For the last couple of years, as I have become more aware of the growing problem of plastic pollution, I have been trying to reduce the plastic I use in my day to day life (you can find some of my eco-friendly living tips on my blog). However, this is the first time I have attempted Plastic Free July. Instead of my usual weekly blog posts, for Plastic Free July I will be tracking my journey trying to go plastic free here with daily updates on this blog post.
What is Plastic Free July?
Plastic Free July is all about reducing the amount of plastic you use by refusing single-use products. Plastic free July is about making small changes to start reducing the amount of plastic you use and begin, or continue, your eco-warrior journey. When you sign up to complete Plastic Free July, you are given 3 options:
- Avoid single use plastic packaging
- Target takeaway items (the top 4: bags, straws, bottles and coffee cups)
- Go completely plastic free
There are 3 different levels and you can chose which you would like to attempt for Plastic Free July, depending on where you are on your eco warrior journey. For me, as someone who already tries to reduce single use plastic as much as possible, there was only one option- to go completely plastic free. According to Plastic Free July, over 250 million people have signed up to take part in the challenge globally. Meaning this is an opportunity to collectively create a massive change to benefit the planet.
Why go plastic free?
- Plastic takes up to 1000 years to decompose in landfill
- Thin plastic often cannot be recycled
- By 2050 scientists reckon there could be more plastic in the sea than fish
- Up to 50% of plastic is only used once and then thrown away
Can you live plastic free?
In short YES of course you can!! It is completely possible to live plastic free. However, being completely plastic free can be expensive and time consuming (with growing and making your own items often the best way to be plastic free). But not everyone has the time or money to be able to live completely plastic free. It can also be difficult to find plastic free options.
I am attempting to go plastic free for July (and beyond), but it is quite possible that this may not always be possible and I will be documenting these struggles in this blog post. That’s okay! Yes, being plastic free is amazing but Plastic Free July is also about doing your best to reduce the plastic you use. Every small step you take to reduce your use of plastic benefits the planet, so consider some simple swaps you can make today!
How to prepare for Plastic Free July?
The first thing to do is sign up here.
Next, to prepare I considered the single-use plastics that I have found most difficult to swap and continue to use:
- Food packaging- where possible I buy loose fruit and veg but supermarkets often have limited options available. As a recent graduate I am unable to afford the often more expensive organic loose options available in the supermarket. I therefore sometimes find buying fruit and veg in single use plastic unavoidable.
- Snacks- all of the (unhealthy) snacks that I can think of come packaged in single use plastic, for example crisps and chocolate. This is going to be a really difficult one for me as I am unsure whether there are any snack options available which are not packaged in single use plastic. I may therefore have to give up these foods altogether (whether I have the willpower to do that, we will see). Although I am hopeful this will give me an additional motivation to try to be healthier following the excessive snacking I seem to have adopted during lockdown.
- Bin bags- All of the bin bags I currently use are plastic, something I will try to change during Plastic Free July.
- Takeaways- I am not normally a big takeaway fan, I much prefer visiting a restaurant, but lockdown has removed that option and I have been a frequent visitor of my local takeaway as a little treat and a way to support local businesses. Lockdown is now being relaxed and I hope to go plastic-free by reverting to visiting local restaurants rather than ordering a takeaway.
- Plastic bottles- I tend not to drink much juice, so this is not a big problem for me. But, I am partial to a gin and tonic at the weekend, with tonic coming packaged in plastic bottles (although I buy large bottles rather than multiple small bottles to reduce the plastic as much as possible). Buying tonic that is not packaged in plastic may not be possible- I guess that means wine in glass bottles is the only option?!
If you are looking for more ideas to help reduce your plastic use, I have put together 7 Easy Tips for Eco-Friendly Living that you Haven’t Heard Before.
Plastic Free July Weeklyly Journal
Plastic Free July Week 1
Although I have already gone through and made a list of areas of my life where I use plastic, I decided to make a specific list of the plastic items I use, so that I know which areas I need to address during Plastic Free July.
- Lip balm
- Hand sanitiser (not something I would normally use, but I have been using hand sanitiser when out and about during the current pandemic)
- Packaging of online orders (often it is difficult to know how items ordered online will come packaged)
- Bin bags
- Tonic bottles (I do love a G&T)
- Chocolate and crisps wrappers
- Orange juice cartons
- Milk cartons
- Fruit (strawberries, blueberries, oranges)
- Salad (cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, celery
- Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, mushrooms)
- Butter spread
(Image Credit: Earth Bits)
In Scotland, non-essential shops were allowed to open on Monday, so we went for a wander around the shops. To prepare for the outing I packed a bag with: a refillable water bottle, a reusable coffee cup, a reusable shopping bag and my hand sanitiser (I am yet to find a plastic-free alternative). Our shop was fairly plastic free and we did not have to buy any plastic bags or water. We tried to buy a coffee with our reusable cups but the coffee shop would not accept reusable cups due to the pandemic, so we missed our morning coffee instead of giving in. However, at lunch time, when we would usually have visited a local cafe there were limited options as few places were open and we instead had to pick up a sandwich which unfortunately did have plastic as part of the packaging. But with cafes and restaurants reopening in a matter of days, hopefully in future trips we will be able to revert to our plastic free local cafe lunches.
