Plastic Free July - Getting Started
My boys live outdoors. They live in the ocean, the bush, the trees, even just our little back garden. We have not yet taken them to the snowy mountains but no doubt that will also become part of their playground when they are older. It really saddens me to think however that the great outdoors they love so much could no longer be a safe, clean playground for them due to the waste crisis we are facing and our reliance on single use plastics.
The thing is while recycling is important it is not enough to stem our plastic output. Every single bit of plastic ever made still exists - while it might break up it does not completely break down.
Plastic-Free July is a initiative was started in 2011 in Western Australia and is now an a fully independent not-for-profit foundation. The challenge of Plastic-Free July is to refuse single use plastic for one month. This includes straws, coffee cup lids, plastic packaging - anything that is intended to only be used once and then discarded.
I have no doubt that you care for our planet just as much as I do but how do you even get started with this especially when you are just so busy, tired and feel like you are often just managing to keep your children alive? I don't want you coming from a place of guilt as you read this blog. It has taken me until now to even think of changing the waste habits of our family and I have a five year old and a three year old. For me, even the idea of the challenge for a whole month seemed too daunting. Sometimes getting started is the hardest of all and so I thought I would share with you three areas of plastic-use that I have taken on this month.
Just a note before I do...the whole idea of the Plastic-Free July challenge is to raise awareness and make a start. It is not about being perfect or having the perfect waste-free/plastic-free choice. We are not necessarily going to get a 100% perfect option, but striving for waste-free and making much better choices is the most important. Also, do not feel you need to go out and do everything at once, even these steps below - we did these over a couple of months (I started in May with the straws) to help with the budget.
It is no secret how much I love coffee. Coffee addict would be more an appropriate title (we all have our vices ok!). Here is some not-so-pretty statistics on coffee consumption: an estimated 50 billion are used a year in the US, 2.5 billion in the UK and similar in Australia. This just blows my mind. While I mentioned not feeling guilty it's pretty hard for me to not given my coffee consumption (insert sad emoji). With the gift of a coffee machine from my amazing husband from finishing my second book (coming soon!) it was a natural step for me to get us some lovely Keep Cups. So this was step one. I got a lovely glass one with a cork band as I love coffee so much but you could even get one from Kmart for around $2.00. To be honest, since getting both the coffee machine and Keep Cup I could count on one hand the amount of times I have brought a coffee out and if I have it has been to sit and have it (with one occasion I do remember when I forgot my Keep Cup taking the boys swimming...I did remember their togs, googles, caps, towels and change of clothes so can I be forgiven?!).
This was another step we found relatively simple to change - moving from plastic straws to buy a pack of stainless steel straws. I got a pack from a local health shop for just under $20. Just like the Keep Cup, I just keep a couple in my handbag (I no longer need a nappy bag!) and a couple in our kitchen draw at home.
3. Calico Bags
I need to credit one of my besties with this one (who is also our resident eco-adviser for Dr Julie's Kitchen). As I do pretty much all our food shopping online (two crazy boys in a supermarket trolley is basically a recipe for a heart attack) I did not have a lot of use for mesh bags for produce but I was surprised at how often other plastic bags get handed out when you are buying things. For example, buying a new book is one of my 'treats' so having these bags on hand mean I have something sturdy to use instead of the plastic bags which the book gets given in and it is that size which often cannot be used for anything else (my handbag is often too small to put the book in!)
4. Bonus step - Baking & Baby Food
I have added this step mainly as I suspect a lot of you already do this but don't recognise that it counts as a step to reduce plastic use - that is doing your own baking and making your own baby food! While I did know that making your own baby food really helps (single use pouches are the third biggest landfill contributor of all baby food products) I did not click with the home baking! Just compare though how much plastic premade goods such as biscuits, crackers and chips comes in compared to when you do your own baking at home - so not only are you providing your family with a lot more nutritious options you are also contributing to reducing the impact from single-use plastic at the same time!
So there you are, some very simple steps that our little tribe has taken as part of Plastic-Free July to make a start in reducing our waste from single use plastic. I know there is a lot more for us to learn and do but it's a start and it all counts. We are proud to be setting up our new venture Dr Julie's Kitchen with the core value to strive for zero waste. So far we have two products available a Toasted Muesli and Smugglers Sauce and both come in glass jars. One of the important reasons for us to do this is that many of you will be in a similar survival mode position that I have been for the last five years - therefore as a business we can be responsible for our part in this without adding pressure on families.
Would love to hear your comments, thoughts, actions on this too - we are learning as much as you and potentially many of you are already leaps and bounds ahead of us!
Every step counts,
xx Dr Julie