Now we are well into August, I thought I’d take the time to reflect on the successes and challenges from my first Plastic Free July.
The challenge seemed quite simple: Attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July. “Single-use” includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging…basically anything that’s intended only to be used once and then discarded. I have always been interested in reducing waste and trying to find the most sustainable way of doing things, but this was a real opportunity to test my commitment – and that of my family! Luckily we were already well set up with reusable water bottles, coffee cups, lunch boxes and shopping bags (well, you know where I work!). All I needed was to purchase a reusable straw (I have sensitive teeth- ouch!) and to persuade husband and 2 boys that this was going to be fun!
The First Few Days
Goodness me, what challenges life threw at me in the first week. A teenage boy’s paintball party on a hot day, a camping weekend and bbq for 25 people and a family day out to a military parade on the hottest day of the year! I quickly learnt that it would be better to concentrate on everyday life and get that right first. But we did make it through the paintball party with only one person feeling the need to buy a bottle of cola, so I’m taking that as a win! 🙌
After a fractured first week, I decided to tackle the ‘top four’ and make sure we could all achieve this. The top 4 are plastic bags, bottles, takeaway coffee cups & straws; the worst polluters in daily use.
Once we had settled down, it became an easy routine to remember.
- Put bottles of water in the fridge at night, ready to pick up to go to work, school and days out in the morning.
- Prepare snacks and lunches in reusable containers, again ready to grab and go the next day.
- ALWAYS have a reusable shopping bag in the car, handbag, pocket. We had a rule – If you don’t have one, you can only buy what you can carry in your hands. It worked.
- Take your coffee cup with you, or have a sit down cuppa in a cafe…your choice ☕️
- Ordering drinks – refuse the straw as you order. You may need to repeat this several times and just keep going until they get the message.
This was surprisingly easy, and actually fun and saved money. So a win/win for everyone. This is now our established way of doing things and won’t change now the challenge is over!
Other successes will be harder to reproduce in the cooler months. I grow a lot of veggies in my garden, meaning there was very little I needed to buy. As the garden runs out, I am investigating packaging free ways of buying fruit & veg. They do exist, even in small towns and villages. Markets, packaging free veg in the supermarket and the local greengrocers all have options. We may need to change our eating habits to only eat what is in season and grown locally – but should we really be expecting fresh strawberries in January anyway!?
‘Mum, can I have some apple juice/an ice cream/some biscuits/ a packet of crisps please?’ ‘Ah, well you know we are doing Plastic Free July so….’ As a result I really had to get making & baking.
It’s the wrong time of year to be pressing apples, so we made do with reducing our intake and buying one bottle of Biona Organic apple juice a week which comes in a glass bottle. We also had lots of blackcurrants in the garden , so I thought I would try my hand at making some cordial. It was so easy, it barely even needs a recipe, but you can find a good one here. And it was gorgeous, it even looked pretty (the mess in the kitchen was less pretty) I felt like I had achieved ‘earth Mum’ status!
We (I) also baked choc chip cookies, made ice lollies in molds and even baked some loaves of bread. Our Pinterest page has some fun recipes to try: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/greentulipuk/plastic-free-july/
Many of our groceries come in plastic packaging, and we have no bulk or unpackaged stores anywhere nearby, so that aspect still needs addressing in our household. We returned all soft plastic to the supermarket, where they recycled it, and reduced and recycled where possible. Our recycling bin was certainly not empty, I was pleased to see it was reduced though ♻️
Making friends! Yes I found myself talking to random strangers in the supermarket who overheard me asking for loose meats wrapped in paper, and in the market where I had to keep giving them the plastic bags back and in the pub where I had to beg for the children’s drinks to come without straws! Fellow zero-wasters are out there, and you will find them once you start looking!
Another surprise was how much my children were engaged with the idea, they adapted to the new routines with ease and accepted the restrictions without too many complaints. I don’t know if they will become earth warriors, but the foundations are laid and the example is set, so I am proud of that.
As a family, we will be building on this experience, keeping the aspects that worked and looking for solutions for those that didn’t. Keep following to find out more ♻️💚🌍
If you are interested in finding out more about Plastic Free July, and how you can get involved either now or next year, check out their website. I will be back again, next year with even more challenges and achievements!