Plastic Free July

July is just around the corner and that means Plastic Free July is almost here! A couple of weeks ago the government of Canada announced single-use plastics will be banned in 2021. What this means is all plastics we dispose after one use will no longer be available in Canada. This is a HUGE step forward for Canada, who has fallen behind when it comes to environmental policy compared to other developed countries.

The federal government has 2 years to figure out what the ban will look like and how it will be enforced. There’s a study that suggests reusable grocery bags are actually not more eco-friendly than plastic bags because the amount of plastic used to produce them is more than a single-use plastic bag and that in order for a reusable bag to be a better option than a single-use bag, it needs to be used hundreds of times a year. I don’t know about you, but that is not a convincing argument for me to go back to using single-use bags.  Reusable bags can be repaired,  and depending on the material they can be biodegradable. Another article suggests that when San Francisco banned plastic bags, plastic garbage can liner sales went up. This makes total sense. So yes, people might use these two examples as arguments against the ban. However, the reality is Canada and most of the world, can no longer afford to send millions of tons of plastic to sit in landfills for hundreds of years. I am really hopeful the federal government will develop policies around this ban that offer sustainable alternatives.

In the meantime, Plastic Fee July is an excellent opportunity to reduce our personal single-use plastic waste! It’s a really good excuse to get on-board with reducing our household waste and get our family, friends and workplace involved.

Here are 20 practical tips to participate in Plastic Free July:

  1. Find plastic free fruits and veggies

Have you noticed more and more produce comes wrapped up in plastic these days? Grocery stores use alternative as a way to distinguish produce grades (organic vs non-organic), or to preserve food longer. During the month of July visit your local farmers market, where you’ll find more package-free produce or opt for the plastic-free options at the grocery store.

  1. Avoid using plastic grocery bags

Do we really need to put all produce in individual plastic bags? The answer is no. If you really need to put your produce in bags, bring your own reusable ones.

  1. Avoid pre-packaged baked goods

If you consume bread or any other type of baked goods, do a quick google search to find your local bakery. Go check it out, fall in love with the smell of it and become a regular customer. Bring an old bread bag or a container to avoid those nasty clam shells and plastic bags.

  1. Bring your own reusable water bottle

We all have at least one reusable water bottle at home. Why not bring it with you everywhere you go? Water fountains are pretty much available anywhere, but if you can’t find one, apps such as Tap or Refill My Bottle can help you find the closest place to refill your reusable bottle.

  1. Refuse shopping bags

The key to attain this goal is to ALWAYS be prepared! Keep a bunch of reusable grocery bags in your car, and carry one with you at all times in your purse or backpack. “No bag, please” or “I don’t need a bag, thank you” are two examples of what you can say to refuse shopping bags.

  1. Refuse plastic straws

This sounds super easy, right? Then why are people still getting drinks with straws? If you absolutely need a straw for physical reasons or because you enjoy your drinks more when you sip them through a straw get yourself a reusable straw. These days you can find them everywhere, even at the dollar store. Next time you go out for dinner and the server takes your drink order use phases such as “I’ll have water. No straw please” or “Can I have a mojito with no straw?”.

  1. Bring your own reusable coffee/tea cup

If you get one coffee or tea a day, every day, in a single-use cup, you’re sending 365 plastic-lined cups to the landfills every year. Multiply that by your 5 family  members. That’s 1825 cups that will take about 20 years to decompose. You can absolutely avoid that worry by getting your favourite morning beverage in a reusable mug.

  1. Avoid tea bags that contain plastic

Did you know most tea bags these days are not compostable because they contain plastic? That’s right! Pressed tea bags are sealed with heat, so they add plastic to them so they stick. “Silken” such as Teavana’s are 100% plastic. The problem is not only these bags ending up in landfills, but you’re also ingesting harmful chemicals when you use these kind of tea. The alternative is loose leaf tea (in bulk, preferably) and an infuser to avoid tea bags completely!

