Plastic Free July is an initiative to raise awareness of the amount of single-use plastic in our lives by challenging participants to refuse single-use plastics during the entire month. Starting in 2011 in Perth, Australia, the challenge has now expanded to 130+ countries world-wide. Obviously, we’re a fan. If you’re following along for a day, a week, or the entire month, don’t forget to register for the global initiative here!
At Nada, part of our mission is to make the zero waste movement as accessible as it can be, to secure our vision of an unpackaged future: a lighter world free of excess. Whether you’re a zero waste expert or just starting out, it can be quite an intimidating challenge to completely eliminate plastic consumption for an entire month, so we’re offering an easy way to get involved in Plastic Free July. We’re sharing 31 tips – one per day – that can be followed day-by-day or all at once!
Our guiding star in any decision is the 5 R’s (not 3!)
- Refuse items that you don’t need
- Reduce those you do
- Reuse what you can
- Recycle what’s left
- Rot (compost) everything else
We’ve added three more R’s – Rethink, Replace, and Reach Out – to create seven categories of tips, one for each day of the week!
The list below is just a summary… the Nada team will also be sharing our stories and our own #plasticfreejuly journeys on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Be sure to follow along!
Now let’s get started!
July 1 – Reflect: If your intention is to reduce your personal waste, the worst thing you can do is just toss all your plastics into the trash. Take a day to reflect – notice all the places you’re using plastics… from your deodorant, to your floss, to your grab-and-go snack. Take time to think about plastic-free replacements for these items, and the next time you need to purchase new, try purchasing plastic-free.
July 2 – Ready yourself with a handy zero waste kit! The hardest part about refusing single-use is when you’re out and about and don’t have any alternative. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to prepare a zero waste kit filled with replacements to common single-use items, such as a reusable mug, a water bottle, a metal straw, and a lightweight metal container to carry any snacks. Keep these stored in your backpack or purse so that you can always replace single-use with a better choice.
July 3: Refuse single-use plastics! Think of at least one single-use plastic item that you pledge to refuse for the remainder of the month. Who knows, maybe you’ll start a new habit! The first places we would start are: plastic drink bottles, coffee cups, plastic straws and cutlery, and plastic bags.
July 4: Reduce plastic bags and plastic wrap. There are so many alternatives to plastic wrap and plastic baggies. Our favourite alternative is all-natural and compostable beeswax wraps, which have the added bonus of being breathable, so your food stays fresher than in plastic! Or you can use a glass or metal container… or just cover your leftovers with a plate!
July 5: Reuse packaging containers by bringing your own. Bring reusable cloth bags, containers, and jars to refill with bulk dry and liquid items. More and more businesses are willing to let you refill your own containers; scout these out and make sure to support those that do. You can check out Nada’s BYOC policy here.
July 6: Recycling Warriors. Support organizations promoting a circular economy. Vancouver is home to a lot of amazing initiatives to collect resources from our waste streams and turn them into something new. Choose reclaimed wood in your next construction project. Seek out recycled textiles for your next fabric purchase. And support recyclers like the Binners’ Project who are committed to diverting waste from landfills.
July 7: Replace liquid soap with naked soap. Liquid soap creates a lot more waste than bar soap. You can always reduce waste by refilling, but why not cut out waste entirely by switching to bar soap… especially if you can find it package free! (Hot tip: this also works for shampoo bars instead of liquid ‘poo and conditioner).
July 8: Reach Out to businesses. Support companies that are champions of social and environmental responsibility and those that are making the world a better place. Although this list is certainly not exhaustive, certifications such as B-Corp, Fairtrade, and 1% for the Planet are a good place to start.
July 9: Reconnect with your food system. Start asking questions about your food (and other products). Where did it come from? Where did it come from? Who made it? How was it transported? What packaging is used? What values does your supplier promote? Seek out actors that are transparent about their supply chains. The more you know about your food, the more control you have over its impact.
July 10: Refuse plastic straws. One of the most common plastic items to make its way into our oceans is plastic straws. Join the movement to say, “No straw, please” when you order a drink out.
July 11: Reduce your environmental impact (and the packaging that goes along) by choosing foods lower on the food chain. Aside from the lower overall footprint of choosing plants over animal products, have you ever noticed how much more plastic is used in packing meat versus plant-based items? You don’t need to go 100% vegan, 100% of the time, but consider the impact of the foods you eat and try a new recipe for plant-based eating.
July 12: Reuse (or help vendors do so) by returning packaging at the Farmers Market. While most packaging at the farmers market is recyclable or compostable, bonus points if you bring it right back to the source. Many stands are happy to reuse empty egg cartons, berry containers, elastics, and twist-ties!
July 13: Rot all organics including food scraps, bones, tea bags, coffee grounds, and more! The best, most sustainable packaging of all is nature’s packaging. Be sure to place them in a compost bin so it they don’t contribute to as much GHG emissions as stewing in the landfill!
July 14: Replace almost all your cleaning suppliers with vinegar and baking soda. In addition to making the best elementary school science projects, vinegar and baking soda are a killer combination for most cleaning tasks, including washing dishes, removing soap scum from your bathtub, and scrubbing rust off your frying pan. Check out a great list from Plastic Free July here.
