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.
8 No-Cost Plastic Free July Hacks
What is Plastic Free July?
What are some no-cost hacks for Plastic Free July?
1. Create a free to-go kit
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.
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.
2. Make some DIYs
Here are some personal hygiene DIYs to try:
Some beauty DIYs:
Some cleaning DIYs:
- Orange peel vinegar
- Dish soap
- Toilet cleaner fizzies
- Tub + sink scrub
- Air freshener
- Dishwasher detergent
- Produce wash
- Lavender vineagar cleaner
- Powder laundry detergent
- Liquid laundry detergent
- Label remover
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.
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.
4. Bring tupperware, or takeout containers, to bulk bins
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.
5. Plant an edible garden
You can follow along my gardening journey and watch my garden bloom on my Instagram account. I created a highlight all about it!
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.
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.
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!
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