Plastic Free July
How fast is this year going?! We are already into July! As many of you may know is it Plastic Free July this is a yearly global movement which sees many people reducing their single use plastics.
After reading the amazing Six Weeks to Zero Waste: A simple plan for life by Kate Arnell (which we highly recommend!) I felt it is the most appropriate book to summarise and give a few tips on how to reduce your waste this July, and hopefully turn these tips into a more permenant way of life.
It is important to note that although this book is six weeks to zero waste, Kate frequently reminds you that this is no hard or fast rule, you may take 6 days, you may take 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years. It doesn't matter how long you take, it is important that you go at your own pace that you feel comfortable with.
"Leave perfection at the door and do what you can." - Kate Arnell
No matter where you are within your zero waste journey you may have come across the 5 Rs or 7 Rs, there are many variations of this however we will stick to Kates version of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rot and Respond.
Refuse This may not come naturally, and may require some practice but that is OK. If you don't need whatever item is being offered, just a simple "no thanks" will save you from these unwanted gifts, freebies, flyers, samples etc. coming into your home and causing you more decisions to make further down the line.
Reduce Try to simplify what you need, you may find that you feel less stressed having less in your life and that you save money! Reducing is definitely a personal matter and may involve some trial and error along the way, but you will get there.
Reuse If you have any disposable products in your house, research and try to see if there are reusable options. You will often find the reusable alternatives actually save you money long term as well as helping to reduce your waste.
Repair I personally love this R, it really made me think about all those skilled crafters and whether their businesses are still going due to such modern practice these days. It is often much cheaper to just buy new after something breaks however by going to a specialist you are not only saving yourself from more packaging waste but you are keeping craft businesses alive. If you have a loved pair of shoes that are starting to wear, what about taking them to a local cobbler to give them a new lease of life?
Recycle Once you have got to this point, you are aware that whatever item you have cannot be refused, reduced, reused or repaired so now is the option to recycle. It's better practice to have recycling a little further down the list rather than opting for it first time, this is the best way to alter our habits and make certain changes in our life.
Rot If you can, compost it! Or invest in a wormery if you can, if you have a kerbside food waste collection service, use that. I love composting, there is definitely something very satisfying about placing your greens and browns into the compost bin or wormery and seeing the complete cycle turning that waste into nutrient rich plant food.
Respond Many companies, like us, love to receive feedback. Have you heard the saying "Two heads are better than one" well this is the model that we, and many other business work towards, however we want more than two heads. Businesses that are responsible and care for their customers are happy to receive feedback, by responding to us and informing us of something you think can be improved helps us get our thinking caps on to find a solution to the problem. If you have already thought about solutions, please send it to us as well! Most companies enjoy hearing your thoughts, as without them we wouldn't be aware of any issues.
1. Bins & Refusing
To start with try to focus on easy things such as implementing a minimised bin system, practising new habits and locating shops where you can buy loose produce and refills, or purchase them online from a store like us.
To start with try thinking and researching about things you naturally go to bin or recycle. Just by considering things and seeing if there is another use for those items you are already well on your way to reducing your waste and saying no to single use plastics.
A few changes you may want to consider this plastic free July:
- Cancel any magazine subscriptions, you may also be able to opt for the digital version instead which is often cheaper
- Switch to a green energy supplier, we did this and it has saved us a lot of money
- Switch to paper-free bank statements and just set a reminder one day each month to go through them or save them to your computer incase you need them in the future
- Opt for a milkman if you drink milk, or head to the local farm shop or famers market, they will usually sell milk in glass bottles which you can return. There are also vending machines popping up around the country which could be a good option, we like to dedicate one day a month (if we can last that long) heading out to local shops and butchers to get vegetables, meat and dairy that are all plastic free then we get back and batch cook or prep and freeze it all
- Sign up to a tree-free toilet paper delivery
- Start composting or start a wormery if you have the space available
- Register with your local library to get access to books, magazines, printing etc.
- Swap CD's and DVD's for an online music and video streaming service
- Cancel phone directories and catalogues
- Take action to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive
2. Bin System
It is pretty difficult to break habits, so by creating a new bin system it will help to trigger certain thoughts on waste, these few tips really helped us out to start with.
