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Waste-free hacks you’ll adopt as your own
By Erica Watson
Whether you’ve committed to making it through the month sans plastic, are a little late to the Plastic Free July party but love the idea of finding ways to reduce your plastic consumption or simply want some ideas on reducing waste in your household, there are a tonne of tips you can take on board now (or later) to work towards living a life with less waste.
Even though I try to be conscious of using plastic at all times of the year, Plastic Free July is a great time to reassess what I’m doing right, what’s not working and where I can improve. This year my focus is about cooking more so I’m buying less pre-packaged snacks and getting back into recycling the soft plastics (we had a bit of a COVID lapse in our household) that end up in my trolley.
Plastic Free July feels a little different this year so we asked our favourite eco taste-makers how and what they do to re-inspire us to make better choices and ditch plastic for good.
My personal goals this year are to take the Plastic Free July challenge to a mainstream audience and to support the community in making change to reduce plastic waste despite the challenges and restrictions faced by the pandemic. In my home I’m looking for an alternative to tortillas packaged in plastic – my kids love to eat Mexican food – but don’t like my homemade version so I’m on a quest!
Rice cakes! They were one of my ‘go to’ snacks and I miss them!
I’d have to say Onya because it’s a Perth based company that made my reusable produce bags from recycled plastic bottles. They aren’t plastic free but use recycled content and are very durable – I’ve had them for years.
Join the challenge at www.plasticfreejuly.org and choose one or two single-use plastics you are going to avoid. It’s not about doing everything or trying to go completely plastic free – just doing what you can, where you live.
“Neither of us have done Plastic Free July before, however we both have definitely had moments of ‘cupboard reflection’ and realised that you can get completely swept up with ‘what’s easy’ rather than sustainable and environmentally friendly. So constant reflection and modification occurs in our households. However, we are both super excited to spend a whole month organising the kids and ourselves with absolutely no plastic,’’ says Teresa.
“To plan, plan and more planning. Coming into school holidays does make it a little bit easier because we can plan their daily activities and we won’t have the temptation of buying quick and easy snacks for lunch boxes. Some things we have planned out are shopping lists, grain supplies, coffee dates and everything that we could accidentally engage in ‘plastic usage’”, says Chrissy.
Chrissy: Reusable coffee mug for my Latte
Teresa: Large ceramic coffee cup to put my Lovewell in
I’ve done Plastic Free July, for the past four years, with varying results. I interviewed Plastic Free July founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz for my book, Rise & Resist, How to change the world. But it was through Erin Rhoads (@therogueginger) that I first found out about PFJ. Erin is a zero waste warrior – she once told me that she tried making her own face powder out of tapioca flour. I am not that person. I used to work for fashion magazines and have a bathroom full of luxury beauty products.
Going completely plastic-free is a challenge I haven’t fully met, but I keep trying. We all need to drastically reduce our consumption of single-use plastic and plastic packaging.
So… challenge accepted again this year, with the usual caveat: while perfection is unlikely, every little bit helps.
– Keep a cloth tote in your handbag or pocket, and hang one by the front door
-Visit a bulk foods store for staples such as grains and nuts – don’t forget BYO containers
-We buy pasta from the supermarket – look for brands like Barilla that come in cardboard
– Squeeze your own orange juice and blend your own smoothies – it’s nicer anyway
– If you menstruate, consider switching to a Mooncup. Way less gross than it sounds.
– Take 3 For the Sea is brilliant and inspiring
– Did you know you can recycle batteries at Aldi?
– Take soft plastics you haven’t managed to avoid to the red bins at Coles
– I wish TerraCycle would bring back their cosmetics recycling program (I have a collection of old moisturiser pots I have no idea what to do with).
We are dealing with a systems problem. It is just not easy to recycle many items. In the absence of formal initiatives, it’s often about personal hacks. For example, my husband buys fancy canned craft beer in 4-packs from our local pub, and they come in these horrendous snap-on black plastic holders. Did you know that black plastic is difficult for lasers to see so generally not sorted for recycling? So I returned them to the pub, and, apparently, they are happy to reuse them. Next step is to write to the beer company.
For me, PFJ is not about nail it, or fail it. It’s about using the awareness to educate, build awareness and shift behaviour long-term. Share your wins to inspire others, and share what you’re finding difficult – hopefully we can find answers together.
I have participated in Plastic Free July a number of times in the past and encourage my family and the team at KeepCup to join in the fun. I’m really on top of my composting, and don’t find the need to change my behaviour come July. We already own reusable containers and use these for lunches and leftover food storage. However, we treat ourselves to a takeaway dinner once a week and despite my best efforts in requesting no single-use plastics, such as cutlery and napkins, it is hard to avoid when you don’t control the packing of the meal. Snacks are definitely a struggle as a lot of the quick reach food items come in single-use plastic packaging particularly for the kids’ lunchboxes, and my all-time favourite Proper Crisps (salt and vinegar, of course).
Shopping bags and my KeepCup. We recently launched our new Thermal range using the highest quality double wall stainless steel. The vacuum seal provides thermal insulation to keep my coffee hot!
– Ditch my teabags and commit to loose leaf tea
– No takeaway meals in single-use packaging
– Make homemade snacks rather than reaching for those in single-use plastic wrappers
Last year was the first time we did Plastic Free July and one of the best things was that it opened up the dialogue with my family. I have three children aged 11, 9 and 5. A month-long push to decrease our single use plastic is something they could get their heads around. We made lists of what we wanted to do – like shopping at food markets and baking lunch box snacks. That way we could set some goals for each week.
To decrease that bag full of soft plastics! Using bulk food stores – Scoop in Bondi is our local – to try some different packet free snacks. And to get baking more. My daughters are keener than I am to bake, I confess – but less keen to tidy up afterwards! We’re also keen to decrease our bathroom plastics further. We use bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars, but I’m on the hunt for a plastic free toothpaste that works for us all.
I love SolCups – not just for their beautiful products, but the brands commitment to being a platform for environmental and sustainable education. Koala Eco, a truly inspirational brand and their simply stunning eco cleaning products. And Dearest Lips, vegan, plastic free lip balms.
We’re diligent soft plastic recyclers, and will take weekly trips to Woolworths to drop ours off. And, in terms of recycling – each year we love to get involved with Garage Sale trail. Recycling on a larger scale, but being able to pass on our items to locals, and gather up a few gems ourselves is a delight.
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