by Gelaine Santiago
This month, we saw something incredible happen. Thousands of people from around the world united together for #PlasticFreeJuly, an online movement calling on individuals to go plastic-free for an entire month. The movement actually began in Western Australia, but has since spread to all corners of the world, from the Philippines to the US and also our own lovely city of Toronto.
Why go plastic-free, you may ask?
There’s a ton of literature online, but to keep things brief, we’re in a global plastic crisis. If the growing mound of plastic in the ocean wasn’t enough to alarm you, scientists have even begun finding microfibre plastic particles in our digestive systems! We are literally drinking and eating plastic.
So it’s definitely encouraging to see more and more people come together to address the plastic crisis. Let’s be clear - it’s incredibly difficult to really go plastic-free all the time because plastic is so ubiquitous - it’s everywhere! But be assured, there’s plenty we can each do to reduce our plastic consumption, and it doesn’t have to be hard.
Here are six easy changes you can make today to go plastic-free all year long.
1. Just Say No (To Plastic Bags!)
These days, most of us have become accustomed to bringing our own bags to the grocery store, or even the mall. A lot of our customers, when asked if they want a (paper) bag with their purchase, will usually decline. They’ve brought their own, and that’s awesome!
But how about those little plastic bags many of us use for produce at the grocery store? Does your lettuce really need its own plastic bags? If you wash your fruits and veggies beforehand, then there’s really no need for an additional layer of plastic. And foods with its own peels are naturally protected, anyway.
We’re in a global plastic crisis. A boy wades through mounds of plastic in Nicaragua.
If you really feel strongly about bagging your fruits and veggies, then opt for brown paper bags. Most grocery stores provide them alongside the mushrooms and herbs section, or just bring your own produce bags!
2. Travel With Your Own Mug and Eating Utensils.
Coffee cups are some of the biggest perpetrators of landfill waste, since the majority of to-go cups are actually not recyclable! Shocking, right? Bringing your own reuseable mug can do wonders to cut your plastic consumption, and many cafes offer discounts, too!
Most people these days are pretty aware of the benefits of bringing your own mug. But how about your own eating utensils? Sometimes you can’t help but be on the run and need to resort to fast food or takeout. No judgement here. Next time, however, forget the plastic eating utensils and pack your own fork and spoon. We always have a set handy in our purse on days when we’re too busy to pack lunch. You can also go the extra mile and bring your own container if you’re the sort who often has leftovers.
3. Choose Products With Little/No Plastic Packaging.
Don’t you just hate it when you purchase something, and the packaging is bigger than the product itself? Good news is that more and more businesses are choosing to leave the plastic, and are opting for more sustainable packaging options like glass or cardboard instead.
A good rule of thumb to follow: choose products in boxes instead of bottles. For example, you can switch from liquid soap to soap and shampoo bars (our favourites are from The Good Bar), or choose laundry detergent in boxes. These days, you can even get boxed water! It’s much less time and resource-intensive to recycle cardboard than plastic, so you’ll be doing yourself and the earth a favour.
Want to live a plastic-free lifestyle? Bring your own reusable bags and eating utensils!
Shopping at bulk food stores can also do wonders to reduce the amount of packaging you use. Bring your own reusable container (hint: refer to tip 2!) and just fill ‘er up. Often stores have ways to deduct the weight of your container from the weight of the food you’re purchasing, so you’re only paying for what you purchase.
On the homefront, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your environmental impact at home. One of the biggest things you can do is to stop using plastic wrap.
There are actually innovative products out there, like all-natural beeswax food wraps. These beauties not only cut down your negative plastic vibes, but they also keep your food fresh and delicious for much longer periods of time, which saves you money in the long run. Our go-to natural food wrap brand is Abeego, but there are more and more brands popping up. You can find them online, or at your local specialty grocery store.
5. Eat Less Frozen Food.
There are lots of issues with frozen/pre-packaged foods. We won’t go into the health effects here as we’re sure you’ve already heard enough. But we will say that pre-packaged foods has quite a lot of plastic, and immense amounts of packaging.
Instead of purchasing frozen foods with lots of plastic, prep your meals in advance.
Though quite a few frozen meals come in cardboard packaging, most of them are actually coated in layers of plastic. This means bad vibes for your health and the environment. So skip the frozen food section altogether and prepare your own meals to freeze in advance. Our favourite meal prep ritual is on Sunday nights, when we fill up several glass mason jars with pre-made salads ready for us to eat any day of the week. Yum!
We get it. Sometimes it’s unavoidable and you just have to suck it up and buy products wrapped in plastic. If this is the case, then opt for already recycled/post-consumer plastic packaging, and recyclable plastic.
Not all plastic is actually recyclable. Most people don’t know, but many cities actually can’t recycle black plastic. If you put black plastic in the recycling bin, it ends up contaminating the entire lot, which leads to the entire batch being discarded. Make sure you stay informed about what plastics are actually recyclable, and to stick to clear plastics instead. In every case, it’s best to reuse any plastic for as long as you possibly can to minimize your impact.
Are you on a journey towards a more conscious lifestyle? Sign up for our email newsletter to receive more tips, or check out our previous post on ways to reduce your environmental impact at home!