Plastic Free July Week 2
One of the products I frequently buy which is difficult to find without packaging is milk. I decided to look into how I could reduce the packaging from the milk I buy. My first port of call was to try to arrange for milk to be delivered to my house in glass bottles, which are refilled each time. However, unfortunately there are no businesses that deliver milk in the area I live. Instead, I investigated making my own oat milk - which turned out to be really easy. All I did was add 1 cup of oats and 4 cups of water to a blender and strain by pouring through an old (but clean) tea towel. Ta da- your oat milk is ready for you to enjoy. Although this milk definitely is not as nice as bought oat milk, it is perfect for adding to porridge and cups of tea or coffee.
This week I got confirmation of my Sociology degree results from The University of Edinburgh. Originally, I was supposed to graduate on July 6th but unfortunately all graduation ceremony's were cancelled due to the current pandemic. Still keen to celebrate and with restaurants able to open outdoors now in Scotland, we went for a lovely local pub meal and a couple of cocktails! Being able to go out for food again was AMAZING and the undercover roof terrace meant we didn't even get wet in the rain. Unfortunately, one of the cocktails came with a plastic straw, which was very disappointing. I left feedback criticising the plastic straw so hopefully this is something that the restaurant will resolve in the future.
Plastic Free July Week 3
With the current pandemic limiting the numbers of people who can be inside the supermarket at any time, I have been trying to avoid shopping at the weekend, so during the week we went to do our weekly Tesco shop. Our attempt at plastic free shopping in Tesco was actually more successful than I thought it would be. We managed to buy lots of plastic free fruit (apples and bananas) and veg (potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, peppers and courgettes). However, there was little in the way of plastic free salad which meant we went without our usual cucumber, lettuce and celery. Instead we settled for 2 avocados and large tomatoes (which were £0.65 each - ridiculous!!). Annoyingly, most of the plastic free fruit and veg came with plastic stickers attached to the individual items which we could not avoid.
Away from the fruit and veg isle, we paid a premium for branded porridge oats which were plastic free and picked up some tofu in cardboard packaging. Instead of buying our usual plastic packaged Hummus, we picked up a tin of chickpeas and a jar of Tahini to try making our own. One area which we were less successful at avoiding plastic was bread - there was simply nothing that was not packaged in plastic, so we ended up grabbing some pittas which were definitely not plastic free.
Overall, our attempt to shop plastic free in Tesco was quite successful. Although it took longer than usual as we swapped products from our list which were not plastic free, I found it rewarding to manage to buy so much with little plastic packaging.
Plastic Free July Week 4
After purchasing the ingredients to make our own Hummus last week, instead of purchasing pre-made Hummus packaged in plastic, homemade Hummus was on the menu for lunch this week. This was our first time attempting to make our own Hummus and we followed a BBC Good Food Recipe. Making our own Hummus was so quick and easy - why haven't we done this before?! However, the recipe says to add 2 cloves of garlic but this was VERY garlicy, so I would recommend only adding 1. The downside of making our own Hummus was that we had it with pitta breads which did come packaged in plastic, but homemade Hummus definitely reduced the plastic we used in this meal.
A pretty quiet stay at home kind of week. We put up a bench in the garden and I tended to my few indoor plants, so I thought I would share a couple of tips for plastic free gardening. Old egg boxes are the perfect eco-friendly plant pot to sow your seeds. Fill the egg box with soil and place on a plate/ tray to catch the water which will seep through the cardboard box. Once your seeds begin to grow, transfer your plants into either a recycled jar or tin. Place stones at the bottom of your jar/tin to provide drainage and then add soil and your seedling.
Plastic Free July Reflections
Now that we are into August, I wanted to reflect on Plastic Free July and the changes that I plan to adopt permanently. I thoroughly enjoyed completing Plastic Free July and one of the main things I will take away from the challenge is a better awareness of products packaged in plastic. Whilst I may not be able to continue some of the plastic free swaps (£0.65 for ONE TOMATO is not affordable in the long run), I am now more conscious of what I buy and will continue to chose plastic free options as much as possible. I will also continue trying to make more of my own food from scratch, including Hummus which was really easy and you can alter the recipe to how you like it!
Did you take part in Plastic Free July? What will you try to continue doing as part of your everyday routine?