The #PlasticFreeJuly movement is gaining momentum. Plastic—in its thousands and thousands of extremely useful everyday forms—is one of the most damaging products ever to enter our environment. And because we use plastic every day without even thinking about it and discard it multiple times over, we don’t fully realize its devastating effects. From polluting oceans and harming wildlife to filling up landfills without ever decomposing, plastic is having disastrous short- and long-term effects on our planet and our health and the future of both.
Of course, if living with less plastic was simple, we would all be doing it already. We know that plastic is harming the environment, but it’s become such a huge part of our daily lives that replacing it seems like a daunting task. Here are a few myths of going plastic-free—debunked:
Myth #1: You have to toss all of your old plastic now…like RIGHT NOW.
This is one of the biggest reasons why many people don’t even try to make the change to use less plastic. They look at all of the extremely useful plastic goods in their house and wonder how on earth they will be able to replace them all at once! But, here’s the thing: You don’t have to replace all of them immediately—just don’t buy any new plastic products.
First of all, if you throw out plastic, it just ends up in a landfill. So if it’s in your home and it’s being put to good use (and it’s a safe plastic product) then it’s better off staying there (think certain types of Tupperware, your rubber cooking spatulas, and even those plastic mixing bowls and measuring cups). The key is to not purchase any new plastic products. These are the items you will need to find replacements for if they are absolutely necessary for you to use and dispose of regularly (think plastic water cups, cups from take-away coffee shops, straws, and even sponges).
Myth #2: You have to go 100% plastic-free TODAY
Plastic has become an integral part of our daily lives, so going plastic-free is a massive change—and not something you can do in a day. Instead, you need to build a habit of living with less plastic.
You don’t have to go 100% plastic-free today. The best thing to do is to take it slowly, one step—and one day and one item—at a time. Start with the easiest items to find substitutes for (take a look at our Plastic Free July and our Reusable Straws pages. And go from there; going slow will help you build a plastic-free habit and mindset, and it won’t feel so overwhelming.
Myth #3 – All plastic products are off-limits
Okay, yes, there are some exceptions to the rules, especially while we wait for big companies to catch on to this movement. Like if a plastic product is required for your health and well-being, you need to make the decision that is best for your health. For example, if a medicine or food you require comes in a plastic container, don’t not purchase it because of this. You still need to make the decisions that are best for you.
Now that we’ve covered the myths of going plastic free, we’ve put together a small guide to swaps you can easily do as you transition to a more plastic-free lifestyle. Think of it as your handy “cheat sheet” to living plastic-free.
The First 10 Swaps Anyone Can Do to Start Living Plastic-Free
Getting started with a new habit is sometimes the hardest part. After that, it tends to snowball on its own as you get more involved. Here are our suggestions to get you started:
Always take reusable bags when you go shopping
This is one of the easiest things you can do; just take reusable shopping and product bags with you to the grocery store. We love the Dans Le Sac Zero Waste Kit, and the ChicoBag Reusable Produce Bag Starter Set, both of which replace plastic bread and produce bags. And don’t forget reusable shopping bags like the gorgeous ones from Baggu. These will immediately cut out your plastic shopping bag waste.
Pack reusable cutlery in lunch boxes and on trips (we even keep a set in the car)
The stainless steel utensil set from Monbento is dishwasher safe and comes in its own wee packing case. The bamboo set from To-Go Ware comes in a small pouch with a spoon, fork, knife and chopsticks—all of which are also dishwasher safe.
Use a reusable coffee cup
Instead of always using tossable cups from the local java shop, get yourself a travel mug. We polled the office and the travel mugs from Contigo are popular and work overtime to keep bevvies warm. The ones from Sip by S’well are also great at keeping coffee warm and they are gorgeously designed (like all S’well bottles). Bonus: many coffee shops give you a small discount for using one!
Use reusable beverage bottles
Preferably a stainless steel or glass bottle, they come in all different shapes and sizes. Some even have perforated centre compartments for flavourings (like mint and lemon) or freezable parts to keep drinks colder even longer. We are currently adoring our S’well Wide Mouth Traveller for smoothies in the morning and, of course, our Corkcicle Canteen for staying hydrated all day long. If you prefer glass to stainless steel, bottles from Soma are great with their bamboo caps and the ones from bkr are too, and come in just about every colour you can imagine.
Eliminate plastic baggies
Every snack, sandwich and cluster of veggies or fruit can be packed in its own individual baggy that immediately goes in the garbage. Or it can go into a reusable storage ‘bag’ like the ones from Stasher, a plastic-free alternative to traditional storage bags and containers. Made of 100% pure platinum silicone, these deliver all of the ease and convenience of resealing plastic bags, but without the dangerous consequences.
Stop buying and using plastic drinking straws (#stopsucking)
Because of their small size, disposable straws are rarely recycled; Canadians toss about 57 million of them daily. But check out the #stopsucking movement online—more and more Canadian consumers, businesses and institutions are announcing voluntary restrictions on disposable straws, including bars in Toronto, restaurants in Prince Edward Island and the campus of the University of Guelph. If you want to use a straw for your bevvie, get yourself some of the stylishly designed paper ones from Aardvark or invest in a set of metal straws like the ones from Onyx (and carry them with you!), and just say no when offered a plastic straw when you’re out and about. Check out our page dedicated specifically to Reusable Straws.
Don’t use plastic wrap
Let’s face it, plastic wrap is both passé and a pain. It never does what you want it to, and you end up tossing more of it than you actually use. When that last piece is pulled from the box, why not make the switch to Beeswax food wrap like the set from B Factory or Abeego. The fluid and air resistant beeswax coating keeps food fresh and is easy to clean. One sheet will last for over a year and when it has finally run its course, they can return to the earth via your compost bin.
Switch to bar soaps
Why…? Well, first off, bar soaps have fewer ingredients, many of which are considered to be safer for our bodies and the environment. Liquid soaps are often petroleum-based, as is the plastic packaging they come in—thankfully, bar soaps are easy to find package-free or packed in paper packaging. Bar soap is also more concentrated, which reduces both the amount of fuel used in shipping and the cost. In a way, liquid soap is a version of bar soap with water added so when you buy it, you pay for the water and the plastic packaging it comes in.
Buy plastic-free, multi-use sponges and cloths
Swedish Sponge Cloths from Ten & Co. can absorb 15x their weight in liquid and will take the place of sponges and cloths in your kitchen and bathroom. They are 100% biodegradable and can be tossed in with compostable waste once they’ve lived a full life. The cloths are naturally antibacterial due to their quick drying ability and can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine (do not put in the dryer).
Use dryer balls instead of sheets
Conventional dryer sheets are made up of polyester, which is basically plastic fabric. Instead, replace your boxes and boxes (and boxes!) of dryer sheets with one box of dryer balls. While there are PVC-free plastic balls from various companies, if you want to truly live the plastic-free life, try the all-natural 100% wool dryer balls from Moss Creek, Laundry Tarts, Eco Nuts, Woolzies and Nellie’s.
By living with less plastic, you’re having a positive impact on the planet now and you’re making it better for future generations. As more people start making the change, this impact will grow exponentially, helping to clean up our oceans, reduce the amount of waste in our landfills, and lessen the effects of global warming. We hope this guide has given you the information you need to start living with less plastic and get involved in the plastic-free movement in July and beyond.