Lessons Learned from 30 Plastic-Free Days

It is hard to believe that Plastic Free July has come to an end.   Overall, I really enjoyed my experiences this month and learned a ton!

Was I really plastic-free for the month of July? No.  Not even close. Could I have done more to reduce my overall impact? Absolutely.  Will I continue to work on my efforts to be more plastic free? Most Definitely! 

  1. Do Your Research– One of the most intimidating parts of starting off on a plastic free journey for me were all of the looming questions and potential life changes that I was faced with.  Thankfully, there were a lot of great resources to understand the value of reducing plastic impact, plastic alternatives, and zero waste efforts.
  2. Make Small Adjustments– Some of the easiest steps were small little behavior changes- I was able to avoid plastic shopping bags by bringing reusable bags, I bought reusable metal straws, and I brought my own silverware with my lunch to avoid using plastic cutlery.
  3. Say No to Straws– Plastic straws have gotten a lot of attention recently through the Skip the Straw campaign.  At restaurants, one small change I made was to simply ask for no straws.
  4. Baby Steps > No Steps: I had a lot of stumbles throughout this month and found that sometimes I wasn’t making great progress, but one thing I tried to remember was that even if it was a small action it was better than no action at all.
  5. Get to Know Your Trash– Perhaps the biggest problem with disposable plastic is the fact that once you throw it away, most of us tend to not think much more about it.  During this month, I tried to pay much more attention to what I was throwing away and it really helped me understand how I could adjust my habits.
  6. Not all Plastics are Created Equal– This month I really tried to understand what the different types of plastics are and which ones pose the greatest threats to the environment.  I also prioritized my focus on single use plastics (and admittedly still used/reused plastic containers and bags to store certain items)
  7. Preparation is Key! The hardest part of integrating more plastic free habits into normal life is when there are things you don’t expect.  One of my biggest hurdles was seemingly never remembering to bring something to take leftovers home with (and sometimes ending up with a plastic takeout container) but smaller successes were things like bringing jars and bags to the grocery store to avoid plastic bags and wrappers.
  8. Shop Local– I tried to get into the habit of making a visit to my local farmer’s market every Sunday. This integrated more healthy fruits and vegetables into my diet while also avoiding plastic packaging.
  9. Follow the Leaders– The amazing thing about the plastic free/zero waste lifestyle is that there are a lot of amazing people who are living a zero waste life who share some great tips and tricks.  I recommend: Going Zero Waste, Zero Waste Home, and Anita Vandyke.
  10. Learn to Love Bulk Bins–  Prior to the start of Plastic Free July, I had never purchased much at my grocery store’s bulk bins, and I was pretty intimidated.  I should say, that not all supermarkets are equally willing to deal with BYO-containers but once I found one in my area that did, I would get the tare weight of my containers and then fill my glass jars with the bulk bin goodies. As an added bonus, this was much less money than my normal grocery shopping habits.
  11. Get Creative– When I look at pictures of the Zero Waste lifestyle, it looks expensive with all the perfectly matching glass jars, but it didn’t actually cost me much money to get started by just cleaning out old spaghetti sauce and pickle jars to use instead.
  12. Plastic Free/Health Full- By eating mostly from the bulk bins and farmer’s market produce I felt better and in better overall health!
  13. Don’t Stress– I was far from perfect in my efforts to be plastic free. But, this movement is less about perfection and more about the effort that goes into it.
  14. Learn to Compost– As I started to divert some of my plastic trash I noticed that a lot of my trash was able to be composted.  Having recently set up my compost bin, I am excited to see my progress.
  15. Don’t Stop– More than anything, this challenge has shown me the ways that I can continue to make a positive impact on the environment and reduce my plastic impact.  Plastic Free July is less about a monthly challenge and more about an introduction to new plastic-free habits.

Overall Enjoyment in Challenge: 9/10

Success in Completing Challenge: A-

Likelihood of Continuing Challenge: Very Likely!

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