Globally, we produce 300 million tons of plastic annually. That’s the weight of 75 million African elephants passing through our supply chains, littering our roadways, and floating in our oceans every year.
Simply put: Plastic is everywhere.
Our food, energy, and transportation choices matter more to reducing greenhouse gases than our plastic habits. But when we cut back on plastic, we reduce waste, support biodiversity, and prevent pollution of natural habitats.
Going 100% plastic-free isn’t realistic for everyone. But Plastic-Free July can be an opportunity to be mindful of where there are opportunities to cut down on our reliance on plastic. This month, use these nine planet-friendly pro-tips to reduce your impact.
1. Step Away from Single-Use
Ninety percent of the plastic in our lives is only used once - sometimes just for minutes - before we toss it in the bin. But single-use plastic straws, stir sticks, shopping bags, and water bottles will persist in our environment long after we’re gone.
Start Plastic-Free July by simply evaluating where you encounter single-use plastics in your daily life and making small adjustments to reduce your usage.
For instance, if you frequently grab bottled water at the gym, toss a reusable bottle in your workout bag so it’s there when you need it. Or if you’re a die-hard straw person (no shame!) hook a collapsible straw to your keychain for sustainable sipping on-the-go.
Consider investing in a starter kit to ditch the biggest offenders. This Plastic-Free July Starter Kit from Biome hooks you up with a canvas tote, bamboo toothbrush, laundry berries, keep cup, and more! Remember, using reusables is only better when you use them for long periods of time. So if you’re investing in reusables, make sure they’re ones you love.
2. Take It Step-By-Step
Our world is powered by plastic, and that makes it tough to go cold turkey. Instead of trying to cut back everywhere, pick a specific room or activity and do a quick plastic audit. Identify one or two items you can swap for a sustainable alternative, and grow your practice from there.
A few places to start:
- Your Shopping Cart: Hang a canvas tote and reusable produce bags in your entryway or trunk for when you need them. At the supermarket, pass on plastic-wrapped perishables and packaged goods, and purchase shelf-stable foods like rice, beans, and baking supplies in bulk.
- In the Bathroom: Switch to bar soap, shampoo, and conditioner, opt for aluminum instead of plastic, or get plastic-free refills delivered to your door. Grove Collaborative and by Humankind offer a wide-variety of products. Wipe with the planet in mind with plastic-free toilet papers like Who Gives a Crap (Rated A+ for sustainability by NRDC).
- In the Kitchen: Swap in dish soap bars, natural sponges, Stasher Bags, and Bees Wrap as alternatives to plastic-centric sponges, ziplocs, and saran wrap. Swing by the secondhand store for stainless steel cooking tools to pass on toxic leaching and plastic waste.
3. Use What You Have
Yes, it’s tempting (and oh so easy) to fill your digital shopping bags with expensive, earth-friendly goods. But buying stuff you don’t need won’t help your wallet - or the planet.
Instead, look for ways to use items you already own. Mason jars and glass food containers are bulk store BFFs.
Before you buy new, ask yourself:
- Do I really need this item?
- Do I have something at home I can use instead?
- Is this something I could rent or borrow?
If you do need something new, consider local buy/sell groups, thrift stores, and sustainable vendors first.
4. Plan Ahead
Our plastic addiction is simple: it’s convenient, and we’re busy. It’s not your fault. Our society isn’t built for the conscious consumer, which is why it’s important to plan ahead.
Before you head out for the day, take a look at your to-do list and grab all the reusables you’ll need. Meal plan and food prep on Sunday so you can skip grab-and-go lunches and plastic takeout waste.
5. Buy Less, Buy Local
Rush ordering items you “need” on Amazon can quickly counteract the benefits of ditching plastic. That’s because rush shipping can require a vehicle to make a special trip to your home, or even air freight, driving up emissions. Waiting a few extra days can cut your delivery’s carbon footprint by 30%.
Use Plastic-Free July to re-evaluate your “click-and-ship” habits. Ask yourself which purchases are essential and where you’re shopping for fun or out of boredom. When you do buy, shop in-person at a sustainable vendor along your daily route.
Can’t buy in-store? Our Guide to Sustainable Online Shopping can help demystify your digital carbon footprint.
6. Find “an App for That”
The great thing about Plastic-Free July? You don’t have to start from scratch. There are several helpful apps that can set you up for success:
- My Little Plastic Footprint: Tools, tips, and tracking for a successful “plastic diet.”
- Zero-Waste Home: A database of retail stores that let you bring your own containers.
- Farmstand: Support local agriculture and avoid plastic-wrapped produce with this farmer’s market database.
- RefillMyBottle: A map of stores and businesses that will let you fill your reusable water bottle on the go.
- FreeCycle: A free local marketplace to find items your neighbors don’t want to throw away.
7. Be Mindful of Microplastics
Microplastics are microscopic filaments that break off of plastic items and synthetic materials. These tiny particles work their way into our eco-systems and pollute our food, our oceans, even our atmosphere in the trillions.
Microplastics are pervasive, but there are a few easy ways to avoid them
- Avoid Microbeads: Some health and beauty products use tiny bits of plastic as exfoliants. These particles easily pass through filtration systems and wind up in our waterways. Check toothpaste, body scrub, and face wash labels to steer clear of microbead products.
- Consider Your Clothing: Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon shed tiny microfiber threads every time you wash and wear them. Products like Guppy Friend and LintLuvr help capture shedding.Wearing natural fabrics when possible eliminates the issue altogether.
- Drive Less: Car tires shed microplastics every time they hit the pavement. Walk and bike when you can to cut your carbon footprint, reduce plastic pollution, and boost your mental wellbeing.
8. Activate Your Community
Small changes have a big impact when we act together. Multiply your impact by challenging yourself to host a plastic-free event. Invite your friends to a plastic free picnic or backyard potluck, and ask them to bring sustainable swaps. For more pro-planet party ideas, see our top tips for an eco-friendly cookout.
9. Support Plastic-Free Activism
Personal action is important, but we can accelerate the pace of change by acting as part of our communities. Support plastic-free activism in these key areas:
- Take Political Action: Implore your representatives to support anti-plastic legislation. This Break Free From Plastic template automatically populates your congressperson’s contact info.
- Pressure Business: Encourage businesses you frequent to reduce their plastic usage. The Last Plastic Straw initiative offers helpful tools and tips.
- Protect Your Waterways: Waterways and marine life bear the brunt of our plastic addiction. Browse SurfRiders to find an active anti-plastic campaign near you.
Take Climate Action with Joro
Our biggest tip for Plastic-Free July is to identify which manageable changes have the biggest impact on your personal consumption. And when it comes to carbon footprints, we take the same approach. Download Joro today to discover your biggest carbon drivers and build a climate action plan that works for you.