Plastic free July is a fabulous way to reduce single use plastic and anyone can do it. Here are 50 easy ideas to pick from and a few things to know about going plastic free this month.
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The Plastic Free July movement started in Western Australia, and over the years has grown internationally to 150 countries! What you might not realise is that you need not go completely plastic free and it can be as simple as choosing ONE item to swap or avoid for the month.
Why Plastic Free July is So Great
No matter what your starting point is, challenging yourself and maybe your family for one month, can reveal a lot about your single use plastic dependence. It's a fun way to develop your ninja skills in avoiding plastic and is great motivation to find alternatives and contribute to protecting the environment.
How to Prepare for Plastic Free July
If it's your first time participating, choose one or two things rather than attempt absolutely no plastic. Trying to go completely plastic free for a whole month is at superhero level, so save yourself the stress and try to have fun with it.
Pre-planning your alternatives and thinking about what single-use plastic items you use, but could easily live without is a great starting place. Get your household, friends, family and kids onboard for support. Explain what you are doing and why so they understand.
A simple way to get started is to invest in a few essential items, here are 19 different Plastic Free July Starter Kits that are really useful and tailored to different areas of your home and lifestyle.
50 Easy Ideas for Plastic Free July
Remember, just pick one or a few, this is a big list. If you're already an expert when it comes to single-use plastic avoidance then choose something that will challenge you.
1. Use Reusable Shopping bags. Locate them now and put a few in your handbag or in the boot of the car.
2. Don’t forget the Produce Bags. There are many non-plastic alternatives to produce bags, and sometimes you don't need any at all. If buying a couple of apples, they can go straight into your shopping basket without a bag.
3. Avoid Cling Wrap, hide it if you have to – here are some tips on replacing glad wrap on other options to replace it.
4. Carry a refillable water bottle and skip plastic bottled drinks. If you regularly head to the park keep a look out for refillable bottle stations that seem to be popping up everywhere, or drinking fountains.
5. Freeze in containers. It's super simple and works on pretty much all foods– Read some tips on how to freeze without single-use plastic here.
Don't forget to lookup Responsible Cafes near you to score a discount when you bring your own cup!
7. Pack your own cutlery to avoid the plastic disposables when eating out. You can take this a step further by packing your favourite condiments, and a napkin too.
8. Refuse straws, or bring your own. There are lots of reusable straw options, and many people find quitting straws super simple and don't bother purchasing an alternative.
9. Locate and visit a bulk store or farmer’s market near you. Most of us live within a short distance to somewhere that offers plastic free products. If you're following me on Pinterest you can check out my board dedicated to zero waste and bulk stores like this around Australia. Check out this Beginner's Guide to Bulk Shopping
10. Purchase fresh produce like fruits and vegetables without plastic. If your local supermarket doesn't offer this, consider asking them if they have any out the back that are unwrapped.
11. Look for companies that ship all kinds of eco products with minimal waste. They even use plastic free masking tape and you can rest assured your packages wont be filled with plastic waste and bubble wrap. Here are some other great online stores that ship plastic-free.
12. Choose to buy in glass, aluminium and cardboard when you have a choice. Glass and aluminium are infinitely recyclable!
13. Swap to bar soap instead of liquid soap. Not only will you save a fortune, but your recycle bins will emptier and bar soap lasts far longer so you'll save time on constantly refilling dispensers.
14. Try cooking from scratch or bake a loaf of bread. Many condiments, snacks, dips and bakery items come with unavoidable plastic. Just having one recipe up your sleeve that you can make at home is a great step in the right direction. Here's a few plastic free recipes to get you started.
15. Pack a nude food lunch! Whether it's for yourself or your kids, pack your lunch and snacks in reusable containers or pouches and you'll be surprised how easy it is to live without disposable plastic wrapping and packets. Skip the Ziploc bags. If you're still using those for sandwiches and snacks check out the ones I make which are 100% plastic free, and available on the Etsy store. (10% off for subscribers)
16. Reuse plastic packaging. Many single use items can in fact be reused at home. Margarine tubs, yoghurt pots and even milk jugs and bread bags. This could be as simple as storing buttons or craft supplies or if your creative, turn it into something even more useful.
