How To Reduce Waste Beyond Plastic Free July
Author: Heide Hackworth Date Posted:31 July 2023
Plastic pollution has become a global environmental crisis, adversely impacting our planet's ecosystems, marine life, and human health. In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards reducing plastic waste and adopting more sustainable practices. Plastic-Free July, an initiative that challenges individuals to go plastic-free for a month, has gained significant momentum as people seek meaningful ways to minimise their plastic footprint. This article aims to provide you with inspiring ideas and practical suggestions for reducing plastic use, not only in July but as a lifelong commitment to preserving our planet.
How to reduce plastic when it's everywhere.
The world is drowining in plastic and it's choking up our oceans and rivers. Redcycle has collapsed, and there are now very few options for soft plastic recycling in Australia.
And yet, most packaged products contain plastic. It can be overwhelming to try and figure out how to reduce plastic when we're surrounded by it.
There are ways to reduce plastic - but at Earth Greetings, we believe it needs to start at the design level.
Waste is a design flaw.
As designers, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to build sustainability into the things we make.
When Earth Greetings started making cards and stationery nearly 20 years ago, we were one of the few brands that were plastic-free. But thankfully more and more small businesses have followed our lead, and plastic-free packaging is now more accepted by stockists and consumers.
Small business is a brilliant testing ground for new concepts, and when these get accepted by the mainstream they get adopted by larger brands.There are lots of ways that brands can remove plastic from packaging design.
This Plastic Free July, we want to shout-out to all those makers and creatives that are doing things differently, by leaving plastic packaging out of their products.
Here are just a few ways that brands can reduce plastic waste through design:
- Switching to compostable mailers.
- Asking manufacturers to leave off plastic outer bags when delivering to you.
- Switching to compostable or wax lined paper bags for food products.
- Utilising clever window cutouts in cardboard box designs which reduce the need for inner packaging.
- Leaving the plastic wrap off where it is unnecessary, which we've done with our paper products.
Reduce plastic by making re-use the new normal.
When something we use for a few minutes takes millions of years to break down, we're doing something terribly wrong. Humans are creative and intelligent enough to avoid waste, and it doesn't have to be inconvenient. We just need to make it a habit. Our grandparents didn't need plastic, they washed and reused, purchased in bulk and wrapped in paper.
This Plastic Free July, let's bring back re-use and plastic-free as the new normal. Making it a habit to reduce plastic by switching to plastic-free groceries, shopping in bulk if possible, bringing your own reusable bags, containers and cups. This not only reduces waste, but encourages others to do the same. That's when real change can happen! We're already seeing some clever plastic-free packaging switches on the supermarket shelves. Support the brands that remove plastic from their packaging, and let's make plastic-free go viral.
Tips on how to reduce plastic waste
1. Mindful Grocery Shopping
One of the most effective ways to reduce plastic waste is to be more conscious of your grocery shopping habits. Opt for fresh produce that isn't wrapped in plastic. Bring reusable produce bags to the store and choose items sold in bulk whenever possible. Consider visiting local farmers' markets to support sustainable agriculture and reduce packaging waste.
2. Ditch Single-Use Plastics
Single-use plastics, such as straws, cutlery, and disposable water bottles, contribute significantly to plastic pollution. Replace these items with reusable alternatives like stainless steel or glass straws, bamboo cutlery, and refillable water bottles. Keep a set of these items handy in your bag so you're always prepared to say no to plastic.
3. Reusable Shopping Bags
Invest in durable and stylish reusable shopping bags made from natural fibers like cotton or jute. Keep them in your car or by the front door so you never forget to bring them along when you go shopping.
4. Homemade Meals and Snacks
Packaging from takeaway and convenience foods is a major source of plastic waste. Many takeaway venues now accept BYO containers, so remembering to bring your own container is one way to reduce plastic. Another is to embrace the art of homemade cooking and meal prepping. Not only will you reduce plastic waste, but you'll also enjoy healthier, fresher meals.
