been my reusable cotton produce bags for buying in the bulk section.They are amazing! For most fruits and veggies I don't bother with a bag at all, I just throw them directly into my shopping cart, I'll be washing them as soon as I'm home anyhow. But when shopping for grains, nuts, or anything of the like I love to bring them. For me, it's the only way to get around the Whole Foods' "no jar" policy that they have here in Maine.
Bring any clean (Mason) Jars you have for dry goods. Not only does it look pretty but it saves a plastic bag! As I mentioned above, my Whole Foods here in Maine doesn't allow us to tare jars and use them in their store (I've done this at other WF when I lived in MI and when I lived in AR, but I suppose ME is a bit pickier). But if your grocery store allows you to bring mason jars then I say to go for it!
Say Goodbye to Plastic Water Bottles:
An easy way to get turned off by plastic water bottles is to think about how long the water has been sitting in it, where it came from, and whether or not it's spent time basking in the heat or sun. Exposing plastic to the sun can release unwanted toxins into the water. We're already exposed to enough on a daily basis. So, who wants that?
The easy fix for this is to get yourself a water bottle that you love; one that you want to drink from. Big or small, whatever you feel would serve you daily. I use my water bottle from day to night. I hardly use glasses when I'm at home! Sometimes I wish I did just because I like drinking from a glass or jar, but I also find that drinking from the same bottle helps me maintain hydration better because I know how much I've had to drink throughout the day. That is...unless my husband decides to drink from my bottle. Which definitely happens.
Our favorite water bottles are Hydro Flasks that hold 40 oz of liquid. I bought a different cap so that I wouldn't always spill with the giant opening at the top, but I tend to switch between the original lid and the newer one. My cousin bought us these after a visit to Cali (and we fell in love with her water bottle.) I love it!
It's always a bummer when you're at a restaurant and it seems like all they have for water are plastic cups. It's okay to be that person that asks for a glass. Why? Because I said so. But also--who cares? Just do it!
Now I can't go anywhere without seeing how companies have incorporated some type of plastic into their product. I can hardly find a cauliflower these days that isn't wrapped in plastic, even when it's in season! Our farmer's market also boasts a heavy amount of pre-packaged, ready to grab items in small, plastic bags for convenience. I know it's totally avoidable, it just takes practice, love and a little bit of effort. The planet and future generations deserve that.
Have you ever done a challenge like this? What swaps did you make? Join me for Plastic-Free July!