Plastic Free July: Mountain or motivation?

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, writes Becky Blench.

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.

Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July can seem daunting but small steps still count. 

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.

Find out more about Plastic Free July here


Leave a Reply

  1. Your right Becky. As we become more compassionate towards the planet, including it’s other inhabitants it has a positive effect on us. We realise we are all connected.

  2. Thanks for your article. The one thing I would day is that you no longer have to give up crisps to be plastic free – Two Farmers have a range of crisps in compostable packaging and not only are they plastic free but the crisps are excellent!

  3. I work in a petrol station not far from Riverford and whereas I agree with all that is said in the article I am not hopeful. The number of drinks, shampoos, oils, coal, screenwash, let alone tobacco and wrapping and the ubiquitous water bottles we sell because people expect it, is enormous. What I can do minimal compared to what Amazon chuck out on a daily basis and I saw an article that estimated that every time there’s a new iPhone produced 60 million old ones end up in landfill. I try and do my bit but do feel a bit of a hypocrite at times, advocating one thing and doing another. Every little helps but it is a very, very little…….

    1. I think we’ve all been there jdholloway. You probably have more impact if you advocate, campaign and spread the message amongst people you know than the own reduction you have. It’s a giant system at work, and it’s so hard to be on it all the time.

      In my opinion, there’s much to be said for being part of a movement rather than just making little changes by ourselves. It’s when lots of people get involved and demand change, that governments, corporations start to get involved, and that’s when that system might start to shift. It’s also uplifting to talk with people who are on same mission and can breed enthusiasm.

      It’s slow changes though, I think it took campaigners like Sustain 8 years to get a sugar tax through, so keep going!

      Here are a few citizen activist groups on plastic if you’re interested:

  4. I have really enjoyed the sustainableish podcast as it makes the case for achievable steps and not perfectionism. I am doing similar things, shampoo bars, solid cleanser bar, aluminium pot of moisturiser, sheet laundry detergent, toothpaste tabs, taking my own containers to the butchers, visiting a refill shop, I still
    Eat normal crisps, but Tesco and Sainsbury’s offer recycling of those packets now too. So I’m hopeful that will encourage change at those large companies. To sustainable packaging. If everyone in the affluent nations made similar simple changes (which have had a pretty negligible impact on my day to day life) it would be huge globally.


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