17. Discover plastic free compostable cottonbuds. We probably all saw the iconic picture of the seahorse wrapped around a plastic cotton bud. Well, there are alternate options out there and yes, they are just as good if not better than the brands you're used to using. This is one of those plastic free July swaps that can be a permanent change for the better. Here are 10 Biodegradable Alternatives for Everyday items
18. Hit the Opshops for great items that come without packaging. Second hand doesn't mean second best and quite often you can find brand new items for a fraction of the cost and why buy brand new when there are already so many items in the world.
19. Refill your pens instead of disposing or try a sustainable plastic free pencil. My favourite are these eco highlighters and I love that I don't have to worry about it ever drying out.
20. Ask your local stores if they will allow you to bring your own containers for purchases. Each store will have a different policy on this and some are more accommodating than others. Here's an example of a plastic-free bakery visit a week or two ago where I brought my own container for the cake and just carried the bread home (I forgot my linen bread bag of course).
21. Try a natural homemade beauty recipe to replace some of your products. Bathrooms are a hive of single-use plastic and other waste, so here are some simple recipes to get you started.
22. Look for staples such as salt, sugar, flour, oats, pasta and other items in cardboard packaging. You might need to browse the very bottom shelf, but generally you will find what you need without the plastic.
23. Skip the pods and use a traditional coffee machine, a French press or a reusable coffee bag. Does anyone really still use pods? I'm sure they do, and although they are recyclable, most head to landfill and all are single use disposables. Avoiding it in the first place is a far better option than recycling and you can still enjoy a fabulous coffee or tea.
24. Refill your peanut butter or honey jars at the local health food shop. It can be difficult to get to a bulk shop but just about all healthfood shops offer these basic items and will allow you to refill or bring your own container.
25. Try a shampoo bar or a no-poo recipe. Check out The No-Poo Method website, which is full of information on how to go no-poo and how to pick the best method for your hair type.
26. Find plastic wrapping free toilet paper, like Who Gives a Crap, where the toilet paper is made from recycled paper, and they even ship to your door.
27. Are you still using plastic disposable toothbrushes? They aren't single use plastic but they add up considering we need to change them every few months and everyone you ever used still exists today. So why not swap to an environmentally friendly toothbrush. The plastic bristles can be plucked out and the bamboo handle will biodegrade.
28. Make your own cleaning spray. Honestly, you wont believe how quick and simple it is. Not only is it cheap, but being non-toxic even little kids can start cleaning the bathroom or kitchen with it while you have a cuppa. Check out my DIY recipe here.
29. Use newspaper instead of plastic bin liners. When you buy bin liners, you are literally spending money on rubbish, but not only that, they are super bad for the environment. You can fold the newspaper like origami to make a cool looking liner, but I find it simpler to just place a sheet in the bottom of the bin.
30. Opt for compostable (NOT biodegradable) doggy poo bags. Degradable sounds great, but what it really means is that the plastic breaks up into smaller bits plastic and doesn't disappear. Flushable doggy bags are not great either, so avoid these and get COMPOSTABLE ones like the Biobag. They can't be composted at home, but can be placed in green bins.
31. Speaking of pets, why not challenge yourself to look for non-plastic or unpackaged pet food and treats. This isn't always easy but you could even try making some at home like these Pumpkin Skin Dog Treats (they fight food waste too, so everyone wins!)
32. Wash your clothes with soap nuts. Soap berries or soap nuts do actually work. They literally grow on trees and 4-5 of them in a washbag with your laundry will give you 5 washing loads that feel soft and clean. You can get a trial bag here for only a few bucks.
33. Join a facebook group. It might not seem an obvious action but search for plastic free or zero waste groups and find one to join. They are full of other like minded people trying to reduce their plastic and are useful for asking questions and gaining some inspiration on reducing plastic.
33. Get eco in the kitchen. Try a coconut or natural fibre dish cloth or use tea towels instead of plastic wrapped paper towels. There are so many options in the kitchen for reducing plastic.
