Four weeks and countless coffees and bulk chocolate honeycomb pieces later, and Plastic Free July is almost over.
So what has been the take away for our household from this experience? In a nutshell that reducing single use plastic is far easier than you think.
Many times throughout the month Steve and I would recount to each other just how we were going, conversations we were having with others about the challenge, and the reactions we were getting. But we also spoke a lot how bringing any plastic at all into our house made us feel horrible, despite our initially resolving to focus on avoiding single use coffee cups, cutlery and plates, straws, plastic bags and bottles. Once you begin to notice that sneaky little devil, it's impossible to unsee it.
We also began to really notice the little things we were already doing to minimise plastic use in our day-to-day lives - I’m looking at you farmers’ markets, homemade skincare, beeswax wraps and pyrex storage.
However, as the end of the month began to draw near it also became clear when plastic-free fatigue set in, and a cheeky little desire to start cheating a bit set in.
Convenience is a great enabler, and when you're faced with fitting in a special trip to the bulk store to pick up a forgotten essential, or - gasp - going without until the next shopping list, the urge to simply say "bugger it, let's just buy it in plastic and recycle it back at the store" began to rear it's head. I mean, why make three trips when you can grab everything in one place? And that right there is why change has to happen. A little bit of effort can, and does, go a long way.
So we stayed strong. We found the time to make the trip to the bulk store, or we made do without (even if it resulted in some pretty lacklustre flour tortillas). In fact, most of the time I discovered the forgotten element was a “want” rather than a “need”. And also normally involved me buying my weight in bulk chocolate.
So, where to from here? They say it takes 21 days for a habit to form and I think Steve and I are getting there. We may not be so totally stringent in the future, because it is impossible to be perfect – case in point was when Steve ordered a coffee at a café and the barista put it in a disposable coffee cup before delivering it to our table. Still trying to work that one out. But overall the benefits of Plastic Free July far outweighed the negatives.
The start of the week meal planning meant we not only reduced our overall plastic intake, but also ate food of far better quality, learnt new skills, and severely reduced our food waste. This thinking ahead also meant we could extend the food we’d already cooked into other meals, or could pop it into the freezer so we're stocked up for those nights when we really couldn’t be bothered cooking.
We also learnt the power of asking the simple question. It may make you cringe to initially ask “can I bring my own container/coffee cup/smoothie glass” but it quickly became obvious most people are open to change and the resulting conversation is often an eye opener. Either that, or the entire country really did watch The War on Waste.
Were there any negatives? Only one comes to mind. If you don’t own a dishwasher, then I sincerely hope you enjoy washing dishes because they are never ending!
Here are a few little tidbits we've picked up along the way.
Laundry: If you don’t have access to a bulk store that sells laundry liquid or powder in bulk, and don’t fancy making your own, then grab the Aware laundry powder. It comes in a cardboard box minus internal plastic bag or scoop. I’ve also heard rumours that Ecostore doesn’t have a plastic bag either
Skincare: Open your pantry instead of reaching for that plastic bottle. Olive oil, coconut oil and sesame oil are all fantastic moisturisers and cleansers. Yes, you read that right. Massage a little onto your face for about a minute to remove your make up at night before wiping it away with a warm cloth. Do a little research and find the right type for your skin. Bi-carb soda can be a fantastic facial exfoliant, or combine coffee grounds with a little brown sugar and the oil of your choice. Buy a food-grade rosewater and use that as your toner or pop some gentle, high quality essential oils in a spray bottle with cooled boiled water and spritz away.
Need a dry shampoo? Sprinkle on a little cornflour, massage it in and then give your hair a brush.
Perhaps the most obvious of all is look for a gentle soap that is either unpackaged, or packaged in paper.
Cleaning: Make white vinegar and bi-carb soda your friend. You can clean everything from your floor to your bathroom with this simple combo. Add in a little clove oil to remove mould, or a citrus essential oil to disinfect a kitchen bench.
And finally, make Google your friend. There are endless websites dedicated to zero waste or plastic free lifestyles that are a veritable goldmine of information. And even if you don't want to go all in, just one small step can make a difference.
Now over to you. How did Plastic Free July treat you?