Plastic Free July will be here before you know it. That means thousands of people around the world will ditch plastic the entire month (and hopefully, longer than that). I really love this movement and last year, I hosted a Plastic Free July challenge on my Instagram feed (#GreenifyJuly). It was a huge success and really inspired me! I figured it would be a fun, really cool idea to kind of just compile all the things I posted about in that challenge on my blog. That way, it can live on the internet forever, and you can access it any time you like. Without further ado, here are 18 tips for Plastic Free July!
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Did you know America alone goes through 500 million single use plastic straws every day? So wasteful! If there’s only one thing you give up this Plastic Free July, make it straws!
Replace plastic straws with reusable ones: I have three different reusable straws that I love (pictured from left to right): Glass, stainless steel and bamboo. The glass one is my favorite and custom made, yet the stainless steel one is the one I use most often, and the bamboo one is my boyfriend’s go-to. They’re all great though!
A simple way to avoid plastic straws without purchasing reusables is to simply say “no straw please” when ordering a drink. Sip from the cup! I’ve done that too in the past and nothing bad has happened. If you must get straws for a party or an event, get paper ones and compost them afterwards. There’s always an alternative.
Starbucks alone goes through 4 billion to-go cups annually. That’s ridiculously sad! Bringing your own cup is so much less wasteful (and way more stylish).
Replace coffee cups and plastic cups with reusable ones: I don’t drink coffee, but I do drink a lot of tea. Tea, iced or hot, always comes in disposable cups, so I use my trusty stainless steel travel mug to avoid it. I love my travel mug cause it’s super cute and keeps my drinks cold or hot for hours on end. It’s a great conversation starter too and a one time investment.
A simple way to avoid plastic drinking cups is to ask for your drink to stay. Usually, smaller coffee and tea shops will be more than happy to pour your beverage into a reusable cup or mug they have in store. Plus, it”s nice to just sit at a table, sip your beverage and not rush around for a change. Personally, I do this a lot at my favorite local coffee shop (yes, they sell tea there – which is what I get), @sipsandmaker. They’re always ready to accommodate me. If I get my drink to stay, they serve it in a cute little mug (hot drinks) or a glass cup (cold drinks). If I get a drink to go, they always put it into my travel mug, hassle free. No plastic necessary.
Today, if nothing else, bring some reusable cutlery to an event your going to, so you can avoid disposables. Plastic cutlery is rarely recycled and often ends up in our environment and waterways.
Replace plastic cutlery with reusable ones: You probably already have some in your kitchen. Personally, I really like using a multi utensil carrying case to hold my cutlery (mine is from @strawsleeves) but there are so many carrying cases out there that come with reusable cutlery built in. If you prefer not to carry around stainless steel utensils, perhaps get a wooden or bamboo set of cutlery.
A simple way to avoid plastic cutlery is to take some utensils from your kitchen, wrap them in a reusable napkin and plop them into your bag. This way you don’t have to spend more money. If you’re talented at sewing, you could probably make your own multi utensil pack too. Unfortunately I’m not so I’m using a pre-made one (which is also hand/machine washable by the way). To store it safely in my bag, I just close the top flap, roll it up and tie it up. Simple and effective.
Plastic bags are ridiculously wasteful and often end up in the bellies of marine life… Killing them slowly by blocking off food from reaching their digestive track. Please refuse the bag and save a life!
Replace plastic bags with reusable ones: You can get one at the grocery store. They usually sell them right by the cashier aisle. Personally though, I prefer Blu Bag (pictured). Made from recycled plastic, this bag can hold up to 50 lbs and comes with a super cute pouch I can stuff it in and zip lock shut. This makes it so convenient to carry in my over the shoulder bag, or even storing in cars. I use it for groceries and while shopping at the mall for luxury items!
Already have plastic bags at home from grocery shopping? Save them! A lot of grocery stores offer drop-off locations where you can donate old plastic bags. This way they’ll at least be recycled properly. NEVER add them to the recycling bin, as plastic bags are actually not recyclable in most facilities.
Ask for a reusable plate, cup and fork at an event. Whenever I’m at a family gathering, or eating at a friend’s house, I make a point to ask the host if I can have a reusable plate and fork. No one has ever said no flat out yet. It’s honestly the easiest thing to do, and it saves a paper plate (coated in plastic) from going to landfill. Sometimes I also ask for a glass cup as well, or just use my refillable water bottle.
