Plastic Free July has been on my radar for a long time, but truthfully? I sort of sidelined it in my brain with a ‘but I’m a green living kind of person’ get-out clause that let me merrily continue doing the same old thing.
I carry a water bottle and shopping bag with me every day, use a shampoo bar and am slowly replacing household cleaners with refillable eco alternatives. ‘Less and better meat’? Tick. But although it’s great there are more plant-based options to choose from now, they are all in shiny, see-through, single use packs – some of which end up in my weekly shop.
This July, I set myself a challenge of getting more involved, but just noticing what’s really going on in terms of my plastic use has been a total shocker; it is so hard to avoid despite my best efforts, and surprising to discover just how attached I am to treats that I didn’t want to give up.
I cook from scratch pretty much every meal, rarely get take-outs, mostly avoid highly processed foods, but no more crisps? Or mochi ice-cream balls? No wonder it is a hard sell getting folks to be plastic free.
If I stop and consider the actual impact of our western lifestyle on the many communities globally affected by plastic pollution, the sadness, guilt and powerlessness I feel is huge. It’s tempting to avoid that by disengaging from the fact I need to make changes, plus demand more from retailers and our government. But being part of a wealthy, wasteful culture that feels it’s okay to treat the rest of the world as our rubbish bin does not sit well, and my purchases are part of that cycle.
Trying to be plastic free pushed my buttons around having to do things perfectly and being uncomfortable with failure – I felt like giving up after day three. But what if there’s a kinder way to do this whole process? Accepting that there is no such thing as perfect is the first step.
There is so much good advice online and surprisingly the general consensus from the zero waste movement is encouraging people to be more mindful around plastic, and making some small swaps that gradually add up to big changes.
Many Instagram influencers, such as @my_plastic_free_home, @zerowastehome, @blueollis, @sustainabelish and @mamalinauk are really supportive, gently working with our natural human resistance to changing familiar ways of doing things and instead suggesting workable new habits which are better for us and the environment.
Next steps for me? DIY ‘convenience foods’ to make ahead and freeze, starting with batch cooking and zero plastic organic burger recipes (so much quicker and easier than I thought – try the Riverford kits for inspiration).
Really getting to grips with refills will follow. There is a store at the top of a steep hill where I live – I am going to see if I can get fitter by doing a weekly refill run and use that as my motivation.
And most important – as I step up around being kinder to the planet, I’m going to be kinder to myself in the process.