• alissaward

Plastic Free July – A Delayed Review

It has taken me longer than it should to write this, well, because I was a bit baffled by my #PlasticFreeJulyFails. I have rid quite a few single-use plastics from my life, but still couldn’t believe how much waste I was creating. For almost half the month I was travelling, which isn’t an excuse in the least, but really puts into perspective the ease of convenience. At home, I have my reusable bags, an endless supply of clean drinking water to refill my water bottle, and the ability of more options than one grocer store in a small town that has no idea what Plastic Free July is.

One of my fails came when I was travelling to Perth, and I had my reusable cutlery, but I was in the middle seat, and my cutlery was in my bag wedged up in the overhead bins… convenience won this time. And then they kept coming. Few places in Western Australia offer recycling options, with next to none composting. Not having road-side composting has been one of the biggest revelations since moving out to Australia, individuals take on the responsibility of backyard composting. What came from this, was my realization that rather than relying on recycling, I should be reducing. SO much of what I purchase could be purchased alternatively in a more sustainable way (aka bread in a soft plastic bag that is recyclable versus walking an extra minute to the bakery with my own bread bag and having zero plastic waste).

My mindset has needed to change from progress over perfection, otherwise I’d never be writing this. Every time we purchased plastic water bottles I was horrified. That is one of the EASIEST ways to reduce your plastic consumption, but the thing is, not everywhere has free refill stations in their city centres, and a lot of the places we stayed (even the campsites we paid for) often didn’t have access to clean drinking water, therefore it became a bit of a necessity to buy the plastic water bottles. But then there weren’t any recycling centres, so every time I needed water not only was I purchasing it in a plastic bottle, but I also couldn’t even recycle that bottle (coming from the girl who after a night out will clean up the empties left on the beach, please know it killed a bit of my soul).

I have however had many wins. I decided not to eat out, or if I did, I would always dine in to reduce food packaging. I encouraged those around me to also be aware of their consumption habits and ensured we all left the house with a full reusable water bottle.

Although I have transitioned to more sustainable products (I promise I’m getting to these shortly) the biggest takeaway I think is to be as sustainable as you can when buying these zero-waste options. Rather than throwing out what you are currently using, allow it to serve its useful life and then look to invest in other options to reduce your waste.

We all know the 80/20 rule, but I hadn’t heard it applied to sustainability until @impactforgood shared it on her Insta story. Basically, 20% of your actions can control 80% of your waste. So start with the reusable bags, water bottle, mug, cutlery, straw, reusable food container, etc. These can all be sourced from just about anywhere now with this shift in people’s buying behaviour, but as per usual, I like to spend more time than the average person to know what all of my options are and make the most informed choice. The areas that I’m able to have full control over are my On The Go and Bathroom items which I think I’ve made some decent progress in. Purchasing the products I have is definitely an investment, but I also waited until most of them were on sale before I purchased them! Also as a heads up, I’ve linked everything, but as I’m currently living in Australia, some products are from Australian companies, others from Canadian, or the US that ship out here. So here’s what changes I’ve made and I’ll be as transparent as I can:

On The Go

Standard Hydro Flask with Sport Top

  1. Disclaimer: this took me a long time to find as at the gym I like my reusable plastic water bottle that I can squeeze. Although I can’t squeeze this one, it has the same effect without a straw which I enjoy more than the average person. It’s all in the details and I understand that it’s my kind of crazy.

Stasher Bags

  1. These have been absolute GAME CHANGERS. I used a lot of Ziploc bags for snacks during university and in my day-to-day life and now I couldn;t tell you the last time I used one. I may still be buying products in wrapping that produces waste, but at least I’m not creating more waste by also transferring my snacks into plastic bags to take with me. I have all different sizes and multiple of each size including the Stand Up, Sandwich, Snack, and Pocket. I use them for just about anything, including organization and find them to be the most convenient option I have tried.

Seed and Sprout Bento Box

  1. I haven’t used this as often as I anticipated, but I really like having it and knowing that if I were to go out somewhere I can ask for my food to be placed in it. I did fill it full of fruit and crackers for one of my plane rides home which was another small win. The compartment sizes are great, especially for packing lunches, but since I work from home I don’t often do this.

Bathroom

Unwrapped Life Shampoo & Conditioner bars (+ travel tins)

  1. I’ve tried another brand of shampoo bars, but they did not even compare to these. These ones actually leaving my hair feeling clean and soft after washing, replacing so many plastic bottles that are put into the recycling, but who knows if or what they were recycled into. These come packaged in such a minimalistic and eco-friendly way, which I also appreciate.

Unwrapped Life Soap Bar

  1. Another easy switch to reduce plastic bottles. I still have a loofah that has lasted me a while so transferring from liquid to bar the soap and then onto my loofah hasn’t been a massive shift at all, but another small win for sure.

Unwrapped Life Shaving Bar

  1. This I’ve been pleasantly surprised with. It foams like other shaving creams that come in aerosol cans which are notoriously bad for the environment. I’m still using a plastic razor and disposable blades as I had a few from a pack I bought a while back, yet again, small win even though the whole process isn’t as good as it could be. I use my pocket sized Stasher bag to pack this around with me when I go travelling, I love multi-funcitonal items..

Dent Tabs Toothpaste Tablets

  1. These definitely take some getting used to. I’m a texture person for sure, so I don’t absolutely love these, as you crush them in your teeth and then brush the gritty powder all over. They still seem to leave my teeth feeling as clean as a traditional toothpaste from a tube would, but I haven’t switched to these full-time.

Quip Metal Handled Toothbrush

  1. I had heard a lot of differing opinions on bamboo toothbrushes, so when I saw this I made the leap for me and my youngest brother. These have a metal handle, so the handle never has to be disposed of, only the heads are plastic and can be refilled. When you think about it, this definitely reduces a lot of waste, even though the actual brush is still plastic. I really like that it’s an electric toothbrush as well, using a bit of different technology than other brushes, so go check them out for sure, no complaints here!

As an outtake, these are the aspects I can control. There have been so many plastic free July fails, leading well into August as well, as this isn’t a movement I plan to abandon as a month ends, but I think the biggest insight has been realizing how much plastic I consume in my day to day life. Rather than recycling, I’m looking for options to not use at all, especially when living a relatively active and on the go life. It’s so easy to beat yourself up over how you could have done better, but every bit does add up.

A quick reminder, not everyone is going to jump on board with reducing single-use plastics and shifts towards more sustainable lifestyles, saying that until large corporations and populated countries make changes, nothing will change; DON’T LISTEN. We can educate those around us on the impacts of the damage we are doing and encourage them to take action as well, but not everyone will and that’s okay too. You are not holier than thou, please remember this.

As consumers begin to make small changes and expect more from large corporations we can see massive changes come from small acts. I’ve heard so many stories of individuals asking their local coffee shop to stop serving plastic straws, delis placing meat in reusable containers, and gyms switching to cleaning options beyond paper towel that is used on one machine and then discarded.

That’s all from me! I’d love to hear if you have any questions about what I’m using or what tips you have for continuing to reduce my waste!

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