July is a great month. It’s the peak of summer, prime time for camping, the wildflowers are popping and the trails are calling. July is also a wonderful month to join in a global movement to create a cleaner world.
Plastic Free July is an annual challenge aimed at reducing plastic pollution. By raising awareness about the excessive use of plastics participants learn, share resources, and pledge to become part of the solution to reduce global plastic usage and subsequent pollution.
A great jumping off point, and a major target of Plastic Free July, is to reduce single use plastics. Some plastics like bottles, tubs, jugs and cups are recyclable in our local systems. Unfortunately, nearly all single use, film and flimsy plastics like plastic bags, straws and cutlery are not recyclable and must be sent to the landfill. What’s worse, many of those items never make it to the landfill and instead end up as litter in our roads, waterways, mountains and communities, or as contamination in our recycling bins.
We all use more single-use plastics than we probably realize. According to Plastic Oceans, we produce 380 million tons of plastic annually worldwide, and half of that is just for single-use plastics. From the cutlery in our to-go meals, to the plastic produce bag at the grocery store, to the bubble wrap in your packages, plastics are briefly used all around us and just as quickly thrown away. The good news is that there are plenty of easy alternatives that can greatly reduce the plastics in our streets, waterways and landfills. There are so many opportunities to make plastic-free choices, and once you start digging it’s hard to stop!
Tips for a #PlasticFreeJuly:
- Find your plastics: Audit a day or week to identify where, when, what, and why you’re using single-use plastics. Once you know what you’re working with, it will be much easier to eliminate and find reusable alternatives.
- Reduce your usage: There are lots and lots of plastic alternatives out there nowadays, like reusable water bottles, mesh produce bags and bamboo travel cutlery. However, many things don’t even need an alternative and just require a simple behavior shift.
- If you order delivery or pick up a meal to-go to eat at home, just ask for no cutlery or condiment packets. Often those items are put in there by default, but who needs them?!
- Look for items that aren’t pre-packaged in plastic, like opting for bar soap instead of liquid. Skip the plastic produce bag at the grocery store, too; you’re probably going to be washing that produce when you get home anyway.
- Buy in bulk and use refillable packages for items like dish soap, shampoo and cleaning products. Take advantage of local options like refill store fill & refill in Edwards.
- Join the challenge and take action:
- Plastic Free July is the initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation. Join the hundreds of millions of people across the world who have pledged to take action this July. Their website is full of resources and zero waste ideas.
- You can join Eco-Cycle, a zero waste nonprofit based in Boulder, for their Plastic Free Challenge. By signing up you’ll receive weekly updates, tips and resources around Plastic Free July all month long. Eco-Cycle has also published a How to Quit Plastics Workbook full of tips to reduce your plastic waste.
Nina Waysdorf is the Sustainability Programs Manager at Walking Mountains Science Center.