Seems there’s a new theme or challenge every other day lately. Pirate Day. Secretary Day. Rooster Appreciation Week.* This month there’s Dry July – giving up alcohol for the month and raising funds for those affected by cancer – and there’s also Plastic Free July.

Yeah, you only get one guess which one I’m talking about.

It might not come across in my blog posts, but I’m really a bit of a hippie. Possibly it’s from growing up on a property in the beautiful Central Queensland bush, and this is probably going to sound corny, but I do feel a strong connection to the earth. Nature is a wild, terrible, beautiful force, but it is something that so many of us take for granted.

Recently I went for a long bike ride, something I haven’t done in a couple of months. There’s a lovely cycle path near me that follows a river route. It’s pretty flat, not to strenuous, through lots of parks and nature reserves. There’s one section where the mangroves are right next to the path. I’ll be the first to admit that mangrove swamp doesn’t smell delightful, but in this case I was bothered a lot less by the smell than I was by the garbage heaped – and I’m not exaggerating – heaped over the muddy riverbank for several hundred metres. Plastic bottles, plastic takeaway containers, chip packets, styrofoam containers, even one of those hateful yellow bicycles. It  was pretty depressing. It saddened me a great deal that there’s still so much just being ‘chucked’ – out of car windows, off bridges, left on park benches. People can be so damn lazy.

Anyway, shortly after that, Plastic Free July popped up on my Instagram feed and I was like, ‘yeah!’ Maybe I can change a few more habits, and save the planet a little bit more, and raise some awareness too.

It’s going to be a bit of a challenge this year though. Let’s have a look at some of the things I already do, to reduce my plastic footprint.

No Cling Wrap! I have had the same roll of cling wrap for over four years now, and it’s been gathering dust for at least three. I use containers or jars for everything I put in the fridge, and beeswax wraps or reuseable dish covers for anything that needs covering. I admit to using a lot of ziploc bags too, but I wash and re-use these most of the time.

No Plastic Cutlery! I do eat out occasionally, but if the restaurant uses plastic knives and forks, I will invariably whip out either my retractable chopsticks (like these) or my travel cutlery set (something like this, but mine has a knife as well). These are possibly the most useful items I have ever owned. I take them everywhere!

No Keepcup, No Coffee! I have a Contigo mug for tea and an Oasis Eco Cup for my weekend soy latte. At work I use a ceramic mug. That’s it. No takeaway coffee unless it’s in one of those. (This rule has started saving me money on coffee, too!) Check out some of these beautiful ‘keepcup’ options!

DIY Shopping Bags! Although I have a tonne of fabric shopping bags, I do forget to take them with me; or, I’ll be out and realise I need to shop, and only have my one Loqi tote in my handbag. A couple of weeks ago, I made a couple more market bags which now live in the car. No more plastic shopping bags!

No Bottled Water or soft drink/soda! It’s been years since I bought a bottle of water. I have a couple of stainless steel drink bottles – one at my desk, one by my bed, one in my sports bag, one by the sewing machine – wait, that’s more than a couple, isn’t it? And I don’t drink soda as a general rule (the one exception being an occasional ginger beer, which comes in glass anyway!) so that removes the plastic straw issue as well.

So clearly I’m an awesome anti-plastic environmental warrior already, right? Right? Errr…. no, not really.

What more can I do, then? Well, actually, quite a bit. I took a look at my grocery basket last week and there’s plastic there I didn’t even think about. My rolled oats were in plastic. My strawberries wer in a plastic punnet, my chickpeas were in a plastic-lined tin, the cat food was in plastic pouches, and the chicken was in a plastic tray, covered with plastic. Yikes!

Let’s be realistic. I’m not going to be able to go totally plastic-free overnight. But for me, participating in Plastic-Free July is to become aware of where improvement can be made. ‘Improvement’ is the important word here, guys. Not ‘complete change’. Improvement. As in, somewhat better than before. Which means finding small ways to reduce my plastic consumption, and keep following that path as much as I can, in the future.

Okay, so what are my plastic-free goals for July? Let’s make a list!

MicroFibres management. I exercise a lot, so I wear a lot of polyester and nylon blend fabrics. Unfortunately, while these are great for working out, there’s an unfortunate side-effect from the laundering process. Teeny, tiny micro-fibres will break loose every time you launder, go out in the water and end up in our oceans, where they attract lots of nasty toxins, then get eaten by ocean life, who not only suffer from that ingestion but may end up in the human food chain… which means we might be eating plastic, too. Yuck. So I’m investing in a Guppy Friend bag to wash my activewear in. These ingenious items will capture those nasty microfibres, and probably increase the lifespan of my clothing, as well! You can get these direct from Langbrett, and although you will have to pay in Euro, they didn’t charge me shipping to Australia. Winning! (Patagonia Australia doesn’t stock them yet, and doesn’t ship to Australia. Boo.)

Update – GuppyFriend is now available from Flora and Fauna in Australia, and they also have the Cora Ball!

Groceries. My rolled oats on the weekend was a bit of a light-bulb moment. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t considered some of my prepackaged pantry items as plastic-wrapped. I know that there’s more than one bulk goods store within easy reach of my home (in fact, there’s one closer than the centre where I normally do groceries!) so I’ll try hitting them for things like oats and beans. I’ll also look for cardboard packaging (but not the kind that has an plastic bag inside the cardboard!) Also, remembering to take my Onya mesh bags when I do shopping for fruit and veg. I try not to use those convenient plastic bags in the fresh food section, but buying three loose apples is a lot easier to manage than a double handful of snow peas. And I do love snow peas.

Condiments, also – I LOVE peanut butter, so I’ll be only buying it in glass jars from now on. That’s okay. I recently discovered Urban Pantry Peanut Butter. I don’t think I’ll ever look back. Nom nom. Anything else that might have been in a plastic bottle or jar, I’ll be looking for the glass option instead. Oh, and I’ve recently started making my own cashew nut butter – delish!

Eating Out. I went to buy my lunch one day last week, and I tried to do it with no single-use plastic; and as an experiment I went completely unprepared. Boy was that hard. Thai, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese – all come in single-use plastic takeaway boxes. The burger place uses cardboard, so that was an option, and the Vietnamese rolls are in paper. Japanese – my favourite! – was in those cute, but oh-so-single-use, plastic bento trays. No good. I ended up popping into the grocery store, but I couldn’t get a prepack salad cos it was in a plastic bowl. Plus, I had forgotten my shopping bag, so when I eventually bought some loose fruit and veg, I had to nick a cardboard box to carry it in. This plastic-free thing is hard if you are unprepared!

I’d love to hear if you are trying to reduce your plastic consumption, and the kinds of things you do or would like to incorporate into your lifestyle. We only have the one planet, after all, so it behooves us to be responsible for how we look after it!





*I may have made up the one about the roosters.