Plastic is everywhere. It’s in the clothes we wear, our food packaging and containers, electronics, and even on our bodies. It’s difficult to avoid plastic completely, but there are things we can do to reduce our use of it.
In a previous post, I talked about the environmental impact of fast fashion. In this post, I want talk about the environmental impact of everyday grocery items and share 3 tips I found participating in Plastic-Free July that helped me live a more sustainable lifestyle.
What is Plastic-Free July?
Plastic-Free July is a global movement that encourages people to refuse single-use plastics for the month of July (and hopefully, beyond). It started in 2011 in Australia and has since grown to inspire millions of participants around the globe. The aim of Plastic-Free July is to raise awareness of the problems caused by plastic waste and to empower people to find solutions that work for them.
Why change to plastic-free?
According to a 2022 report by The Guardian, the average Australian uses 130 kilograms of plastic in their lifetime. This is equivalent to about 350,000 plastic bags.
The report found that the most common types of plastic used by Australians are:
- Plastic bags: 35%
- Plastic bottles: 20%
- Food packaging: 15%
- Disposable cups and cutlery: 10%
- Toiletries: 5%
The report also found that the average Australian only recycles about 10% of their plastic waste!
This means the majority of our plastic waste ends up in landfills or in the environment. According to Greenpeace, if we keep using the same amount of single-use plastic as we do today, by 2050 there will be more weight of plastic than fish in our oceans.
This is scary!
I know what you’re thinking – the problem is so big. Big corporations like Coca Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo as well as countries such as China, Indonesia and Philipines are the biggest plastic pollutants. I’m only one person. What can I do?
I get it. At the start of my journey to minise my plastic usage, there were plenty of times when I felt powerless against the enormity of the task ahead.
But in the end, my choice boiled down to this: as a citizen and consumer, I have a responsibility to help sustain our planet. Period.
Simple plastic-free swaps
I started with breaking down the task of reducing my plastic usage by making the following swaps:
- Swap disposable coffee cups for reusable cups or mug
- Swap plastic water bottles for stainless steel bottles or flask
- Swap plastic straws for metal or bamboo straws
- Swap plastic bags for cloth or paper bags
- Swap plastic wrap for beeswax and silicone lids
Next was making incremental changes to my buying habits in grocery shopping.
- Buy loose fruits and vegetables using mesh grocery bags.
- Buy grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, spices, etc. from bulk stores using containers or bags.
- Buy bread, pastries, cheese, meat, etc. from local bakeries, delis, butchers, etc. using my own containers or bags.
- Buy from businesses that prioritise eco-friendly packaging.
Making plastic-free a habit
Plastic-Free July made me think about what else I could do to reduce my plastic footprint.
Earlier this year I had joined the Manly Food Co-op (MFC). I volunteer instore once a week, and I also help out with the occassional copywriting. I found MFC a great store for sustainable shopping to reduce the environmental impact.
Initially, the layout and shopping systems took some adjusting. Like most, I’m used to the convenience of supermarkets, with their bright packaging and eye-catching advertisements. But at MFC, things are a little different. The ingredients are stored in plain jars and containers, with simple labelling. Shoppers can bring their own packaging or use the free, sanitised jars donated by members. Staff weigh ingredients at the counter (less the weight of the jars), so you literally only pay for what you buy. And if you’re short on time, the MFC website has introduced online shopping, plus great tips and recipes to help members plan ahead.
The MFC’s weekly newsletters throughout July are the inspiration for the following tips on how to live a more plastic-free lifestyle.
Tips to Go Plastic-Free
- Plastic-free pantry. I took everything out of my pantry and put it into labelled jars. It was satisfying to expunge plastic from my pantry. As an added bonus, I discovered getting rid of the extra packaging not only made my pantry look neater, but I also gained more shelf space.
- Plastic-free shopping. It took me a while, but I’ve finally come to see the value in my husband’s relentless list-making. Having a shopping list ensures we buy what we need. Shopping at Manly Food Co-op gives us the agency to control how much we buy, which saves us money and cuts down on waste. Win-win situation!
- Plastic-free meals. Here’s my dilemma: I love good, wholesome, home-cooked food, but I don’t love cooking. Thankfully, my husband is more than happy to help with the cooking! Together, we pour over recipes and decide on our weekly menu. We make a list and shop based on what we need. This way we minimise the nightly stresses over what to eat. We make enough for next-day lunches, reducing the temptation to grab take-aways.
Reducing your plastic waste can be challenging, but with a little planning, it’s also fun and rewarding. Start with small incremental steps. Do your best and don’t worry about being perfect. If you get stuck, there are plenty of online resources like the Manly Food Coop to help navigate and inspire you in your plastic-free journey.
I hope this post has helped to inspire you to reduce your plastic waste.
Remember, our collective efforts could one day lead to a plastic-free future 😀!
Thank You For Visiting!
Thank you for visiting my corner of the internet. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tips. If you did, consider sharing it with your social network. Also, be sure to check out other My 3 Tips posts on this site.