5 Things to Try for Plastic-Free July

So, just in case you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll explain things in simple terms. Plastic is bad. We once thought it was great because it’s cheap and pliable. But once it’s made, it literally lasts forever. That water bottle you bought will still be here when you’re long gone, and there isn’t a whole lot we can do with it. Around 18 billion lbs of plastic spills into oceans every year. And – before you say it – recycling is only a tiny part of the solution. It’s estimated that only around 8% of plastic ever made had been recycled.

Being in the ocean, freediving or scuba diving, gives people a chance to explore just a little bit of the underwater world. It’s in that world that the worst by-products of our human lives appear, literally choking life. You can’t not be affected when you see creatures nibbling on plastic bags, and others choked by fishing lines and plastic remains. Sylvia Earle (Biologist Queen) once wrote that the reason divers and surfers are such advocates for ocean conservation is because “they’ve spent time in and around the ocean, and they’ve personally seen the beauty, the fragility, and even the degradation of our planet’s blue heart”.

We are all part of the problem, and the only thing we can do to change it is start being active – making small changes, helping others to make changes, putting pressure on corporations to make changes. Once you start noticing all the plastic around you it can feel overwhelming to try to make the ‘right’ choices.
Hopefully, this article gives you some ideas to reduce plastic in your life, and the best part is you don’t even have to wear hemp. Progress over perfection…

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it

Robert Swan

Plastic in the Ocean in Sydney by Susan Rajska
Photo by Susan Rajska

What is Plastic-Free July?

Plastic-Free July is a movement aimed at building global awareness about the amount of plastic in our oceans. The point of it is encourage people to take a look at their own habits and challenge themselves to make a change – for a month at first…

You can find out more about the movement, and about the reasons that ocean plastic is such a serious issue, here.

So, here are some ways you can take part in Plastic-Free July and challenge yourself to change your consumer habits a little without drastically changing your lifestyle.

Girl holding plastic surgical masks washed up on the beaches of Sydney from a spilled shipping container
Aliy Potts, owner of Naturally Driven, found this mess at Coogee Beach

1. Set Yourself 5 Realistic Rules

Last year, we decided to choose 5 achievable rules to follow throughout July to see if we could adjust our habits a little. Following just 5 rules made the whole thing manageable. Sometimes we had to make a little ‘sacrifice’, and had to change our mindsets a little bit, and we learnt that it wasn’t a big deal at all. 

If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are some ideas for rules. See how you go – hopefully these will be rules you can follow long after this July.

  • Always bring your own bag (and if you don’t, look for alternatives)
  • Always ask for no straw
  • No more plastic bottles – use your reusable water bottle
  • Stop using those little plastic bags for your veggies. Pick them up naked and wash later, or use the paper mushroom bags
  • No more coffee cups – use your reusable coffee cups
  • If you see any trash, pick it up
  • Keep a spork in your bag so you don’t have to use disposable cutlery
  • Use only biodegradable trash bags (or none, and wash your bin)
  • Wash and keep jars make your dream Pinterest store cupboard (you know what I’m talking about)
  • Choose the plastic-free option, even if it’s a little more expensive
  • Spearos, commit to buying no packaged supermarket meat – eat only what you fish
  • Support ethical brands and buy recycles/second hand goods
  • Attend or organise a cleanup

2. Choose Some Plastic-Free Switches

There are literally hundreds of everyday products with plastic-free versions available. You don’t need a specific month to try them out, but now it a pretty good time to give some a go. Before you think it (probably too late), some of them are more expensive than their plasticky friends. They’re built to last, so it’s worth it.

Plastic-Free Storecupboard

Here are some really simple switches you can make:-

My friend and amazing blogger, Lauren, had written a tonne of articles on plastic-free living, and she has great ideas for everyday swaps, Check out The Greenest Blue for more.

3. Challenge Yourself to a Plastic-Free Shop

‘But everything is wrapped in plastic’

‘The supermarkets need to change’

OK, there is too much plastic in the supermarket and in the supply chain, and the companies do need to change, but you also need to be a conscious consumer, and vote with your actions.

If you’ve never tried a plastic free shop, give it a go. You will learn something from it – you might be stoked to find out that you can actually eat really well whilst going plastic-free. It might introduce you to some new products you’ve never tried. Or it will piss you off to learn how prolific plastic is, and maybe that will light a fire 🙂

Plastic-Free Shopping at a Scoop Shop

Start washing and saving your empty jars and take them with you to the scoop shop. You will have many jars now that you always avoid the plastic tubs, but think about how cute those jars will look once you’ve done all the craft things with them.

If you can’t afford to do something ethically, you can’t afford to do it at all.

4. Be Vocal and Active

  • Educate your family and friends (but don’t alienate them). Convince them to watch one of these documentaties : A Plastic Ocean or Blue
  • Be an advocate of Take 3 for the Sea – a real simple thing you can do to make a change as you go about your life
  • Apply pressure to the government and institutions that contribute to ocean pollution either directly or through lack of regulation. The Plastic-Free July site has plenty of resources
  • Volunteer and support awareness-raising events. Plastic-Free July again keeps track of local events you can get involved in. A great way to take part is my coming along to meet me and tonnes of other Sydney freedivers at a SEABEAS clean up
  • Donate to the organisations making a difference, such as WWF, Plastic-Free July, AMC Society, Surfrider Foundation, Greenpeace and Take 3 for the Sea

5. Find Something Fun in the Change You Make

Sometimes it feels like making a positive eco-friendly change in your life is some kind of sacrifice needing all of your willpower. I’ve found it way easier to make changes when I create some kind of fun or challenge around it. Here are some examples you could use to make this whole experience a major addition to your life, rather than a ‘sacrifice’.

  • Buy a keep cup you love. Seriously. You will want to take it with you everywhere. Pottery for the Planet make some of my favourites. This company also support Australian Marine Conservation Society, so expressive plastic-free points.
  • Mystery Box Challenge with your friends – hit up a scoop shop or a farmers market and grab some packaging-free products. See what you can come up with.
  • Hold a screening event or movie night for one of these films: A Plastic Ocean or Blue
  • Clothes Swap or Thrift store party – Get behind recycled fashion to reduce the waste in the fashion supply chain. Throw a clothes swapping party to get some new things without needing to buy new clothes. Or, check out a thrift shop and see what you can find there.
  • Get stuck into some upcycling with your friends. Repurpose old clothes with tie-dye, create scrunchies, socks, scarves out of old clothing fabric, make candle holders and lamps out of jars. Try making wax wraps. Get creative.
  • Make a bunch of new friends, make a difference and maybe discover a new activity at an Ocean Cleanup or event. Check Out SeaBees for more info.

A Quick Note on Coping:

By the way, you will come across some dickhead that will say BuT wHaT aBoUt AlL tHe PlAsTiC oN yOuR cLoThEs AnD tHe PoLlUtIoN fRoM yOuR CaR? These people emerge from the depths the second you try to do anything positive to support a cause bigger than you. Their argument is this ‘if you can’t be perfect, why would you even try?’ All they’re doing is trying to find ways to justify their own lack of action by cutting down your efforts. If you’re a patient person, have a conversation with them and educate them. If you’re not, practice composting in their mailbox.

Tell Us About Your Experiences and Ideas!

We seriously love to hear ideas and feedback from everyone so we can share what’s working. Please reach out to us here or on Instagram to let us know what you’re doing to make a change, how it’s going, and what you’ve learnt. Share pictures so we can post them too!

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