34. Make your own garlic bread! Winter is here and shop bought (and plastic wrapped) garlic bread isn't actually helping your cold as it packed with garlic salt and is over processed. All you need is a clove or 2 of fresh garlic, crush it and mix with some butter for a basic recipe.
35. Get inspired with a documentary or a book. Try the film Bag It, Plastic Ocean or No Impact Man. There are plenty out there and it might surprise you just how motivating they can be. Here's a list of books, documentaries, podcasts and more to get you inspired.
36. Steer your kids away from disposable plastic toys, junk food packets and kinder surprises. Head to the park, make a mud pie or do some star gazing and reinforce that fun can be had without plastic crap. You might want to try making your own earth friendly Slime, or Eco Friendly Glitter.
37. Say YES to Chocolate without plastic. I wont ever tell anyone to give up chocolate, but do check out the packaging. Most supermarkets stock brands that are wrapped in cardboard and foil which are plastic free. Check out the bulk bins too, I usually taste one to make sure it's decent chocolate first.
38. Take a pledge! Biome have 4 x $100 vouchers up for grabs by snapping a pic of your reusables and using the tag #BiomePledge. You can also win a Plastic Free Lifestyle makeover with Biome Founder, Tracey Bailey, along with up to $200 worth of products.Head to their page here for details
39. Register for Plastic-Free July. You'll get emails from the organisation to motivate and help you along.
40. Plant some herbs! Not only will you have instant access to fresh herbs, you can avoid the plastic packaging and many herbs can be grown . Try basil, Rosemary or thyme and if you have a bit of a black thumb these windowsill planters come with everything you need to get started and all the instructions you need. You can see mine below has a good supply of Parsley and Basil.
41. Put a freeze on packaged frozen foods. Most items in the frozen food aisle come with hidden plastic and let's face it, these foods aren't usually that tasty or nutritious. Find a fresh alternative or dig out the recipe books instead.
42. Turn an old t-shirt into a shopping bag. Green shopping bags need to be reused a few hundred times to counteract the impact of producing them. Making your own from favourite old t-shirts (no sewing required) is a great alternative, and it's free. See how to do it yourself here.
43. Find loose leaf tea, or better yet use your own garden herbs to make tea. Most teabags are made with plastics.
44. Try Plogging or take part in a neighbourhood clean-up. If you haven't heard, plogging is going jogging and collecting plastic litter. I don't run, its just not my thing, but I do walk the dog and try to collect rubbish on my rounds. It might not be reducing single use plastic BUT it is preventing it ending up in our water ways, parks and oceans. Just make sure you bring tongs and wear gloves.
45. Redcycle it! As I keep saying, it is extremely hard to avoid all single-use plastic, so if you haven't started collecting soft plastics now is a fabulous time to start. Once you have collected a bunch, head to Coles or Woolworths to drop them into a recycling bin.
46. Party Time? Choose reusable or compostable partyware rather than disposables. This goes for decorations and party bags too. If you're throwing a kids party, here are some plastic free alternatives to party bags AND what to put in them.
47. Sneaky plastic covered junk mail used to really annoy me. If you're having trouble stopping this type of junkmail, head here to find out exactly how to do it.
48. Avoid packets inside packets. All those individuals wrapped snack size packs add up to a lot of rubbish. Buy full size products and portion out into containers.
49. Love pre-packaged cake mixes? Well, how about making your own. Here's a DIY muffin mix I like to keep in the pantry for a quick option for dessert or school lunchbox treats. (honestly, I'm really just eating the chocolate for dessert)
50. Just Find Your One Thing - You can compete, but it's not a competition. If you find a way to avoid some single use plastic that's an easy fit for your lifestyle then that is a success. Don't make it mission impossible.
I could list even more things, but I don't want to overwhelm you with options. The important thing is increasing awareness about single use plastic and finding ONE thing you can do to make a difference. Given that we are literally surrounded by plastic in our lives, it shouldn't be hard to find one item to focus on.
What are you doing, or what have you done for Plastic-free July?