Replace plastic plates, utensils and cups with reusable ones: If you’re going to a party and know the host, feel free to ask them for some. Offering to wash it when you’re done is also a great idea and means less work for the host. Usually, they insist it’s fine, but I still offer anyway because I don’t mind and I want to repay their kindness. If you’re hosting an event, try to go out of your way to use reusables. It’ll save you money too (no need to purchase a slew of disposables)!
If someone asks you why you want or use reusable plates at a party, use it as an excuse to talk about zero waste living! Slather them with facts. I know I have. The topic actually really fascinates most of the people I talk about it with. Usually though, all I have to say is “you know me, always trying to reduce my waste” and the host will smile and nod. They know me by now. Sometimes they’ll even set a plate, fork and cup aside for me before I even arrive! Ah, the power of blogging and speaking your truth.
Invest in reusable produce bags! I cannot tell you the amount of plastic my family has avoided just by using these reusable produce bags! My gosh I love them so much. I take at least 8 or 9 with me to the farmers market every weekend and they work like a dream. No disposable plastic needed! And it makes sense – why plop beautiful, fresh, locally grown produce into something that’ll actually contaminate it? Yup, plastic leeches chemicals into food all the time!
Replace plastic produce bags with reusable ones: You can choose to buy cotton produce bags or synthetic produce bags (I have a mix of both). They’re both reusable, but cotton can biodegrade at the end of it’s life (unfortunately it is slightly pricier than the synthetic ones, on a side note).
Don’t have money to spend on produce bags? Make your own! You can find some nice sewing tutorials online, or just use the no sew method and utilize an old pillowcase. Yet another option is to forego the bags altogether and go naked! Just plop the fruits and veggies as-is into your cart. You can just wash them off when you get home after all.
Did you know America alone consumes 1,500 water bottles per second? That’s ridiculously wasteful! I much prefer my stainless steel water bottle – sure, it’s a little scruffy looking now and the letters are starting to fade, but hey. It gets the job done and I’m not part of the problem, rather the solution.
Replace plastic water bottles with reusable ones: Check in thrift stores first before buying new (you’ll save money that way and help keep a perfectly good item out of the landfill). Personally, I got mine in my mall, at a Francesca’s store, so don’t be afraid to do some snooping! If you can’t find one there, looking online is another good bet. I personally love Swell (which is what brand mine is). That said Klean Kanteen is amazing as well (my bestie loves their bottles). Stainless steel or glass water bottles with a silicone sleeve are where it’s at!
Don’t have money to spend on a reusable water bottle? Empty out a glass previously housing iced tea and use that! Empty Teavana glasses make good makeshift water bottles. You can also just bring a mason jar with you and use it like a water bottle. Whatever works!
Plastic wrap absolutely sucks and it’s disposed of after one single use. End that cycle by getting some beeswax wraps – these are from a Canadian brand I love (@goldilockswraps) – aren’t they beautiful? So much prettier than plastic wrap.
Replace plastic wrap with reusable beeswax wrap: To learn more about the ones I use, check out my post on how I store leftovers without plastic. Beeswax wraps are great because you can use them for years and they’re fully compostable at the end of their life. They’re made from just a few simple ingredients too (all natural, of course). To keep them in the best shape, just wash it off using natural soap and cold water. Super low maintenance and simple.
Last summer my boyfriend and I went raspberry picking and it was so much fun! We got three paper cartons full of delicious, local, in season berries. We went to @happydayfarmnj and they were more than happy to let me use my own paper cartons instead of plastic. All I had to do was call in advance. Also, even more recently, I went strawberry picking with my boyfriend and our friends. That was a blast too, and they already had paper cartons there on sight for us!
I cannot tell you how important it is to connect with the food on your plate. Picking your own produce enables you to connect with where your food comes from, see how it’s grown, feel the produce on the vine with your own hands. It’s magical in many ways to know a plant can produce something so delicious and nourishing, and you can’t help but appreciate nature’s bounty all the more. Plus, since it’s straight from the plant, you don’t have to worry about it being wrapped in plastic before it gets to you. You control how your food is stored. Just make sure to call a farm in advance and see if they’re open to letting you bring your own containers, or if they have paper cartons available on site.
