Plastic free July: A month without plastic.
Why a plastic-free month?
I have been getting more and more aware about the high consumption of plastic since I have been to New Zealand three years ago. Well, not exactly plastic but consumption in general. For the last year and a half, since I arrived in Canada, I decided to try to reduce my consumption, starting with a reusable coffee cup, bags for groceries, doing bulk shopping.. But I had the feeling that it was not enough. That is why I decided in June that I would try to cut most of the plastic in my life. By that time, when I told one of my roommate my intentions, he said that there was a challenge going on in July for a plastic-free month. For those who know me, you know I love challenges right! So we decided to do the plastic-free month in July. Two of my co-workers decided to do it with us. Yesterday was the last day of the challenge and it is time to have a look at how it went. I thought it might interest a few of you to have a feedback on it and maybe give you some ideas to reduce your plastic consumption.
As it seems, my motivation and will to get rid of plastic in June was something collective and more global than just me as multiple entities asked for a plastic free July. Among famous one you can count the Sea Sheperds – that I have been made aware of by one of my co-worker that helps them in Montreal for various actions like cleaning the river or parks from plastic. Along with the Sheperds, Greenpeace also encourages it. This Australian foundation has a really good website to help you find solutions for the plastic-free July https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/. It seems that they are the original idea for the plastic free July but I might be mistaking on that point. Anyways, you can look for plastic free July on line and find lots of links and realise that the action had been spread all around the world. I am wondering how many people did the challenge and what people thought about it. If you have information about that please leave a comment!
How did the plastic-free month go?
Going plastic-free was a real challenge. When you start realising that plastic is literally all around, you get scared a bit. I was prepared for the challenge, I had food boxes, food wraps, reusable cups, reusable camping utensils, bamboo tooth brush (that I have been using and buying for eight months, hard soap (I have been using hard soap for over a year now), a more sustainable brand for make up that I have been using for two years. I had shampoo left and some other stuff like toilet paper. The goal was to not by plastic for a month, not throw out what I already had. In the end, when I would run out of tooth paste for example, the goal was to get a plastic-free one instead of buying a new one with plastic.
What was easy
— Eliminating plastic from food.
I think the kitchen is the easiest place to start eliminating plastic if you really want it. If you go in supermarkets, they often have a butcher for example where you can bring your box and they put the food inside instead of in the plastic wrap at the “free pickup” fridges. I know that the supermarket Metro in Montreal allows it at least. You can pick up fruits and veggies that are not in plastic wraps (and lots of them are unfortunately). Some shops allow you to buy rice or pasta or couscous in glass containers (which is coool!).
— Eliminating plastic from take out food.
Most of restaurants now allow you to bring your container and even give you a discount if you do. For example, I went to a dumpling place I really like and they put everything in my containers! Same goes for coffee! In some places you can get up to 1$ discount on the coffee.
What was hard? Where did I fail? What did we notice with my co-challengers?
— Cheese, no excuse for that one.
I don’t have any cheese shop around my house and I can’t remove cheese from my life. It was really really hard. I bought cheese once during the month because of that but I felt really bad eating it after that.
— Ordering a salad with seasoning on the side
Ugh. I felt so stupid. We have a salad bar next to my office where you can bring your box and they put the salad inside instead of getting a plastic box. I did bring mine but as they put way too much seasoning inside, I asked for the seasoning on the side…. What did I expect? They put the seasoning in a small plastic container. UGH. I hadn’t thought about it. In my defense, it was the third day of the challenge. Fool me once, not twice!
— Ice cream
I will talk about frozen things right below but we went for an ice cream with my co-workers next to our workplace. You can get an ice cream in a cornet (no plastic) OR in a small plastic bowl. I chose the cornet (as usual anyways) but I asked to try two different flavors…. They made me try with a plastic spoon. Ughhhh. Again, in my defense it was on the fourth day of the challenge.
— Frozen food
From frozen pizza to frozen chicken nuggets to frozen fish or even ice cream, even if they are in paper wraps, inside they are wrapped in plastic for sanitary reasons. Ughhhh my 3$ frozen pizza….!
— Tags on clothes, fruits, veggies…
When you buy new or old clothes very often the tags with prices are stuck in the clothe with a little plastic pin. Sometimes it is not plastic but very often. Same goes for veggies, even if you don’t buy them in plastic wraps, there is always (very often) a plastic tag on them… Same goes with the receipts or even you credit card is plastic. Also the bread, when you buy fresh bread in supermarket, the bread is often in paper with a plastic “window”. Plastic, plastic, plastic.
— Not eating take out sushi
Ughhhh. I love Sushi, Onigris, Rolls.. (Ramens, teriyakis… Everything in Japanese food you can say.). But every time you want to eat take out sushi they are on plastic boxes. Same goes for onigris and those I don’t know if they can make them without the plastic wrap…
– Ordering Amazon once (plastic inside the carton box).
