You’ve probably heard you don’t know what you got until it’s gone. But when it comes to plastic, you don’t know what you got until you try to get rid of it. From the kitchen and bedroom to the bathroom and garage, plastic penetrates every part of our lives. (Never mind how microplastics are infiltrating the oceans, sea life, and the food we eat.) So, it can sound more than a little daunting — and unrealistic — when people suggest the world somehow collectively kick its plastic addiction overnight. Which brings us to Plastic Free July — an annual challenge started in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation that encourages people to swap out single-use plastic for one month. The goal? Create lasting change with a simple act like reducing plastic waste around the house for 31 sunbaked days. From what you wrap snacks with to what kind of cups you drink your coffee from, read on for ways you can start off your summer sustainably but sensibly, along with a few facts about the campaign itself.
A brief history of Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July hails from Down Under, where it began as a small initiative dreamed up by a small team of government representatives in Western Australia. The concept quickly caught on, attracting millions of participants from dozens of counties, and now stands as one of the most influential and popular environmental campaigns in the world. (Coincidentally, July 3 is International Plastic Bag Free Day, when people worldwide are encouraged to ditch plastic for paper — or some other eco-friendly material — for at least a day.) If you’re truly serious about taking the Plastic Free July challenge, you can pledge on the foundation’s website, agreeing to do your best to reduce your single-use plastic (and all types of plastic) usage for the month.
Why participate in Plastic Free July?
It’s no secret plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. From plastic bags and single-use packaging to straws and water bottles, seemingly convenient items have created an ecological nightmare. They litter our oceans, endanger marine life, and degrade our ecosystems. Approximately eight million pieces of plastic pollution wind up in our oceans daily, whether by rainwater and wind, cruise lines, plastic entering drains, or dumping. On top of that, 79% of plastic waste is sent to landfills or the ocean, only nine percent is recycled, and 12% ends up burned. Plastic Free July is a call to action, reminding us that each small act can profoundly impact our planet’s health.
How to get involved during Plastic Free July
Whether you’re eager to cut plastic out of your life or intrigued by the idea of reducing your household waste, the month of July marks an exciting opportunity to challenge yourself, inspire others, and be part of a greater movement toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Here’s how to get involved:
First, take the single-use-plastic-free pledge
Visit the Plastic Free July website and commit to refuse single-use plastics for the entire month. Set achievable goals that align with your lifestyle and gradually work towards reducing plastic consumption. What’s even cooler is that you have millions of other participants to help support you and keep you going through your month-long journey.
Learn about the plastic problem
Knowledge is a powerful tool, so take time to educate yourself about the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on the environment and human health. Here are some of the best ways to learn more about environmental issues:
Watch documentaries: Documentaries such as A Plastic Ocean, A Plastic Tide, and Bag It shed light on the staggering impact of plastic pollution.
Read books: Delve into books like Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry or Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. These books are full of practical tips, personal stories, and insights into reducing plastic waste in everyday life.
Engage with online communities: Follow and join online communities dedicated to sustainability and plastic-free living. Connect with like-minded individuals who share tips, experiences, and ideas for reducing plastic waste. And having community support is also a great way to stay motivated during Plastic Free July.
Refuse single-use plastics
The whole purpose of Plastic Free July is to go the month without using single-use plastics. So, say no to plastic bags, straws, cutlery, water bottles — the list goes on! Bring your own reusable bags, utensils, and water bottles to combat these commonly used items easily. You can also take this further by avoiding places that use a lot of single-use plastics, such as fast food restaurants and certain grocery stores. Then, share your progress and encourage others to do the same.
Rethink consumption during Plastic Free July
This is a fantastic opportunity to kickstart a more conscious consumer mindset! Perhaps you're entirely new to sustainable living or need a push to make these lifestyle changes — so July is a great time to start rethinking how you consume. Look into choosing products with minimal or plastic-free packaging, opt for reusable alternatives like bamboo toothbrushes, and support businesses committed to more sustainable practices. At SaltyLama, our laundry detergent sheets come in biodegradable packaging. You'll never have to run into a single-use plastic problem with us. Use our detergent sheets as a plastic-free alternative to your laundry routine throughout July. And who knows, you might want to keep us around as you continue your sustainable lifestyle! Here are a few other simple swaps you can make:
Make snacks, not waste: Supermarket snacks almost always come wrapped in plastic. So why not throw together some non-processed snacks at home instead? Experiment with recipes! It will be good for the planet — and your health.
Refill at home: Some products we can’t do without — soap, shampoo, and household cleaners, to name a few. But we can do without the single-use plastic packaging many of these items arrive in. Instead, look for refillable options and reusable dispensers. Again, these are easily achievable, one-time swaps that will add to your efforts to reduce plastic waste.
Package leftovers differently: You’ll always have leftovers, but you don’t have to store them in plastic. Seek out alternatives like glass and silicone.
Choose clothes wisely: When buying synthetic items like swimwear, shop for clothing made from recycled materials by sustainable brands. And when the time comes to update your closet, swap out the plastic hangers for wooden ones.
Spread awareness about Plastic Free July and plastic pollution
Getting others involved is one of the best ways to make the most of Plastic Free July. Utilize your social media accounts, organize community events, or host virtual discussions to raise awareness about Plastic Free July and the importance of reducing plastic waste. Share tips, success stories, and challenges faced during your journey! Support and encourage any friends or family that are giving it a go. This will help keep them motivated and eager to lower their plastic count.
Plastic Free July is more than a challenge — it’s a chance to make healthier habits and be part of something bigger. So, take the leap, commit, and follow through to say goodbye to single-use plastics.