Going to the farmers markets is nice, but visiting a farm is something else entirely. It really connects you to the whole picture more. You can learn so much about the plant you pick and the way it was grown by visiting a farm. Plus you connect with the farmers! I always go to the farmers market, but I highly suggest visiting a farm at least once a year to pick your own produce. Berry picking is a blast and great to do with your S.O. or with kids! Just call up a farm near you and ask if you can bring your own containers. If they say yes, bring produce bags for bigger produce, paper cartons or jars for berries.
Plastic free dish washing! Since going zero waste, I’ve introduced my folks to some pretty interesting DIYs and products. When I bought a mason jar dispenser for the kitchen sink, I could tell they were skeptical. But guess what? This little guy has blown their minds. It’s not only prevented so much waste, but also saved them a lot of money. Making our own dish soap is so much cheaper and more eco-friendly! We can sleep soundly knowing our dish soap won’t pollute water ways when it goes down the drain.
Along with this super simple dish soap, we use a compostable wood pot scrubber. I bought two and we have been loving it! A few pumps of the DIY dish soap on it and it lathers up nicely! It’s great for pots and pans but I also use it on bowls, dishes, cups, etc. I’ve had it for a while now and it’s still going strong. At the end of it’s life, I’ll plop it right into my compost pail.
It’s important to make sustainable changes that are good for both you and the planet. These changes have seriously helped my parents save a buck on dish soap and plastic sponges. They’re not perfect (sometimes I see them using a plastic sponge they bought before I purchased the pot scrubbers) but that’s okay. At the least, I’m showing them a better way to do things that’s sustainable for the planet and them.
Compost your food scraps! The reason your garbage smells is because you’re throwing food into it! Instead, start composting your food scraps and help end food waste. It’s so easy to compost, even if you live in an apartment like me. I just keep this compost pail on the kitchen counter and add food scraps as the day goes on. At the end of the week, we bring the scraps to the farmers market where they turn into compost. Done!
Composting doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, this compost pail has made composting effortless. The charcoal filter keeps odors at bay so my kitchen never smells like rotting food. It’s also got a handle so it’s easy to carry around and transport to the market.
Composting is great for the environment because when food is sent to landfill, it produces methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Yeah, you read that right. It’s pretty bad. So composting your food scraps can help reduce the amount of methane produced! This helps slow down climate change greatly. If you’d like to learn more about ways to prevent food waste, no worries – I have a whole ebook dedicated to the topic – How to Reduce Food Waste. Grab your copy today and become a food waste warrior in no time!
I know, as a woman, I’m supposed to use a girly pink razor marketed towards me. For a long time, I did. But honestly, it’s just a money zap! A gimmick designed to make you buy more. There is a thing called the pink tax too, and that is mega real (look into it if you haven’t already). I received this safety razor as a birthday gift and couldn’t be happier. It saves me so much money, works like a dream, and saves disposable razors from the landfill. What’s not to like?
I’ve had it for almost two years now and only had to change the blade ONCE. I have several blades stocked up so I should be good for several years! The blades are recyclable, and when I have enough, I’m going to simply send them to my local scrap metal collection facility. You can also mail them to Albatross Shave Shop (they’ll take em off your hands) so no waste is created! And of course, you keep the handle and top indefinitely to reuse over and over again. If you have more questions about shaving with safety razors, I wrote a whole post about it. Here’s my experience shaving with a safety razor.
It’s important to make the switch to a safety razor when you get a chance. It’s definitely a more expensive purchase but it saves you money in the long run (as most reusables do). According to the EPA, it’s estimated 2 billion disable razors get thrown out every year. Please help put a stop to this! Every bit counts and your actions matter.
Did you know many nonstick pans have a coating of Teflon on them? Teflon is a form of plastic, and when heated, it releases toxic fumes. These toxic fumes have been known to kill small birds! Why would you want something like that in your home?
As if the plastic and toxic fumes weren’t enough, most non-stick pans are not built to last anymore. You have them for a few years, then they’re ready for the garbage. Investing in a cast iron skillet changes all that. Cast iron can last for a lifetime, maybe more! You only have to buy it once and it’s yours for life. It’s relatively simple to care for too, once you get used to it. I have a whole post on my blog about caring for + cleaning cast iron if you want to check it out!
If you want to cook amazing, delicious, extra healthy meals, invest in a set of cast iron. You’ll be so happy you did and you’ll save money in the long run. No more plastic, no more waste, no more toxins! What could be better?
