What I Learned From Plastic-Free July (A Belated, But Valuable, Recap!)

Hello! Please allow me to apologize for what was, literally, a two-month hiatus. I can’t believe it’s been so long, but time flies when you’ve got some major life events going down!

At the end of July, we said an exceptionally tough goodbye to our furry friend of eight years, our Chihuahua named Fajita. From that point, we went right into the planning/execution of a cross-country move from Florida to Ohio! Once we arrived back in Ohio, I had minimal down time to get our townhouse set up before I went back to work remotely, so I feel like life’s been on fast-forward!

Before all the craziness, I joined millions across the globe to take part in the Plastic-Free July challenge, which ran July 1st – 31st. I was planning to post a half-way (or even “end of challenge”) status update, but life happened.

But you know what? Just because I should’ve posted this, oh, August 1st rather than September 12th, it doesn’t make the message any less valid!

So here it is, in all its belated glory!

If you’ve ready my previous blog post, Put Plastic in Your Past, Starting TODAY!, you know that I’ve wiped our kitchen cupboards virtually free of plastic items. Since the time of that post, I even made more changes (like converting our plastic mixing bowl set to Pyrex glass and switching our measuring cups to stainless steel). Bye, plastic!

However, the main point of Plastic-Free July was to focus on reducing all the ways that we’re plastic-dependent in our daily life – not just what we use at home. It puts a HUGE spotlight on single-use plastics (straws, cutlery, lids, shopping bags, etc.) And, boy, did I come to some pretty unexpected realizations, really freaking fast!

I won’t call Plastic-Free July a fail for me, no, but it made me realize (sadly) how tough it will be for our society to break its love affair with single-use plastic. And, in many ways, I  found that I’m more guilty than I ever gave myself credit for!

On Day 2 (July 2nd) we went to do our weekly shopping, and I felt ashamed to realize how much plastic we were wasting on a weekly basis, putting everything in plastic produce bags. Ugh. We buy a lot of produce, so in one trip, we could use close to 10 bags. Double ugh.

Granted, we recycle our produce bags along with any stray plastic shopping bags we manage to accrue (usually minimal because I try to have at least one reusable tote with me at all times), but still. Using them in the first place makes me feel so wasteful.

So, this led me to start looking into reusable alternatives, and I’m happy to say that I found reusable/washable polyester mesh produce bags by Flip & Tumble. I bought mine via Natural Healthy Concepts, which not only offers a lower price, but free shipping on every order!

After nearly two months with these produce bags, we absolutely love them! They’re very big (12″ x 14″), so you can easily fit 10+ apples or oranges into just one. And, they feel very strong and durable, so I foresee these lasting a long, long time. My only teensy wish? Various sizes. It feels a tad silly to use a bag for just, say, one pepper, but hey! It’s saving plastic, baby!

Shortly thereafter, I came to another realization –  we still haven’t been able to banish plastic baggies (generic Ziploc bags) from our kitchen. It’s been irking me for a while, but there are just certain items (say, tortilla chips) that just don’t work as well on-the-go when you try to stuff them into tiny (but heavy) snack-size Pyrex containers.

I’m happy to report that Plastic-Free July finally made me pull the trigger on ordering Stasher reusable silicone storage bags, after following them on Instagram for quite a while. Silicone is safer and more durable than plastic (read more here), and the use of bags like these can help reduce the estimated 20 million plastic baggies that get sent to the landfill every day across our country.

I bought one snack size and one regular size Stasher bag, and can already see how much plastic baggie usage they’ve eliminated! They’re super handy, very roomy, and the seal is über strong! I can see a need for having at least one more regular size one and several more snack size ones, especially for storing cut veggie items in the fridge. My hope is to snag a few more the next time there’s a sale, and hopefully eliminate our need for buying plastic baggies ever again!

Stasher in action! Perfect for work snacks!

So, as you can see, Plastic-Free July has definitely helped push us even more in the direction of truly being able to say we’re plastic-free. Through getting our Flip & Tumble produce bags and Stasher bags, I’m thrilled that we’ll be reducing our plastic usage even further.

However, there were many times within July that I sadly cannot say I was able to stick to my pledge to refuse any single-use plastic item. Under normal circumstances, I dislike the general wastefulness of plastic, but thanks to this pledge, it made me ultra-aware of how easily it slips in, and how little we even notice:

  • We enjoyed happy hour on a brewery’s patio, and for whatever reason, my water was served in plastic, unlike everyone’s beers being served in glass. Bummer! I took it home to recycle, but still. Rather annoying!
  • We went for ice cream, and I totally forgot that this entails eating with a plastic spoon. Ooops! Unfortunately, so many places offer only plastic silverware.
  • Over one weekend, we took a mini road trip, and picked up breakfast from my favorite organic grocer’s hot bar on the way. But, I completely forgot that this would mean containers with plastic lids (one #1 and one #5), plus plastic silverware yet again. Dang it! (Again, brought the lids home to recycle, but still.)

These situations prove that there are always opportunities for improvement. It’s definitely possible to be more aware of your plans, and come prepared. It wouldn’t be outrageous to keep some metal forks/spoons in the glove box for such moments, would it? No way – it’s just a new habit to learn.

And, of course, you also realize that there will be moments that’ll catch you totally off-guard (like my plastic water glass at the brewery). It wouldn’t hurt to reach out to the party involved and voice the suggestion to be plastic-free (i.e. not serving a beverage in plastic when glass is available).

Some of the worst, and most uncomfortable, situations are social. If you go to, say, a birthday party, odds are probably 99.9% that the person is using all plastic disposable silverware. Easier clean-up, of course, but we don’t think twice because society has told us that plastic is disposable, when it shouldn’t be. If you think of all the plastic silverware you’ve wasted in your life at cookouts, parties, holidays, etc. it honestly is a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?

Across America, this is obviously a huge problem. Most fast food, for that matter, is a big culprit in filling our landfills with single-use plastic. Bad for environment, worse for America’s health. But, healthy items can be equally to blame, like plastic bottled water – don’t buy it!

If there’s one thing to be learned from this challenge, it’s that plastic is just way too easy to reach for, so it’s up to each of us to do what we can, when we can. Each instance is a new chance to do better. And, hopefully, as better plastic alternatives (like hemp plastic) are developed, the tides will start to turn, and future generations can rid themselves of the plastic plague.

Wishing you healthier, happier days!

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2 thoughts on “What I Learned From Plastic-Free July (A Belated, But Valuable, Recap!)

  1. I have tried to eliminate plastics, but it is very,very hard. Got rid of all my plastic containers. I guess at this time every little bit people do will help. This must be how getting rid of the plastic shopping bag started. Look where that has taken so many of us. I now own so many reusable shopping bags that I have 2 for every holiday or season.. and some just because they are pretty.! I really like the idea of the “stasher bag” let us know when and where to order them. Good article:)

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