For some of you, July was just another month. But for many of us eco warriors, it was plastic free. My husband Tim and I strive to live a zero-waste lifestyle, but undertaking Plastic Free July was a slap in the face, a kick to the ego, and tested my very core.
Plastic Free July is a campaign which promotes the refusal of single-use plastic for the month of July to raise awareness around the impact of plastic on the world. Over 1 million people from 130 countries join forces every year to challenge themselves and others to question our plastic use. Going plastic free is no small feat. I don’t like to admit my failures (I’m pretty damn competitive), but here I am, bearing my all. I failed Plastic Free July, and here are 5 reasons why.
1. Not everyone understood
Dining out during July was one of the hardest parts. My usual “no straw thank you, I don’t like using plastic” failed me many times. I watched multiple bar tenders make the drink, stir it with a plastic straw, throw the straw away, and hand it to me… *face palm. Top tip: keep a metal straw in your handbag (or your girlfriend’s) and hand it over to the bar tender when you order your drink. This means they have something in their hand to remind them to snap out of auto pilot. Who knows, you may even have them yelling “save the turtles!” as you walk out of the bar too- speaking from experience of course.
2. Other values took priority
A surprise to many: I am not a vegetarian. However, I only buy meat which is free-range certified. My zero-waste and free-range values were put in the fighting ring when I couldn’t find a butcher who offered free-range chicken that I could place in my reusable container (avoiding plastic trays and wrap). Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for my respect of animals’ quality of life to outweigh my Plastic Free July oath.
3. My palette craved variety
Ever since I began my journey to zero-waste in March, the range of foods I can eat has dramatically reduced. I have tried my best to attempt new dishes, but often I find myself eating boring, plain meals with simple ingredients I can buy at my local bulk bin and farmers market. This is not sustainable for a palette (and husband!) which loves variety. Plastic Free July was a test of my tastebuds. For example, some sauces I use come in glass jars, great, but have a plastic seal around the lid which isn’t so great.
4. I live with other people
Tim and I own a home in New Zealand, and have two lovely flatmates, both totally supportive of our eco lifestyle. But I am very aware of forcing my views down other people’s throats. I’ve taken charge of our shared utilities and refill jars and bottles at a bulk store. Bin liners were a Plastic Free July fail for me, and I should also admit I’m not sure if I am ready for a naked bin.
5. I am busy
Let’s face it: plastic is everywhere and it takes a whole heap of time to avoid it completely. In an ideal world, I would have spent July slaving in the kitchen concocting all sorts of zero-waste alternatives. But reality is, I had one free morning a week and there was only so much I could make. Meals on the go and snacks for the handbag are a zero-wasters nightmare.
Related Post: How to Make More Time to Live Sustainably
I failed Plastic Free July, and maybe your July wasn’t perfect either; BUT this is not our chance to give up. This is an opportunity to focus on our wins and carry them with us into the future. Reusable veggie bags, homemade zero waste quiches, making beeswax wraps, and converting my work office to reusable mugs were just a few of my conquests and it won’t stop there.
So, dare I ask, what are your Plastic Free July wins and failures?