Write a list. A great task we did was writing down a list of everything we threw away, sometimes you might not have the time to research the waste you're about to throw away but if you make a list you can always take a more detailed look at a better time to see if there is another option.
Bins. If you're like us, we used to have bins in almost every room! It may seem practical at first, but we ended up with a lot of recyclable materials amongst compostable materials and general waste. It may feel time consuming at first but if you have one bin for each category in one room of the house, eventually it will become second nature to pick up the empty glass, paper/ cardboard or recyclable plastic bottle from the top of the stairs and take it down to be placed in the correct bin.
Recycling. Every council is different, so it may help to do a little bit of research and see what can and what can't be recycled, if it helps make a list and place it near the recycling bins so that other members of the house know what is allowed too. It may be a case that you need to separate your recycling, where as others don't require that, you may also need to clean or squash some items. The best thing is to go by your council and not what is listed on the packaging.
We have already briefly covered this amongst the 7 Rs above, however it can be a pretty awkward one to overcome. Practicing this will not only help reduce unwanted items and single use plastics but it can be great for your confidence too!
Don't worry about offending, often people are just doing their job and a simple "no, I'm good thanks" is enough. If it helps to think you're doing them a favour, think about the amount of money that business would save on things like disposable straws, receipts, napkins and carrier bags if everyone refused them. It always helps me to say no if I think I am doing it for their benefit as well as mine.
A few things to get you started:
- Receipts, if you really need one, see if the store can email you one. Even if they can't at that point don't worry, just that comment could spark a thought and they may look into it.
- Straws, do you need the straw? if so, and you don't have a reusable one then don't worry, but perhaps make a list of reusable items to purchase and add straws to it.
- Takeaway coffee cups, if you don't have the time to just relax and sit in with the coffee and you don't have a reusable coffee cup then again, don't worry but it may be another item to add to the list?
- Plastic carrier bags, if you have some reusable ones great! If not, see if the shop has anything other than plastic and add bags to that list. We use our Turtle Bags string bag and it is brilliant, it expands and you can fit a lot into them!
- Free tasters, if you can resist temptation then do as they are usually served in single use plastic cups.
- Flyers, leaflet and business cards, if you really do want to keep that information about a new business then why not take pictures instead?
- Someone else's unwanted crap, unless you really do need it don't worry about offending them, just politely decline. You can always use the excuse that you're trying to declutter the house and don't think you will need it.
- A paper bag for your vegetables, or go loose or carry around a few cotton produce bags, we always have couple of our produce bags on us just incase we fancy something whilst we are out.
- Paper napkins, if you can go without then great, otherwise use a reusable one if you have it. If you don't just take one and take it back home to compost, it may want to be something you add to that list.
Remember, if you happen to get a plastic bag, takeaway coffee cup, plastic straw etc. do not beat yourself up about it. These things happen and life gets extremely busy, just try to use something in your home or purchase a reusable item instead so you're covered next time.
We often go about life with our usual activities and can be completely oblivious to what we have available near us (I am particularly terrible at being aware when I am out and about!) so it may not be until you start looking for packaging free alternatives that you find you have an array of options not too far away from you.
Start your own directory. This can be a great research activity, and you may find some great local shops nearby! See if you have a local farm shop or deli, a zero waste store, butchers, farmers markets and health food shops, some supermarkets may even sell refill and loose options. Once you have started looking around and found some places you like, write them down and try to stay loyal to those smaller businesses if you can.
Go online. If you don't have many options to you, head online, there are a few shops like us selling dried produce / cupboard essentials by weight. It may be more convenient to shop online if you have a busy schedule and you want to enjoy your weekends relaxing, it can be more eco-friendly to shop online. We use carbon neutral shipping too!
Zero waste products. Look online and locally for zero waste products, you may find some great small businesses who are doing an amazing job at offering zero waste products. Throughout July we are championing the small zero waste businesses doing an amazing job, each day we will feature a new business so head to our Instagram to follow us!
Although we would love to write about all six weeks this would end up being a very long blog post! To follow Kate's process for a further 5 weeks you will have to get a copy of her book, check with your local library or download it if you are happy e-reading, if not purchase the book, I am sure you will reuse it!
Happy Plastic Free July everyone!
As always, any thoughts or questions please do comment below!