Looking to help the environment this month? You might want to consider joining the Plastic Free July movement. It’s an initiative that encourages individuals and communities to reduce plastic consumption and find sustainable alternatives throughout July. Taking small steps toward a greener future and raising awareness of plastic’s environmental impact is an excellent way to make a meaningful difference.

Unsure where to start? Don’t worry, we have you covered. Let’s dive into this handy guide to Plastic Free July and discover some simple, yet impactful, ways to reduce our plastic footprint.

Why should we work towards reducing plastic consumption?

While plastic products may typically last a decade, they can take up to 500 years to decompose.

According to a Government report published in 2021, Australians used on average 45 plastic bags, 50 plastic straws and 70 plastic cups between 2019-2020. All that plastic tends to stick around, long after its intended use… and that’s a planetary problem. Global numbers from a 2021 study showed that plastic waste amounted to 400 million metric tons, and that while plastic products may typically last a decade, they can take up to 500 years to decompose. It’s clear that consumers and communities need to consider adopting more sustainable practices, as the act of going plastic-free on a small scale will have a cumulative impact world-wide.

Yet another issue is the effect that plastic waste has on our natural ecosystems. According to scientists, plastic is projected to dominate our oceans by 2050. But this news can also serve as a call to action to reflect on our daily habits. Likewise, the Plastic Free July movement aims to inspire communities to make more sustainable choices for our planet. It’s a reminder that even the smallest actions can significantly preserve our environment’s health.

To combat the current problem of plastic pollution, we must modify our behaviour and be willing to adopt creative and open-minded consumer choices. That said, Plastic Free July is more than just an individual effort; it’s about building a community of like-minded people striving for a sustainable future. One of the best ways to achieve that is by joining online communities and sharing your journey across social media platforms (#PlasticFreeJuly), in effect inspiring others to take up the cause. Engage in conversations, share tips, resources, and celebrations together.

The good news is that even the smallest changes can help to drive us toward a greener future. Okay, so, what are some easy ways to reduce plastic use this month?

Ditch plastic in three easy steps

1. Use reusable cups and bottles

One of the easiest things you can do as a coffee or tea lover is to keep a reusable cup in your bag, car or desk. This way, you can always satisfy your coffee/tea cravings in a sustainable fashion. Consider grabbing a cup from home or choosing a travel vessel made from insulated stainless steel with a sealable lid. This will ensure you can get your hot drink fix without the excess waste of a disposable, single-use coffee cup. It’s an easy way to help reduce your use of takeaway cups, and your drink will also stay warmer for longer too. Go figure!

Here’s a bonus tip: Did you know bringing your reusable cup to cafes can not only help to reduce waste, but also save you money? Many cafes offer discounts if you provide your own cup when ordering takeaway coffee or tea.

If you’re keen to get your hands on a reusable vessel for your next journey, there are plenty of choices to choose from, including Keep Cup, Until, Frank Green, Fressko, Ioco, Country Road, and Pottery for the Planet.

Likewise, switching to a reusable water bottle instead of single-use plastic bottles is a great way to help protect our oceans and the animals that call them home. Many of the same retailers that stock reusable coffee cups also feature reusable water bottles, which, just like their smaller cousins, will save you money in the long run (while helping to save the planet).

Millions of people around the world are committing to ditch plastic this month. Image: Plastic Free July.

2. Reduce your plastic bag use and food packaging waste

Another way to show you care about the environment and help make a difference is by using a reusable shopping bag. More and more stores are encouraging customers to bring their own bags, sometimes adding an “environmental tax” for each plastic bag you use or offering a reusable bag for sale at checkout. Having a few reusable options on hand is a smart way to help save money and reduce plastic waste.

Whether you keep them in your car, purse, or backpack, there are plenty of eco-friendly bags available in all sorts of sizes and materials. Some popular options include collapsible bags like Envirosax, or the Hydro Flask lightweight collapsible insulated tote, and heavy duty Veno reusable grocery shopping bags. There are also artists who create bespoke designs, like La Ria Creation’s organic cotton tote bags, so you can stay stylish whilst being sustainable. Each type of bag has its own unique features and benefits, so you’ll certainly be able to find the perfect bag to suit your everyday needs.

When it comes to food itself, there are a bunch of sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use plastic products like cling wraps, bags, and food covers. For instance, consider investing in reusables like the Deskah Collection silicone food wraps. Made from food-grade silicone, these wraps keep food fresh, prevent spoilage, and can be used in the fridge, freezer, microwave, or oven.

Another savvy option is to purchase a multi-use set of eating utensils, like the Biome reusable cutlery set. This comes with a cotton bag and napkin, stainless steel straw and cleaner, bamboo fork, knife, and spoon, making it perfect for those on the go who want to reduce waste and avoid single-use plastic cutlery.

3. Use beauty products that are free of micro-plastics

Among the biggest contributors to environmental damage are products containing micro-plastics, usually in the form of ‘microbeads’. These tiny particles can often be found in many products designed for use right on our faces, like exfoliating cleansers!

Sadly, microbeads have been linked to the deaths of many species of birds and wildlife, and frequently end up in our rivers, lakes and oceans, with the particles having a damaging effect on marine life and the surrounding environment.

It can be a challenge to know whether or not your skincare products contain microbeads, as they usually aren’t easily labelled or identified. As per Beat the Microbead, look out for the following ingredients: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, and micro-abrasives. Whatever the name, these plastics are not good for you, the planet or our ecosystems.

Fortunately, there are many options available to help us avoid having to use these harmful products. For example, you can swap out a body wash that contains microbeads for a homemade sugar scrub or a store bought salt scrub.

Speaking of skincare, buying refillable beauty products is another fantastic way to reduce single-use plastics! Many cosmetics and skincare brands like Zero Co, Ethique, Aesop, Glow Recipe, and Lush sell refill packs for their beauty products. It’s a simple and easy way to positively impact the environment while still using the products you love.

This July, every reduction in plastic usage, no matter how small, can significantly contribute toward lessening the impact of plastic waste for our planet. Each small step is vital in healing the Earth and every action counts. Hopefully this guide was able to show you some easy and fun ways you can get in the sustainable spirit and help make a difference.

If you’re looking for even more ways you can get involved this Plastic Free July, jump over to their website, which is packed with resources and handy guides just like this one.

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