I ordered something on Amazon for my bedroom and it came into a box with plastic bubbles in it (you know the ones that are used to make the object inside not move. Ugh, I love Amazon, that was a though one. I didn’t ordered Amazon after that. But it is not only Amazon, it is also all the shipping in plastic envelopes etc.
— Toilet paper.
I know reusable toilet paper exist but I can’t get my head around it. I know some toilet paper wrapped in paper exist but I can’t find them anywhere around Montreal. The other problem would be that I live in a flat with 5 roommates so we buy our toilet paper and other common stuff all together and big quantities are often in plastic wraps.
— Deodorant stick
I ran out of it two days before the end of the challenge. I tried to find a shop that was selling hard deodorant but nothing was opened at the time I looked. As the weather here is terribly hot right now, I bought one.. Ugh. Fail, shame on me.
– Plastic bags for trash.
How do you get around that? The whole city is collecting trash from three different types of bags: blue, black and white. This was the main thing we couldn’t avoid. If any one has any suggestions for that one, I am all ears.
— Homemade tooth paste
One of my co-worker tried to do her own but apparently it is not as efficient nor comfortable as regular one. Maybe she didn’t had the right recipe I don’t know.
— Even glass bottles have plastic top.
I have a little ecological shop next to my place called Trois Pilliers where you can bring back the bottles and where they sell things in bulk. Really great place. They had cooking cream in glass bottles. Unfortunately, the bottles had plastic top… It is the only place where I could find cream in something other than plastic tough.
— FEQ : Festival d’ete a Quebec
The FEQ is a really cool music festival in Quebec City, Canada. The festival takes place in the center of the city which is cool because on the contrary of Osheaga in Montreal, you can leave the stages to go eat at your place or at a restaurant nearby, which is way cheaper. Though I was very disappointed when they didn’t want to let me go in a stage area with my reusable water bottle. It was a regular bottle, empty nonetheless, but they said it was hard plastic so I could use it as a projectile because it was hard plastic and I had to either leave it at the coat check (5$…) or throw it. I was like: What the heck! It is a water bottle, it is 30 degrees outside what I am supposed to bring? A non reusable plastic bottle? Great for the planet guys. If that is what the festival wants to show the 100 000 people or even more that came for ten days, well, I understand the plastic problem better. No one cares for the planet or what? He didn’t want to hear anything about it and I had to throw it out. When I got inside, there were lots of “water point” where you could fill up a bottle… I don’t get it. So when I was desperate for water, I went around to ask and the only thing they had were non reusable plastic glasses. Not even the ones you can keep and re-use. UGH. Epic Fail. Next time I will only bring a glass.
Most of the medicines you are prescribed are wrapped in plastic for sanitary reasons. Including contraceptive pills. I am not sure that you can go at a pharmacy with your container and ask for the pills to be put in it. Maybe it would be possible though.
Taking a plane with no usage of plastic is a challenge by itself. All food served in planes are wrapped in some kind of plastic. When they serve drinks, they give you a paper glass for hot drinks and a plastic one for cold drinks. Don’t be afraid to ask for a paper one or bring your own cup (you know, the re-usable coffee cup we talked about earlier!). For food though, that is a tough one. Maybe by bringing a container and buying food from a restaurant at the airport could do it. I don’t know.
It hit me hard that plastic was everywhere. At large you can say that everywhere where there is an individual portion or for sanitary reasons there will be plastic. It made me way more aware of the problem. I thought I was already not using lots of plastic but ugh, who was I fooling but myself? The challenge was a month long but I intend on keeping plastic away as much as possible from my life.
Eliminating plastic from your life is hard, really, it is not that easy. Governments are starting to take some measures but it is a matter of everyone to change their habits too. The huge success in Montreal this year (according to me) was firstly to remove plastic straws from everywhere in the city and secondly, make grocery stores allow you to bring your own container for fresh cut food.
There are things you can do every day though that can help even if you don’t remove all of it. My advice if you want to start somewhere would be to get a re-usable bag for you grocery shopping, a re-usable coffee cup for you take out coffee, a lunch box for your lunch take outs with a pair of re-usable utensils. You can also buy a bamboo tooth brush – if it can convince you, it is not only plastic free but also very cute to look at in a bathroom.
And if you are still struggling to understand why we need to reduce our plastic usage, please read through one of those:
Spoiler alert: It is not only whales, dolphins and fishes who end up eating plastic because of plastic pollution. Humans too, even if you don’t realize it.
Did you do the challenge? What are your point of views on the matter?
For once, all the pictures where taken from Unsplash
– Plastic Bottle: Photo by Brian Yurasits
– Veggies: Photo by Brooke Cagle
– You’ve got mail: Photo by Markus Spiske
– Sushi: Photo by Pille-Riin Priske
– Music festival: Photo by Stephen Arnold
– Re-use me: Photo by Ryan Everton
– Ice Cream: Photo by Penguinuhh
– Trash: Photo by Zachary Keimig
– Man in Trash: Photo by Jordan Beltran