July 15: Reach Out to the zero waste community. A great way to find support along your journey is to connect with like-minded folks who are similarly seeking to refuse single-use plastics. Did you know there are zero waste Facebook groups across the country? Check out our blog post to find resources in your local community.
July 16: Reconnect with your farmers! There’s no better way to support your local food system than buying local and organically grown produce from your Farmers Market. And when you buy closer to the source, there are less opportunities for plastics to creep their way into your food purchase. Most farmers are happy to sell their product with little or no packaging, as that is one less cost they have to take on. Added bonus: your produce is fresher, so it will last longer than produce from the grocery store!
July 17: Refuse stuff you don’t want. We collect so much stuff that we don’t want. Learn to say no to that extra stuff. Don’t grab the promo bag. Say no to receipts you don’t need. Refuse junk mail by leaving a note on your mailbox!
July 18: Reduce the amount of stuff you buy new. When you avoid buying things new, you also avoid all of the production resources and packaging that comes with new items. Choose the second-hand economy! Shop at yard sales. Use Craigslist or Kijiji. Test your luck on Ebay. Rummage your local thrift store. Organize a clothing swap. Rediscover your local library.
July 19: Reuse cotton or canvas bags for everything from picking up a loaf or bread to stuffing with fresh, organic produce! Stash reusable carry bags in your backpack, purse, bike basket, or trunk so that you always have them on hand.
July 20: Recycle right. While the ultimate goal of initiatives like Plastic Free July is to have zero waste to send into recycling at all, in the meantime it’s so important to know where and how to recycle. Recycle BC has a Waste Wizard to find out how to recycle those tricky items (think batteries, lightbulbs, aerosol cans). Check it out!
July 21: Replace store-bought deodorant with DIY or compostable! If you can’t find products without packaging, try making your own! There are a lot of great recipes for personal care products like deodorant: mix together baking soda, arrowroot powder, coconut oil, and a couple of drops of essential oils. If you’re not feeling the DIY, there are a lot of natural alternatives – we carry one with compostable packaging!
July 22: Reach Out to your local government. Tell your elected reps that you support policies that encourage responsible consumption. To get started, the federal government is currently seeking input on what should be included in a Food Policy for Canada, and here in Vancouver, the municipal government is considering a ban on single-use disposables. Need we say more?
July 23: Reconnect with why this all matters! There are a number of great blogs, books, and films out there providing inspiration on why and how to live with less plastics. Some of our favourite blogs are Trash is for Tossers, Zero Waste Home, and Life without Plastic. And if you haven’t watched it yet, A Plastic Ocean is available on Netflix!
July 24: Refuse single-use coffee pods. Choose a plastic-free way of making your morning cup of coffee. Use a reusable coffee filter in your machine or a French press. Bonus points for getting your beans in bulk and your machine second-hand!
July 25: Reduce convenience items. Challenge yourself to choose one convenience food item that you love that usually comes packed in plastic, and make it yourself! Granola bars? Yoghurt cups? Popcorn, roasted chickpeas & trail mix? Google is your friend.
July 26: Return containers whenever you can! Many businesses support a return program where you can bring back glass containers for a rebate. Purchase dairy and ice cream in glass jars whenever possible, and hold on to your growlers and clean empty wine bottles to refill at local breweries and wineries.
July 27: Recycle & Rot by design. One of the sister movements to the zero waste philosophy is cradle-to-cradle design. Rather than traditional design, which focuses primarily on consumption, cradle-to-cradle design considers the entire lifecycle of a product and envisions the continuous recovery and reutilization of product components in biological (composting) or technical (recycling) cycles. When you purchase a product, look at the components and consider how they will return to waste-streams. If it can’t be easily recycled or composted, don’t buy it.
July 28: Replace paper wth cloth. Reusable towels > paper towels. Handkerchiefs > Kleenex. Cotton rounds > disposable makeup wipes. Not only are all of these products single-use, they are often wrapped in a lot of unnecessary plastic. Both these problems can be reduced by choosing reusable organic cotton alternatives.
July 29: Reach Out to your friends! If you’ve been along for the entire month, we’re sure you’ve learned a lot! But this isn’t ultimately about a single-month challenge, but a lifestyle change toward a more sustainable future. Speak up and share with those around you what you’ve learned, and try to get at least one person to adopt at least one new change.
July 30 – Reconnect with the outdoors. We live in such a beautiful world, and just being outside is enough to motivate us to keep our oceans, mountains, and communities free from plastic waste. Go to your favourite outdoor place and reconnect (remember to pack out what you pack in!). Even better, participate in a local beach or trail clean up, or lead one yourself!
July 31 – Reflect, again. Congratulations – what a month! It’s the end of the challenge but it’s certainly not the end of the journey. Once you’ve been at it for a month, do a waste audit (simply take a glance at your trash bin!) to see where you are continuing to use package. Imagine ways to reduce that further and repeat!
We can’t wait for this month to start and see what fun #plasticfree ideas you all have!
The Nada Team