Plastic Free July is normally easy for the plastic free veterans who have taken on this challenge for the past few years. But with the pandemic, everyone is back at square one. Both newbie and veteran are right back at the starting line. Every purchase always comes with excessive plastic packaging because many establishments ban the use of reusables. It’s understandable as public safety comes first.
By Jean Ong
Is it still possible to do the Plastic Free July Challenge this year? Doing Plastic Free July this year will look very different from the past years. There’s no escaping that you’ll take in some plastic as you have no control over many establishment’s ban on reusables. This year will be more about reducing plastic where you can and being gentle on yourself for the plastic that you can’t.
That said, there’s still a lot you can do to go plastic free.
1. Plastic Free online shopping
Amazon Prime Day has passed, and no doubt, its added a lot of plastic packaging to the plastic problem. In 2019, Oceana estimates that shopping on Amazon created 465 million pounds of plastic waste. Is there a way to do plastic free online shopping without giving up Amazon? Thankfully there is. It’s not 100% foolproof, but you’re guaranteed some of your Amazon buys will be plastic free.
All you have to do is tell Amazon you prefer plastic free shipping. Open a chatbox with Amazon and tell them to make a note on your account that you prefer plastic free shipping. This will show up in all your future orders so Amazon distributors can see your preference. It is still up to the distributor whether they follow your preference or not. For sure, some of your Amazon buys will be plastic free, while some will still be heavily wrapped in plastic.
The beauty of going plastic free shopping on Amazon is that it’s a set it and forget it kind of thing. You only have to set your account to plastic free once, and it will show up in your setting every time.
2. Plastic Free Shopping
For both newbies and veterans, bringing a reusable tote when shopping is one of the first challenge they take on for Plastic Free July. Before the pandemic, it was the easiest challenge to take on. But with the pandemic, many establishments have a no-contact policy so they discourage or ban customers from bringing in reusables. So how do you do plastic free shopping?
You can only do so much. You can ask establishments if you can use your reusable tote and make a mental note to shop there more often. For sure, there will be establishments that won’t allow it. Just know that you already did your best, but the situation just won’t allow it.
3. Setting up a Plastic Free Bathroom
The biggest plastic trash that comes into your bathroom would be your toilet paper wrapped in so much plastic. When you buy the bulk packages, it comes in plastic packaging. And then each individual tissue roll also comes wrapped in even more plastic. So how to stop the tide of plastic in your bathroom?
You can either opt for paper wrapped tissue paper if you have them in your supermarket. Or you can lessen the toilet paper you use. That way, there’s less plastic that comes with your toilet paper.
One easy way to reduce your toilet paper is by installing a bidet. It will cut your toilet paper use in half. The best part of using a bidet is that it cuts both your carbon footprint and plastic footprint. By setting up a bidet, you’re well on your way to a plastic free bathroom.
4. Plastic Free take out
Getting plastic free take out is nearly impossible. It usually comes wrapped in gazillion layers of plastic. What with the pandemic, hygiene and sanitized food containers are extremely important.
So how to go plastic free? You can ask the restaurant to omit the plastic cutlery. Many apps have this function where you can request that cutlery not be included. Or you can just chat with the restaurant’s customer service and tell them not to include any cutlery in your order.
For sure, some restaurants will ignore your request while some will be happy to oblige.
5. Plastic Free produce
Getting plastic free produce is easier than most people think. Normally, farmers market sell naked produce or produce in their natural state; meaning it’s not wrapped in plastic packaging.
When buying produce, check out your local farmers market. They sell fruits and vegetables that’s plastic free. The best part of buying at a farmer’s market is that you can also pick and inspect each piece you’re buying. So you won’t be bringing home leaves that’s already wilted or rotten. Unlike in grocery stores, when you buy the entire pack of greens, you get the whole lot even the wilted ones.
When shopping at your local farmers market, remember to bring your reusable tote bags or a market bag to keep the shopping experience truly plastic free.
It’s frustrating trying to go plastic free during the pandemic. It’s much harder to do so. But all is not lost as there are alternative ways of shopping and getting our essentials that’s plastic free. This guide is the first step in seeking out plastic free alternatives. Remember plastic free is just a goal, each step you take towards the goal is already a win for Mother Earth.
Jean Ong is the founder of Ecolover United, a movement that makes it easier for the everyday folk to live sustainably and in style.
She graduated college with a degree in Business Management major in Marketing, she currently work as a store manager by day, and an Earth Hero at night and on the weekends.
She’s a keen nature lover, maybe this came from fulfilling the prophetic nature of getting her name? Her Chinese name is Lin, meaning forest or grove of trees.
She believes that: if it’s good for Mother Earth, it’s good for you.
You can find her on Instagram at @jean.ecolover_united