8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks
8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

Are you planning on participating in Plastic Free July this year? I’ve been participating in it for a few years now and really love it, but I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about the challenge. Some people find it a bit ‘meh’, but I do think it’s a good stepping stone to introduce people to the zero waste movement. You can choose to go all out or just make a few swaps (even one is fine!) – it adds up and helps the movement as a whole in the long run. You can also choose the duration you want to take the challenge for – a day, a week, all of July, or from here on out. I love the accessibility of that! But I also know that not everyone can afford to buy a bunch of new plastic-free items. Zero waste products can get pretty pricey, and it’s not okay to make people believe they can participate only if they buy products. The truth is, you can participate in this challenge without spending a dime. Sometimes, zero waste swaps are as simple as using what you have on hand! In the spirit of being more inclusive and making this movement even more accessible, here’s 8 no-cost Plastic Free July hacks.


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8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. The goal is to help create a less polluted world. This year, 2020, will be the 10th anniversary of the challenge.
You can pledge to refuse single use plastics in July (and beyond). The cool part is this movement helps you formulate great habits that will likely stay with you forever.
That said, it can be difficult for someone to know where to start, or how to start. Especially when they are strapped for cash, have other problems on their plate, or are dealing with environmental racism and don’t even have access to fresh water or clean air.
Thankfully, there are tons of resources out there to help you get started. Here are a few from me:
But, it’s important to note no one expects you to go plastic-free over night. Making small changes over the course of the month works too, and they don’t have to all come with a price tag. In fact, some of the most powerful changes don’t have to cost anything at all.
It’s important to look past plastic bags, forks and straws – the zero waste movement is so much more than that – but Plastic Free July is a good stepping stone for those who want to reduce their waste.
It’s also a good way to introduce people to the movement and make it fun – you can challenge your friends and family who otherwise may not even know what zero waste living is. Definitely gets people thinking and talking!

What are some no-cost hacks for Plastic Free July?

A lot of brands and blogs will take full advantage of this challenge to try and sell you plastic-free products during this time. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with this (it’s for a good cause at least, and I’ve done it in the past to some degree too), but it is important to be more inclusive.
Not everyone can afford a $35 reusable water bottle. And what good would that water bottle be if the tap water you fill it up with isn’t drinkable or clean? We have to think a little bigger here.
Thankfully, there are several ways to go plastic-free this July without breaking the bank. You can make some amazing swaps, all without spending a dime. This makes zero waste living a little more accessible, and that’s what we want right?
We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly – we need everyone doing it imperfectly.
Here are some no-cost hacks you can use to participate in Plastic Free July.
8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

1. Create a free to-go kit

A zero waste to-go kit helps keep you prepared to take on all the plastic you’ll find in the outside world (hello plastic straws and forks).

To-go kits typically consists of:

  • Rusable cutlery
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Travel mug
  • Reusable straws
  • Reusable bag

You can create your own zero waste to-go kit rather easily, without spending a dime.

Cutlery: Likely you already have metal cutlery in your kitchen. Just take a fork, spoon and knife from there and wrap it in a cloth napkin. You can make your own cloth napkin out of an old t-shirt. If you’re worried about the knife being too loose, opt to just keep a fork and spoon on hand. You can secure the cloth napkin with a rubber band or twine. Then place it in your purse, bag or car so you always have it on hand.

Water bottle, travel mug, + leftovers: Have I mentioned how versatile glass jars and bottles are? One mason jar can function as a water bottle, a travel mug for drinks on the go, and a container for leftovers. Why spend money when you can just use an emptied out marina jar, coconut oil jar, or glass kombucha bottle? If you want to house hot drinks in your glass jar or bottle, you can use rubber bands to create an impromptu heat resistant grip – so you can hold it without burning your hands. Or, if you’re good at knitting, you can always knit a jar sleeve.

