Grocery shoppers in Montreal recently made headlines ditching excessive plastic packaging at the door of their supermarket in protest. Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza introduced a plastic-free aisle. Australian supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths will stop offering single-use plastic bags this month. Chile has boldly approved a nation-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. The anti-plastic movement is growing. We now have a whole month to focus, laser-like, on our own habits: plastic-free July.
The plastic-free challenge In preparation for ‘Plastic-Free July’ and to share our experiences with you, we decided to take the plunge and ditch single use plastic for a month. Did we succeed? Not entirely. Plastic is so omni-present as to be nearly impossible to avoid. Some swaps were simple; others not so much. It’s really about a shift in mindset and planning. It’s not easy going plastic free, but neither is a dying planet. Here’s what we did.
To avoid plastic shampoo bottles, we resorted to bar soap instead that left us with scarecrow hair. We are still looking for cosmetics in plastic-free or reusable packaging, and instead have settled for recyclable packaging rather than go completely native. Unwell with a cold? Try seeking relief for a sore throat with lozenges that don’t come in plastic-foil blister packs – impossible. We’d suggest sipping home-made lemon juice and honey and taking it with you in a small re-usable glass jar. Need a nice hot cup of tea or coffee to warm up from the inside? Most tea and coffee come in plastic packaging and take-away cups are lined with plastic making them near impossible to recycle. The best we could do is buy loose-leaf tea and coffee in larger amounts to reduce packaging or take our own re-usable containers to a bulk-produce store. And of course, say no to take away coffee cups and take our own. Grabbing some food on-the-go? It’s a disposable plastic nightmare that made us think twice about doing it at all or search hard for restaurants that use real cutlery and crockery. If you’d like to try ‘Plastic-Free July’ we’ve got the following tips to help you avoid single-use plastics.
Plastic-free hacks on-the-move
Keep these eco-friendly alternatives in your bag and say “no thanks” to disposable plastics:
- Metal spork: An easy (and less flimsy) alternative to disposable plastic cutlery.
- Reusable coffee cup: Some cafes even offer discounts if you BYO reusable cup!
- Metal drinking straw: Ditch plastic straws that harm marine life in favour of reusable metal straws.
- Glass storage container: Useful for bringing lunch to work or taking leftovers home from restaurants.
- Cloth bag: For those unplanned trips to the grocery store.
- Choose full eat-in restaurants with proper crockery and cutlery, or seek out take-aways with biodegradable packaging
- Avoid disposable plates, cutlery and cups for parties and picnics. Use re-usable or biodegradable.
Plastic-free food shopping hacks
- Buy large quantities and decant them into smaller reusable containers, rather than buying single serves.
- Reusable produce sacks/bags: are handy for bringing smaller fruits and veggies like cherries or green beans to the checkout to be weighed.
- Make your own: bread, yoghurt and snacks to save packaging (and money)
- Shop local: farmers market, butcher, baker or greengrocer to reduce packaging
- Ditch plastic food wrap: re-usable wraps are available or use washable containers instead.
Plastic-free bathroom hacks
- Metal safety razor: Not only do metal razors look great on your vanity; you can also change the blades and re-use the metal razor for a lifetime. The blades are cheap as chips and give you a really close shave!
- Face cloth: An alternative to facial scrubs with plastic micro beads and make-up wipes. Keep them fresh by them drying them out after each use, ideally in the sun (have two on the go and alternate)
- Bar of soap: The humble but effective alternative to plastic bottles of body wash.
- Olive oil or coconut oil: Use a few drops as a moisturiser or anti-frizz serum for unruly hair.
- Bamboo toothbrush: A compostable alternative to plastic toothbrushes.
- Arrowroot powder: A package-free (and cheaper!) alternative to dry shampoo for those with oily hair.
- Female hygiene: ladies, join the army of enviro-crusaders ditching disposable feminine hygiene products and try re-usable menstrual cups and underwear (saves money and avoids waste in landfill).
Thanks to Rachel Ananin AKA TheSeasonalDietitian.com for her assistance with this article.
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious. Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website.