Tips for Plastic Free July

Mr Verdant thought I was on a personal crusade this month when I mentioned we were going Plastic Free this July.  But no it’s a real thing that others are also doing, not just me.

So to celebrate Plastic Free July, I thought I would share what we have done so far in the Verdant Household, to reduce our waste. 

Changes have not happened overnight and it has been a 7 + years journey to get to where we are at and we still have a long way to go to being as close to zero waste as possible.

1. Keep a stash of reusable bags in your car,  bag or briefcase

Single use plastic bags are the highest thrown ‘away’ barely used item. Reusable bags are so readily available at supermarkets now, there really is no excuse not to use them. It’s just about being a little organised. 

And if you happen to be caught short, think: do you really need any bag at all to carry that one or two items you bought at the dairy. 

2. Buy a reusable coffee cup. 

Single use disposable coffee cups are not just created from cardboard. They also have a liner of plastic which means it’s very hard for it break down completely.  Even ‘biodegradable’ and some compostable cups can cause problems as they need a commercial composting facilty for them to even break down.  

Even if you are buying your morning coffee hit once a day five days a week, that adds up to over 5000 cups over 20 years. That’s just one person! 

Many cafes will allow you to fill your own cup. And if they don’t allow, it then with so many places to get a good cup of coffee from these days it shouldn’t be hard to find someone that will.  If you are struggling to find somewhere get the Conscious Consumers App which has a list of businesses that will take your BYO cup as well as other ethical businesses. 

3. Ditch the plastic straws

Hmm, not so fine a choice of words, but ditching the straws is what seems to happen to plastic. And they are ending up in our oceans where marine life mistake plastic for something edible. Have you ever seen the video about the turtle with a straw stuck up its nose? If you don’t believe me, here is the link.  Don’t watch if you are squeamish and emotional. This one made me cry. 

Straws aren’t that necessary unless you are wanting to get a quick alcohol hit (so the theory goes), or you can’t drink out of a cup for some reason. So if you really need to use one, get a stainless steel one.  They are easy to clean wiht a little bottle brush and are readily available.  Try Commonsense Organics, Sustainability Trust, and Haakaa.

4. Use reusable produce bags

Do you really need a plastic bag for your bunch of bananas, a plastic bag for your vine ripened tomatoes, a plastic bag for your broccoli, a plastic bag for your cauliflower, and a plastic bag for lettuce? And don’t get me started on wrapped fruit and veges on plastic trays! 

Worried about the checkout operator handling your fruit and veges?  Think about it: They were grown (mostly) outside and handled at some point by people in packing houses, handled by the veges department when putting it on the shelf and they are going to be handled by you at some point soon.  Fruit and veges should be washed at some point before eating anyway.

For reusable bags try these  ones from Earth Mama.  Or make your own from old net curtains.  They are easy to wash.  I just wash ours in the sink when doing the dishes.

5. Get a reusable water bottle

Ok this is an easy one, since most kids these days have their own drink bottle. But think about getting one for yourself instead of reusing an old pump bottle (which by the way is only designed for single use and will leach nasty chemicals if you reuse to use them) 

Really consider a glass or stainless steel drink bottle. Really easy to clean, won’t leach nasty chemicals and both stainless steel and glass are easily recycled multiple times unlike plastic.  The glass ones often have a silicone cover so they won’t smash when dropped. My favourite though is the EcoTanka. They come with replaceable lids and even though Mr 18 months has dropped his multiple times a day, it is still going strong after a year, with only one lid replacement. 

If it all seems much to hard and overwhelming.  Just pick one thing and try sticking to it just for July and see how you go.  

If you are already doing these things and want to see what else you can do more, join the @ZeroWasteNZ Facebook group.  It is full of fabulous people, (some actually living with zero waste) with great ideas and solutions. It’s a bit like google! Ask it a question and you’ll get multiple answers back. Quite inspirational and aspirational.