  1. Swap plastic cling wrap

Plastic cling wrap is super useful, isn’t it? It is also the devil. The easiest way to avoid using cling wrap is using containers that have a lid. If you want a fancier option, beeswax food wraps are a great, durable alternative.

  1. Swap garbage can liners

Durham Region unfortunately doesn’t collect garbage that doesn’t come in a bag. Until that changes, we need to continue using those horrible garbage bags. However, the one thing we can avoid, is using individual plastic bags as liners. An alternative to these are paper gags, newspaper or no bag at all!

  1. Refuse plastic cutlery and take-out containers

As we know, not all restaurants are open to serving food in reusable containers provided by the customer. If you have a couple of favourite local restaurants you’re a regular at, give them a call and ask if they’d be open to you bringing your own container for take-out. If this is not possible, avoid getting take-out as much as you can during the month of July. In order to avoid single-use cutlery, bring a set from your own kitchen. Keep it in your car or in your purse or backpack.

  1. Swap your toothbrush

Did you know the very first toothbrush you used as a kid is still sitting in a landfill somewhere? Plastic toothbrushes take decades to decompose! There are some great alternatives out there such as bamboo toothbrushes. Take Plastic Free July as an opportunity to do the swap!

  1. Swap your menstrual products

I know the menstrual cup is not everyone’s favourite, but there are SO many other options out there such as menstrual underwear and reusable pads. They come in all sizes and styles and let me tell you, they DO work. No leakage, no odour and very comfortable. Don’t wait any longer and get your reusables menstrual products this July!

  1. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk is key if you want to reduce your plastic waste. Fortunately there are more and more options out there for us. Before you go grocery shopping next time, get a bunch of containers and reusable bags, visit your local Bulk Barn before going to the grocery store and try buying in bulk as much as you can! You will save money, reduce your waste and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the quality of the products.

  1. Switch to a bar soap

I really don’t know what people’s obsession with body wash is. When did bar soap stop being a thing? There are many local soap artisans these days to choose from. You can get all sorts of options too: all natural , vegan, scented, unscented, etc. Ditch the bottle and embrace the bar again!

  1. Swap your razor

Go old school and use this July as an opportunity to go back to basics. A safety razor will last you forever and you will save so much money by using it! Say goodbye to plastic razors once and for all!

  1. Say no to freebies

July is such a beautiful time of the year in Canada. There are tons of things to do outdoors such as festivals, parades, etc. Most of these events are filled with sponsors that want you to take their branded freebies home. Do you need another pen? Or another bottle opener? Or a catalog? If the answer is no, refuse those items and prevent them from cluttering your home.

  1. DIY Dog Treats

These days most dog food and treats come in bags made up of a variety of materials, including polypropylene, paperboard, and mixed plastics. Those bags are not recyclable. Even those more eco-friendly looking paper bags contain a layer of plastic that makes them not recyclable. Incorporate your pets into Plastic Free July by making them home-made treats! Some ideas include cookies, frozen treats or dehydrated fruit, meat or veggies!

  1. Avoid meat trays

If you’re a meat eater you can reduce your production of plastic by visiting your local butcher! Bring your own containers, ask questions about where they meat comes from, get some suggestions for better quality, and spread the word about Plastic Free July!

  1. Avoid using ziplock bags

Similar to cling wrap, ziplock bags are super useful, but they are also super bad for the environment. If you don’t want to spend money on reusable ziplock bags you can always use whatever containers you have at home. Remember going zero/low waste is not about replacing stuff with more stuff, but about refusing and eliminating wasteful products and practices.

I hope this list is useful. I encourage you to take two or three of these tips and commit to doing them for the month of July. Be prepared and don’t beat yourself up if you “fall off the wagon” a couple of times. The idea is to create awareness and change habits, not to live a 100% zero waste lifestyle.

So, what tips are you adopting and committing to?

Feel free to download and share our Plastic Free July poster!


-Tiny Earth Warrior

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