Lessons Learnt from Plastic Free July

Sofia Dalla Costa

31 days ago, I was writing an article detailing how I planned on surviving Plastic Free July. I thought this past month was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, yet I was still extremely ambitious and planned to smash the Plastic Free July challenge. So, I bought some bamboo cutlery, stocked up on containers, reusable bags, and even bought a book that gave me some amazing ideas on living plastic free (Zero Waste by Erin Rhodes).

Somehow, with all this planning, I still managed to ruin my month refusing plastic on the first day, by simply forgetting to say, “no straw please!” In hindsight, I should have known this would happen, seeing as I have the memory of a goldfish! This wasn’t the only time I either forgot to ask for no plastic packaging, wasn’t prepared, or forgot entirely that I was completing this challenge!

With every time that I used plastic during July, I learnt what I needed to do if I hoped to avoid these slip ups in the future. With each slip up came a new lesson that I want to share with you, so when Plastic Free July rolls around next year, it will help you be more successful than I was!

Big companies suck

In Australia, we have two main grocery stores; Coles and Woolworths. The only thing I would buy from these stores were the occasional fruit and veggies, because their plastic free range is just dismal! It was so hard to buy things like soups, wraps and even veggies like pumpkin without plastic! So, for the month of July, it was rare to find me in one of those stores.

2. Farmers markets are amazing!

With that being said, my Sundays were reserved for the farmers markets! This is like heaven for a low waste individual such as myself. The veggies aren’t normal looking (which screams less food waste before they hit the shelves), and there is very little plastic packaging in sight. It’s also so much cheaper to buy your fruit and veggies from there!

Plastic free grocery shopping (@the_bluescientist@plasticfreejuly, @plasticfreeleona)

DIY is fun and easy!

Some of the things I made myself included; face moisturiser (shea butter + argan oil) when mine ran out, baked goods such as cookies, scones etc, and my favourite; reusable cotton rounds! All these products generally come packaged in plastic, so by making it myself, I kept my Plastic Free July pledge!

Stainless steel razor (@plasticfreeleona), Cotton rounds & shampoo bar (@the_bluescientist)

Always be double prepared

This tip came about when I went out for acai bowls at the start of the month. I asked my sister if it’s take-away only because they usually are, and she assured me that there were dine in options as well. So, trusting my sister, I didn’t bring my own container, and of course it wasn’t dine in, with the café only serving their acai bowls in plastic take-away containers! It’s times like these I found myself wishing I was more prepared.

Sometimes plastic is necessary, other times it’s just plain stupid

If you take anything away from this post, be it this; plastic is a crazy part of our lives. There are parts of this world where plastic is inevitable, such as medicine, with plastic being essential for our safety. But, there are also parts of our world, where plastic is overbearingly unnecessary, and it’s in these parts, where we can make the most difference. People around the world refusing plastic for the whole of July has made an incredible difference already.

If you completed this challenge, you are an important part of a community, with 3.4 million members worldwide! Now just imagine how much plastic these 3.4 million people saved during one month, and how much plastic will be saved if people continue living like they’re still in July! I personally will be continuing this challenge in my daily life, and I hope that if you didn’t participate this year, then hopefully 2019 will be the year for you!

Plastic Not Fantastic, part of our Research Series, highlights recent research efforts into the effects of plastic on marine life, and showcases organisations, individuals and initiatives fighting against the plastic tide

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Completed Plastic Free July and want to continue? Or missed the boat but want to give it a go? Check out these helpful books!