So, it’s over, I’ve done it — kind of. The past week was the final week of my Plastic-free July (and a bit) challenge. Since I’ve started the challenge a week into July, I also finished it a week into August because I’m an honourable girl scout.
The past month trying to reduce my plastic use has had its ups and downs (mostly downs), but I think I learned a lot: both about plastic use and its impact on the environment, and surprisingly, about myself and how I react to challenges.
Before I get to my conclusion here are some lifestyle adaptations I made — or was already doing — and some that I decided weren’t worth it/necessary for me personally.
Switching single-use plastic water bottles with reusable ones. This one is pretty simple and I believe effective. It’s also cheaper in the not-even-that-long run. I already had a bottle that I was given at some conference so this didn’t cost me anything.
Bringing your own grocery bags. Again, a simple switch and one that I already had done. To be clear, I’m not saying go ahead and buy new fancy bags for your groceries. Surely, you have a backpack, some cloth bags laying around: use those instead of buying new. “Repurpose” is one of the important ‘r’s of sustainability.
Carrying your own to-go coffee mug. I think this one is very circumstantial. I buy hot beverages on the go very rarely so, for me, buying a reusable cup isn’t necessary. But if you’re someone who buys hot beverages often, getting a cup might be a good solution for you.
Avoiding plastic-straws and plastic cutlery. You can read how I feel about the whole avoiding plastic straws campaign here. This for me is an almost too simple step: if you don’t absolutely need them, don’t use them.
Buying a soda maker to avoid plastic fizzy drink packaging. No, absolutely not. I’m not buying a 90 E soda maker for the one bottle of mineral water and a can of Sprite I drink in a month.
Avoiding plastic wrapped fruits and vegetables. I’d say this was the biggest change to my lifestyle and something I will keep on doing. Trying to avoid plastic wrapped fruits and vegetables led me to shop from my local, smaller markets which turned out to be convenient, and cheap.
All in all, I think it all comes to this: if you have the option to reduce your plastic use without it costing you a lot of time and money, or the planet resources, then absolutely do so. But keep in mind that reducing your daily use of plastic has such little effect on the environment, it’s basically the leg of a fly on the tip of that iceberg.
I was sceptical about the whole thing from the beginning of the challenge and I had my “hype-allergies.” In all honesty, I saw this challenge mostly as something eco-lifestyle bloggers do to get more followers and pat each other on the back.
A lovely scoop of cynicism on these hot summer days.
As with the #stopsucking campaign, encouraging people to stop using plastic straws, I had my suspicions that the plastic-free July debate was diluting the conversation about ocean pollution, climate change and sustainability and turning people complacent because they believed they were doing their part just by not using plastic grocery bags.
At the end of the month, I came to the conclusion that I was both right and wrong. I still think challenges like this carry the risks I mention above, but I also think they can be opportunities that open people’s eyes to other, bigger conversations.
In the end, I am a believer of grassroots movements and the power of collective action. In this case, maybe the impact of these challenges isn’t directly related to reducing waste or slowing down global warming, but it might be pushing large companies and governments toward implementing changes to their attitudes about the planet.