I am taking part in Plastic Free July again this year.
Six months ago, I committed to New Year’s Resolutions. Since then I haven’t commented on them — or even thought much about them — but as July marks the halfway point of the year it’s worth me revisiting them.
Looking back, few relate to plastic use. In fact, I cite “use less plastic” as the type of vague resolution I’d wanted to avoid. I wish I’d included it now. Even though July is the month that we focus on plastic use, this really is a year long issue, something we should strive to continually improve on.
In the last six months, I’ve made a lot of excuses. “Yes, I am cutting down on plastic use, but I have to continue to buy this kind of plastic because I need this product,” or “I don’t have time to find alternatives,” or “this is the best way to do this during the pandemic.”
What I’ve realised over the last couple of months is that’s not enough to accept our excuses and give ourselves the easy way out, whether that’s in terms of plastic consumption, racial equality, or any of the myriad things which currently challenge us.
The excuses end now. It’s time to ask ourselves the difficult questions, challenge our excuses, and strive for continual improvement. Let’s make July our new New Year, and mark this as the point where we all make a difference.
At the end of this article I’ll talk about what this means practically: what my plan is for the month, and specifically for this coming week. But first, a quick overview of Plastic Free July, and some of my general thoughts on plastic consumption.
What is Plastic Free July?
Plastic Free July is a global movement providing resources and support to people looking to reduce the amount of plastic they use. It started in 2011 and last year approximately 250 million people took part across the world. Find out more and take the challenge at plasticfreejuly.org
General Thoughts on Plastic Consumption
The biggest impact we can make is not letting the plastic in to our lives in the first place. Yes, we can dispose of it responsibly, but we’re still contributing to the problem and promoting and endorsing single use.
Accept that you won’t cut out all of the plastic from your life. Some plastic is inevitable, but we can choose to remove the unnecessary plastics. If one makes incremental small changes, these will eventually compound to a gradual improvement of their plastic footprint. If all of do just this, the societal impacts will be massive.
Think about what you can do with the plastics that do enter your life. Recycling something should be the last resort. Nationally and internationally we do not recycle enough, so try to avoid adding to the pile wherever possible. Think of it from a perspective of circular economy principles: in terms of energy consumption, recycling is the least efficient thing you can do with any product, so can that plastic be reused, repurposed or remanufactured?
Finally, understand that as consumers the power lies with you. “Talking with our feet” is the best thing we can do: patronise those companies that are reducing the plastics they use; avoid those companies that aren’t. Forget environmental or societal reasons, if a company sees that its stance on resource use is costing them business, they will change it. Campaign for better. If the brands and products you like aren’t visibly making changes, demand to know what they are doing to change.
Plan for July
Each week I’m going to look at one area of my life, explore what I can do to make a change, and actually test it out. I will ask myself (and you) some tough questions and challenge some of those excuses I mentioned at the beginning.
Throughout the month I’ll share resources and ideas on my social media channels. I’ll champion the bloggers on this topic, the companies who are trying to change, and the charities who are trying to clean up the mess we’ve already made. If you know of someone who should be promoted, I’d be grateful for the recommendation.
As we move into August, there will be a challenge to all of us to carry on the good work we’ve done in July, and to think about how we can apply the lessons learned to other materials and resources. What’s true for plastic is undoubtedly true for everything else we consume.
Plan for Week 1
Finally, my plan for this first week. I will be looking at my food consumption. It’s the most obvious area in need of change, because when I look through our recycling bins each week, most of it is still food and drink packaging.
To expand on an example that I gave above, one of the excuses I’ve made for myself on plastic consumption is organic food. We want to eat organically for health reasons, but generally this produce isn’t sold loose. There’s a larger conversation to be had about eating habits (eating local vs. eating organic vs. reducing plastic consumption). I’ve got some ideas, but I’m looking forward to exploring this more over the next week.
I hope you all can join me on this challenge and I’d love to hear about the changes you’re making and especially the things you’re struggling with. Only by talking about these things can we share ideas and help solve our collective problems.
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