Was I the only one that didn’t know Plastic Free July was a thing? I’ve been reading up on this global movement, and I really love their initiative to educate and inspire people to make small changes that work with their everyday lives. So, whilst I only heard of them a couple weeks ago, this blog post has actually been lurking in the back of my mind for a couple of months now, so I figured I’d get my butt in gear and end July with this post. Though I strongly believe that we can all make more conscious choices, it’s also important to remember that we as consumers are not entirely to blame for the plastic crisis that is currently happening. Though we can definitely make positive changes, we also need to see positive changes from those hire up.
Here in Canada, it’s become quite clear that we need much better recycling programs. Only about 9% of our plastic waste is recycled, but it’s said to actually be less than that, as that percentage includes the plastic waste we dump onto other countries, most of which isn’t recyclable (out of sight, out of mind though, right?). This is ultimately what pushed me to be more adamant in reducing my single use plastic, as to quote Greenpeace, “we can’t recycle our way out of this crisis.” Though going completely plastic free is not sustainable for most people—myself included—we can definitely all do our part in reducing our single use plastic. Here are 5 ways I’m cutting back:
Reusable Shopping Bags > Plastic Bags
I’ve been using reusable shopping bags for years, but it’s only been for the last year and a half that I have gotten into the habit of making sure I always have one with me—Do I have my wallet? Keys? Phone? Reusable bag(s)? I love my UofT canvas tote bag for everyday, as it’s perfect for running small errands with, and I usually keep another reusable bag folded up inside just in case I need it. For grocery shopping, my favourite reusable shopping bags are the ones by President’s Choice, as they’re made from post-consumer recycled materials, they wash well and I find they’re much more durable than the reusable shoppings bags made of that thicker plastic. They come in a small and large size, but they also have patterned ones for a couple dollars more that not only look nicer, but also seem to be even better quality.
Stainless Steel Water Bottle > Plastic Water Bottles
I much prefer the taste of my Brita filter over any bottled water, but it’s taken me quite awhile to find a good reusable water bottle. Stainless steel is the best route to go, as it is incredibly durable, it washes well and it’s better than plastic for the environment in terms of production and recycling. I have the Simple Modern Wave Water Bottle (17oz) in ‘Tuxedo’, which I ordered off of Amazon, and I absolutely love it. It’s exactly like a S’well bottle, but way more affordable. It keeps my water ice cold all day long, it doesn’t sweat or leak, and it doesn’t rust or leave a bad metal taste in my mouth like past stainless water bottles I’ve had. The only downside is that, like most stainless steel water bottles, you have to be careful with scratches (or just opt for plain stainless steel).
Cardboard Applicators > Plastic Applicators
I feel like most of us fell for the gimmick of the tampons wrapped in colourful plastic, with their equally colourful smooth plastic applicators that boast about their quick and easy insertion, as if our vaginas are too delicate for rounded cardboard. I made the switch back to tampons wrapped in paper with cardboard applicators because they’re biodegradable and also more affordable. These Tampax ones do the job and are free of perfume, bleaching and dyes (as all tampons should be), but most stores also carry a generic version, which is exactly the same for even cheaper. That being said, even though these aren’t single use plastic, they are still single use, so the best route to go would be in getting a menstrual cup, but I’m just not ready to make the switch quite yet.
Also, please stop flushing your tampons down the toilet! Though tampons are biodegradable, they don’t break down in our wastewater systems, so it’s costly both financially and environmentally.
Reusable Produce Bags > Plastic Produce Bags
Though these Bulk Barn bags—which are made from 100% unbleached cotton—are intended for the bulk items they sell, I bought these with the intention of using them for produce. Whilst some produce already comes in plastic, a lot of it doesn’t—which is great—but that means we’re then throwing it into a plastic produce bag to protect it from the germ-infested grocery carts, baskets and checkouts. Though I always reuse these plastic bags, they’re still incredibly wasteful, and I really don’t need them. I’ll have these cotton bags for years to come, and they’ll get a ton of use once I get into the habit of taking them with me (they’re not yet drilled into my brain quite like my reusable shopping bags).
Beeswax Food Wraps > Plastic Wrap
Plastic wrap is one of those things I’ve always despised using (it’s wasteful AND annoying), yet it’s something we’ve always had in our house. Whilst I use reusable food containers for storing leftovers, I decided to try these Abeego Beeswax Food Wraps that my sister swears by. Abeego claims to let your food breathe “just like nature’s lemon peel, onion skin or cheese rind,” allowing your food to stay fresher naturally. I actually haven’t used these yet, as I wanted to photograph them unused, but my sister said with the warmth of your hands they easily wrap around and adhere to anything. They also wash well, don’t smell, and will last at least a year depending on how much wear and tear they get. These are more pricy (I waited until I had a coupon to buy these at Bulk Barn), so if they are out of your price range, just know that reusable food containers are still a better option over plastic wrap!
I hope you found this post helpful, and I would love for you to share how you are trying to reduce your single use plastic.
If you did find this post helpful, please let me know, as I’d love to do another post with more swaps I make as I go along. Next on my list are these collapsible straws (I’ve never really used straws to begin with, but these would still be handy to keep in my bag when needed), as well as these silicone food storage bags that my sister also recommended to me.
And finally, if you are also trying to reduce your single use plastic, just remember to be forgiving with yourself, as it’s not an all or nothing thing. Still use up the single use plastic you do have in your home, and make the gradual changes where you can, when you can. Like I said, we live in a very unsustainable world, and going completely plastic free is just not realistic right now. Just know that any changes you are able to make, even if it’s just cutting back on things, is much more beneficial than doing nothing at all.