Straws: You don’t need a fancy glass, bamboo or metal straw to avoid plastic straws. Just ask for ‘no straw’ with any drink you order and drink it from the cup. I’ve done this countless times and never got sick from it. Seriously, we need to normalize just drinking from cups again.
Chopsticks: You know those ‘disposable’ wooden chopsticks restaurants give you? You can honestly reuse them. So next time you’re out at a Japanese restaurant, snatch a pair up and just reuse those! Make sure to wash them after each use of course.
Reusable bag: You probably already have several reusable bags stashed away in your house whether you know it or not. I have tons my mom bought in the past stashed away. Dig around for those, or ask a friend if they have any spares they’re willing to part with. Likely, they will. If not, you can always make your own reusable tote bag.
8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

2. Make some DIYs

There are a lot of amazing DIYs you can whip up using what you already have on hand. Instead of buying the products online, you can make them from the comfort of your home. Even better if you store them in upcycled jars and sprayers!

Here are some personal hygiene DIYs to try:

Some beauty DIYs:

Some cleaning DIYs:

These are only a few potential DIYs you could make. But the cool part is, once you get a lot of the ingredients for these DIYs, you should be able to make a whole slew of them. A lot of the DIYs I list share the same ingredients! Most of which may already be in your house.

8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

3. Make your own produce bag

If you have access to farmers markets, or package free produce in general, you should definitely consider making your own produce bags. Single use produce bags are made from plastic and often discarded after use, so they’re incredibly wasteful. Making your own will help prevent this.

If you’re good at sewing, check out this tutorial below:

For a no-sew option, check out this video:

Personally, my sewing skills could use some work. That, and I don’t have access to a sewing machine. So the simpler the better! If you’re really in a pinch, consider just grabbing an old pillowcase and using that as a produce bag! You can tie it shut with some twine, string, hair scrunchies or a rubber band.

When all else fails, skip the produce bag entirely! A lot of vegetables and fruits don’t actually need it. Besides, you’ll just wash them when you get home. Sometimes, we forget produce comes from the ground and not completely sterile environments.

8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

4. Bring tupperware, or takeout containers, to bulk bins

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a bulk food store, then you should definitely try utilizing them. You don’t need to take any fancy mason jars with you though – Tupperware or emptied takeout containers work just as well.

Since the goal is to reduce single use plastic, it’s totally okay to use reusable plastics. It would be wasteful to just throw away reusable plastic containers just because they’re ‘plastic.’ The next time you order Chinese food, hold onto those plastic wonton soup containers!

Bulk food shopping can get pretty expensive, depending on the store and what you buy, but the containers you take don’t have to cost any money. Also, if you don’t have access to bulk bins, here’s how to shop without bulk options.

8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

5. Plant an edible garden

I can’t recommend gardening enough. This year, my mom and I joined a community garden and we’ve been hooked. Each week we go to check on it and it’s growing so beautifully! We’ve already harvested four heads of romaine lettuce from it.
While I know not everyone has the space to garden, I highly recommend looking into your local community garden and joining them. While this may not be 100% free (they may charge you a fee for a personal plot), it’s usually for the entire season and they provide you with all the tools and seeds you need.
My plot for the entire season (and into the fall) was $30. I joined a little late in the season so I had to purchase some of my own plants because it was too late to plant them from seed. Still, it was a worthy investment in my eyes. Normally, that wouldn’t happen because they’d supply everything.
You can also look into local seed sharing groups to see if you can get seeds or plants for free. Also don’t be afraid to ask around and see if anyone you know is gardening – you can ask them for some seeds, excess plants or borrow their tools!
If you have extremely limited space, try container gardening indoors. I always have something growing on my windowsill. This year, it’s basil, mint, parsley, a cherry tomato plant, a few swiss chard sprouts, and a baby succulent.
Depending on what you like to eat, and what plants work best in a pot, decide what you’d like to start growing. You can borrow seeds and soil from a friend, if need be.
Growing your own food reduces the amount of plastic you’ll have to encounter, especially when you grow something from seed. It also provides food security!

You can follow along my gardening journey and watch my garden bloom on my Instagram account. I created a highlight all about it!

8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

6. Use up what’s in your fridge, freezer and pantry for meals

Instead of constantly ordering takeout, or going to the store to pick up more ingredients, challenge yourself to use up whatever is in your fridge, freezer and pantry for meals.