5. DIY Cleaning Products
Many commercial cleaning products come in plastic bottles. Explore the world of DIY cleaning solutions using simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. You can create effective, plastic-free cleaning products that are safe for your home and the environment.
6. Choose Non-Plastic Packaging
When purchasing products, prioritise items with minimal or eco-friendly packaging. Look for products packaged in glass, metal, or cardboard instead of plastic. This small change can have a significant impact on reducing your plastic waste.
7. Cloth Diapers and Menstrual Cups
For parents, opting for cloth nappies instead of disposable ones can greatly reduce plastic waste. Similarly, switching to menstrual cups, period underwear or reusable cloth pads for menstruation is not only eco-friendly but also cost-effective in the long run.
8. Conscious Personal Care
Many personal care products, such as shampoos, conditioners, and body washes, come in plastic bottles. Explore plastic-free alternatives like shampoo bars, solid soaps, and products sold in refillable containers. Check out what your nearest bulk store offers and re-fill your old bottles next time you run out.
9. Reduce Microplastics in Clothing
Synthetic fabrics shed tiny plastic fibers called microplastics during washing. Opt for natural fiber clothing, or consider using a microfiber-catching laundry ball or bag to capture these particles.
10. Upcycling and Repurposing
Get creative with plastic items you already have. Upcycle plastic containers into storage solutions, plant pots, or art projects. Repurposing plastic items not only reduces waste but also sparks your creativity.
11. Host Plastic-Free Gatherings
When hosting events or parties, make a conscious effort to avoid single-use plastics. Use reusable plates, cups, and cutlery, or consider biodegradable options. Encourage your guests to join you in your plastic-free efforts.
12. Composting Organic Waste
Food scraps and organic materials often end up in plastic garbage bags, contributing to plastic waste in landfills. Start composting at home to divert these materials from the waste stream and enrich your garden soil.
13. Support Plastic-Free Initiatives
Get involved in local or global plastic-free initiatives and clean-up events. Joining forces with like-minded individuals and organisations can amplify your impact and drive positive change in your community.
14. Educate and Advocate
Spread awareness about the plastic pollution crisis through social media, workshops, or community talks. Encourage others to join the movement and advocate for policy changes that promote plastic reduction and recycling.
15. Children and Plastic Awareness
Teach children about the importance of reducing plastic waste from an early age. Engage them in activities that showcase the harmful effects of plastic pollution and inspire them to adopt sustainable habits.
16. Eco-Friendly Travel
When travelling, bring your reusable water bottle, cutlery, and shopping bags. Say no to travel-sized plastic toiletries by investing in refillable containers. Choose accommodations that prioritise plastic-free amenities.
17. Green Gift Giving
Wrap gifts in reusable cloth or Furoshiki wraps instead of plastic wrapping paper. Tea towels and tote bags make lovely gifts, and you can use them for wrapping (furoshiki) or holding the gift so it's 2 gifts in one! Opt for sustainable gifts like experiences, homemade treats, sustainable stationery or products that promote a plastic-free lifestyle.
18. Support Plastic-Free Brands
Discover and support brands that prioritise sustainability and offer plastic-free alternatives. Your purchasing choices can influence businesses to adopt eco-friendly practices.
19. Eco-Friendly Pet Care
Pet products often come packaged in plastic. Look for pet food, toys, and accessories with minimal packaging or seek out eco-friendly alternatives. Consider making your pet's food or toys at home.
20. Plastic-Free Workplaces
Promote plastic reduction in your workplace by encouraging the use of reusable containers, mugs, and cutlery. Advocate for recycling programs and the elimination of single-use plastics in the office.
By adopting new habits and integrating them into your daily life, you can significantly reduce your plastic use and make a positive impact on the environment. Plastic-Free July serves as a reminder that small, intentional changes can lead to a more sustainable future. Embrace the journey towards a plastic-free lifestyle, and inspire others to join you on this meaningful path of preserving our planet for generations to come.