Environment / Plastic Free July / Writing projects

It’s not me, it’s you. How to dump plastic (for a month)

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If there was ever a perfect case study into how documentaries can engage the public in an environmental campaign, Blue Planet II and oceans plastic awareness is it. (Blackfish is also up there, but let’s not digress)

Like a lot of us, I think, I’ve been a well-intentioned but lazy consumer. I started carrying around my fabric shopping bags when the 5p charge was put on plastic, and would feel bad (but not bad enough) when buying pre-prepared food occasionally in the supermarket. But after this surge of campaigning surrounding ocean plastics and the effect of single-use plastic on our natural environment, shot into mainstream by David Attenborough but maintained by marine conservation charities, ethical businesses and the media, I have been paying more attention.

They are tough habits to break. I have a stash of Emergency KitKats in my desk for difficult days. I don’t remember to pack food or water, so I’ll grab meal deals, hot drinks in one-use disposable cups and water bottles when out. And I haven’t even been thinking about shampoo or cleaning bottles, teabags or toothbrushes.

So when I saw a post from the Marine Conservation Society in World Oceans Day about Plastic Free July, I thought that would be the perfect way to force myself to pay attention to all my bad plastic habits.

As I haven’t done this before, I’m focusing on banning single-use plastic. I’ll reuse plastics I already own, try to find non-plastic alternatives to reusable products but focus on the day-to-day disposables and packaging which creates long-lasting waste.

Since I signed up, I’ve started preparing and thought I’d share five steps I’ve taken to get ready for July:

1.) Finding allies

One of the advantages of the internet, and online campaigns such as #PassOnPlastic #GOPlasticFree and Plastic Free July, is that you are never alone with endeavours like this. I started following people and hashtags to get tips on plastic-free living, reading blogs and posted about the challenge to ask for advice and encourage people to join me.

2.) Plastic-free shops

This led to the discovery of The Green Grocers in Norwich, which has lots of plastic-free alternatives for household items as well as refillable options for detergents, shampoos, cereals, pulses etc.

I found a blog with a good list of places like this, check it out as there might be one near you: https://thezerowaster.com/zero-waste-near-you/

3.) Food shopping

As well as The Green Grocers, I work in a small market town in Suffolk with a butchers, grocers and a weekly market where I could buy my supplies by bringing containers and reusable bags. This does mean I’m going to have to be a lot less spontaneous with food shopping, as I usually go to a supermarket when I’m hungry and have an empty fridge. But supermarkets have a very limited selection of loose fruit and vegetables, most of which have plastic stickers anyway, though I reckon some fish and meat could be bought at the butcher’s counter if I remembered to carry containers.

4.) Finding me a milkman

The first supermarket shop I did after signing up left me in a bit of a panic: milk. The only plastic-free milk was goats, UHT or vegan options. And I’m very particular about the milk that goes in my tea… and if I don’t drink tea, I turn into a wet gremlin fed after midnight. It’s not pretty.

But someone suggested Find Me a Milkman. Not as suggestive as it sounds. I signed up for a regular doorstep delivery of milk and juice that arrives in glass bottles that get reused every week for £3.31 a week from Milk and More.

5.) My supplies

Although it would defeat the purpose if I went out and bought lots of new things to help me through this month when I’m meant to be reducing waste, I have got a couple of things that will hopefully add up in the long run: a KeepCup, water bottle (actually reusing the plastic one I had in my bag on World Oceans Day), compostable scourer and my boyfriend got us both bamboo toothbrushes (yes, he’s been recruited too).

Also, I’d recommend to any women wanting to reduce waste to look into menstrual cups if they haven’t already, tampons aren’t plastic (though packaging can be) but they aren’t great for other reasons and cups can save waste, money and time.hofman-seahorse-wpy

So bring on July! Anyone else joining in? Got any tips to add? I’m also fundraising for the Marine Conservation Society, so if you found this post useful please consider donating and sharing- I don’t have a large target and it’s all in the name of ocean conservation! 

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