Work around the ingredients you already have at home – this will help reduce food waste, as well as packaging waste. You won’t have to go out and buy anything that may or may not come in plastic packaging if you’re simply using up things you already have on hand.

Have a lot of tomatoes? Make fresh tomato sauce. Got some rice and two zucchinis? Make a rice and zucchini stir fry. A whole container of oats and some straggly strawberries? Make oatmeal with sliced strawberries on top.

Just get creative and use what you have! If you have too much of one item, use that up first and feel free to look up recipes with that as the main ingredient. Example: Pasta dishes, zucchini dishes, cilantro dishes, etc.

You’ll certainly save money by doing this, along with a trip to the grocery store.

7. For parties, use leaf confetti and flowers as decor

If you’re planning on throwing a party this July, consider opting out of the balloons and conventional confetti. Instead, why not make some natural confetti from leaves? And decorating with flowers is always beautiful too.

Just take a few leaves from a tree nearby (dried or fresh work fine) and use a hole puncher on them to make your confetti. So simple!
If you have your own garden, feel free to harvest some of your flowers for decor too. You can stick them in vases, or scatter them on tables. You can leave the flowers whole, stems attached, cut only the flower heads off, or scatter their petals. The choice is yours.
Dried flower petals are really beautiful too, so feel free to try drying them as well. Once cut, they’ll naturally start to dry on their own, so if you’re opting for fresh blooms, cut closer to the time of your party. Foraging for some wild growing flowers is a great idea too, as long as you don’t over-harvest anything and know what you’re picking.

8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

8. Email companies about their packaging

Last, but certainly not least, email companies and talk to them about their packaging! You can also email restaurants and businesses of any kind.

If I go into a restaurant and see they’re mainly using plastic utensils and cups, I’ll shoot them an email and kindly request they reconsider this.

Sometimes, we put too much pressure on the consumer to avoid plastic when we honestly should put more pressure on the businesses too.

If you’re going to shoot a company or business an email, here’s some general guidelines to consider:

  • Begin by introducing yourself (briefly) and complimenting their establishment. It’s important to say why you love their business and/or product, so they don’t think your criticism is coming from a place of hate.
  • After explaining what you love about them, start to go into what you’ve noticed about their packaging, or (if they’re a restaurant) how they use a lot of plastic. You might want to explain why this is bad with a statistic (ex: the average American generates 4.4lbs of trash per day; By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish) and that it’s imperative we all do our part to reduce plastic waste.
  • Suggest ways they could cut back on plastic waste and how it would ultimately save them money (businesses love saving money after all!).
  • Thank them for their time.
  • Always be respectful.
Here’s a brief email template I’ve created for you with this guideline in mind. You can adjust it as you see fit.
Email template:
Hello (name of business or person in charge),
My name is (your name) and I love your (product, business, or restaurant) because (your reasoning).
However, I couldn’t help noticing your (product, business, or restaurant) uses a lot of plastic. The average American generates 4.4 pounds of trash per day. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. With this in mind, I think it’s imperative we all do our part to reduce plastic waste.
It would be incredible if you switched over to plastic-free packaging and/or reusables. (If addressing a restaurant) You would be able to save more money too because you wouldn’t have to constantly buy plastic forks, dishes, and cups. I’ve saved (x amounts of money) going plastic-free so I can only imagine how much you would save!
I really hope you will consider going plastic-free. I love your business and would love to keep supporting it for years to come. Feel free to reach out to me – I’d be happy to help you brain storm some ideas!
Thank you for your time,
(Your name)
8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

Remember, you don’t need to be perfect

If you decide to participate in Plastic Free July, just remember you don’t have to be perfect. Even if you decide to go completely plastic-free, you’re bound to encounter a few bumps along the way.

This is totally normal. We don’t live in a circular economy, so it’s (sadly) to be expected. But we can do our best to live a more circular economy and reduce waste where we can.

You don’t need to fill a mason jar up with your trash to participate. You just need to make a few steps in the right direction, where you can.

Please share this article so others can learn about Plastic Free July and accessible ways to participate!

8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks

Are you participating in Plastic Free July this year? Make the pledge!

For more Plastic Free July tips and tricks, check out these 18 Plastic Free July Tips.

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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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