Utilize your farmers market! I love getting fresh, package free produce from my local market. Just bring tote bags and produce bags with you and you’ll produce no waste. Plus, you’ll get delicious, seasonal, fresh produce grown locally. What could be better?
If you aren’t going to a farmers market, I highly suggest you start to. There’s nothing better for your body than eating seasonal, local produce. Plus, local produce means it takes less time to get to you. This greatly cuts down on carbon emissions because it doesn’t have to sit in transit as long. That also means it tastes noticeably fresher. Yummy.
Look for a local farmers market near you. A quick Google search will tell you where they set up. Usually they’re only open on Saturdays and/Sundays.
It’s so easy to make your own toothpaste, plus it saves you money and helps the planet. Conventional toothpastes contain bad ingredients that aren’t even good for your health let alone the planet. Also, bamboo toothbrushes are almost completely plastic free, and such a simple swap.
If you’d like to take your own toothpaste, here’s my favorite recipe for zero waste toothpaste. As far as brushes go, I love using Brush with Bamboo. These brushes are compostable all except for the bristles. They’re the most plant based toothbrushes on the market though! To take it a step further, you can even get zero waste floss too!
Dental care can be really wasteful. These simple switches help reduce the trash you make so much! .
You’ll never know what you’ll find unless you look. Your local community can be a great resource for zero waste living. I’ve found my local farmers market and bulk food store just by exploring! You literally never know what you’ll find or stumble upon.
Don’t be afraid to explore your neighborhood. Honestly, walking on foot and taking public transportation is such a great way to see the sights (and better for the environment – less emissions). You can’t get as much out of your neighborhood, or find cute, ethical shops while whizzing by in a car (I mean you can, but it’s a lot harder to stop and pop into them). Check out your local bread maker, learn about the local history, try a locally grown piece of fruit. It will connect you to the very ground you’re standing on, and create a sense of community.
Community is so important when going zero waste. It may be hard for you to find people in person who practice zero waste living, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find places that value your ethics. I’ve found several places (and some people) that have helped me on my zero waste journey greatly. Not to mention there are several shops that do zero waste things and don’t even know they’re doing them (like offering package free bread, soaps, or loose produce). Anything you can find in your local community to help you on your journey, more power to you!
I highly encourage you to find a local bulk food store near you and utilize it. Recently, I learned my local health food store has a bulk section and couldn’t be happier! That’s where I got all these organic goodies (pictured): popcorn, sliced almonds, French vanilla almond granola, dates, oregano, stone ground powder, rolled oats and cashews.
Shopping in bulk doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, all this is organic and would’ve cost MUCH more if I bought it in packaging. All this totaled to $35.56. Not bad at all! I didn’t have enough jars this time so I used some produce bags for less fine items (popcorn, nuts, etc). I transferred it to jars when I got the chance at home. Super simple and effective. If you’d like to learn more about bulk food shopping, here’s how to navigate the bulk bins without creating waste.
I understand not everyone has access to bulk. That’s completely fine. If you don’t, just make smarter choices. Do your best to buy items in paper or cardboard packaging. Those are easy to recycle, and can be composted at least. Or, if your only option is packaged in plastic, buy the biggest plastic bag you can find. It’s better to have one big plastic bag than a ton of small plastic bags.
It will save you so much money, it’s not even funny. This is a picture of my favorite all purpose cleaner, my orange peel vinegar. I made this back in February of 2018 and it still works like a charm today. Here’s how to make my orange peel vinegar cleaner.
A lot of cleaning supplies come in plastic. Not to mention the chemicals are nasty ugh. They have a cleaner for every occasion on the market when you really only need one for most things. Don’t give in to their marketing tactics. This orange peel vinegar cleaner is strong enough to clean grit and gentle enough to use on glass. I use it to clean the stove and counter-tops the most. Plus, it doesn’t make me sneeze like crazy like most conventional cleaners do! I stored it in a reusable glass spray bottle and just spritz it wherever there’s grime.
This cleaner is ridiculously easy to make and saves you so much money. In fact, if you have oranges and white vinegar lying around you can make it right now! So many people I’ve recommend to tried it and loved it. Why not join in the fun and give it a go? Concerning other zero waste cleaners, like laundry detergent, I have more info on my blog you can check out. Let me know if you have any specific cleaning questions you’d like answered!
That completes my 18 tips for you guys! Will you be participating in Plastic Free July this year?
For more helpful tips and tricks, check out my post all about how to celebrate Plastic Free July.
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