Shy away from single-use plastic this summer and help the planet.
What is Plastic Free July?
For the sustainability community, July means one thing: ditching single-use plastic.
The annual Plastic Free July challenge originated in Perth, Australia in 2011 and has grown tremendously thanks to social media. Today, it is considered one of the most influential environmental campaigns globally, with over 250 million participants expected this year.
So what is the appeal of cutting out plastic for one month? It consolidates a daunting task (saying no to plastic forever) into four weeks, making it more convenient and achievable than if it were open-ended. The challenge empowers millions to take small, daily actions to create a sense of awareness of single-use plastics and ultimately minimize their consumption.
Why is No Plastic July important?
Many support banning plastic production due to its overwhelmingly toxic pollution to our water, air, land — not to mention its long lifespan (it lasts forever). However, some Plastic Free July critics suggest that the campaign is a mere snowflake in a blizzard or even a distraction that makes no significant impact in the face of bigger and more catastrophic climate concerns like melting icebergs, rising sea levels, wildfires, and soil degradation.
But in fact, plastic production begins at the same source as your home's energy supply — fossil fuels. Plastic pollutes the environment long before it spends centuries in landfills or the ocean (remember: every piece of plastic ever made still exists somewhere in the world). It harms the environment through every part of its lifecycle, leaving BIPOC communities and those in developing countries at the most risk, as they lack the infrastructure to manage the shipments of waste coming from Western countries.
As big oil companies continue to call the shots and make the plastic situation even worse, the demand for fossil fuels will begin to dwindle as we decarbonize society in efforts to restore the planet.
What is the Plastic Free July eco challenge?
Plastic Free July intends to get people thinking, asking questions, and making changes in their lives, which helps normalize different ways of doing things and sparks conversation and innovation, which is then adopted by businesses, governments, and corporations.
Some are already making crucial changes in their production, packaging, and practices.
For example, take the social enterprise company Terracycle, which is on a mission to eliminate plastic waste in 21 countries by collecting typically non-recyclable items through first-of-their-kind recycling platforms. Consumer product companies partner with Terracycle to turn hard-to-recycle materials (think: ocean plastic) and turn them into more eco-friendly products. They have now diverted millions of pounds of valuable resources from landfills all over the world.
Another B-Corp brand that has made a name for itself in the consumer product space is Dr. Bronner’s. The brand exclusively uses 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) polyethylene (PET) plastic bottles.
By turning used plastic bottles into new products, Dr. Bronner’s helps conserve virgin resources, reduce landfills, and profit from the energy already invested in making existing plastic products.
Bottle-to-bottle recycling, the recycling of plastic bottles into new bottles, is also relatively uncommon. Most times, the plastic picked up on curbsides is "downcycled," shipped to countries like China, where it's used to create synthetic fabrics for carpets and clothes, then sent back to the U.S. for sale, producing even more greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and factories.
Plastic Free July activities & ideas
It's a never-ending cycle, but we're here to help guide you on how to reduce your single-use plastic consumption with alternative solutions and how to avoid it during and after the #PlasticFreeJuly challenge.
1. Start small
Don't stress — we don't expect you to comb through your house and throw out all things made from plastic. Instead, start small by choosing 1-5 items to make plastic-free. It can be as simple as bringing personal reusable bags to the grocery store next time you shop or opting for a glass bottle of water over a plastic one at a convenience store. Fun fact: recycled glass uses 40% less energy than manufacturing new glass, and up to 80% of all recycled glass can be reclaimed. If all goes well, you might feel inspired to add additional items after July has ended.
2. Get creative
A big part of cutting out plastic is figuring out how to make homemade replacements for things you'd typically buy in packaging. There's a certain element of DIY you can learn to embrace to avoid plastic packaging. Of course, we don't expect you to become an artist overnight. But it can be fun attempting to make things right at home, such as bread, ice cream, almond butter, etc. Head to your local farmer's market to stock up on seasonal fruit and turn it into jam.
3. Invest in plastic-free reusables
Let us be clear — shopping is not a solution to the planet's environmental issues, but a few smart investments can improve your plastic consumption in the long run. Put on your research hat during Plastic Free July to discover plastic alternative products that are useful to you and start saving for them. Start with a reusable water bottle or drawstring produce bags, stainless steel food storage containers, shampoo and soap bars, on-the-go utensils, and more.
4. Consider your closet
Fashion production makes up 10% of carbon emissions while polluting our air, water, and land at alarming rates. Most of our clothes are made from cheap materials like polyester, which is a commonly used plastic found in things like water bottles and credit cards. The majority of polyesters are not biodegradable, meaning that the polyester fabric shirt you bought last season will not decompose for 20 years at best and 200 years at worst. So what’s a great way to reduce your plastic consumption? Shop for garments made from eco-friendly materials, like hemp, organic cotton, or Tencel, or from upcycled and recycled materials. We highly recommend Patagonia.
Start your own plastic free challenge
Are you ready to take steps to reduce plastic production further and, ultimately, fossil fuel emissions? What actions and changes have you made so far on your journey to a net-zero carbon future?
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