We’re all trying to reduce our plastic waste. Maybe you bring your own mug to a local coffee shop. Perhaps you’ve recently discovered how awesome tote bags are. No matter what your situation, odds are you’ve noticed how plastic pollution has become a huge problem for people all around the globe. This is where the plastic-free month challenge comes from. You pick any month and make a goal to reduce plastic usage.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of living zero-waste but you’re not sure how to get started, try minimizing your plastic usage for thirty days. But it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing month. The plastic-free month pledge is meant to create awareness as to how attainable waste reduction is, just by making one goal at a time. This can be something as simple as bringing a reusable water bottle when you go out. It helps create new, long-lasting habits while bringing awareness to the dangers of plastic pollution. Ready to get started? Here are a few ideas on how you can make a concrete change in just a month.
Set a single-use goal
Plastic is everywhere. This comes as no surprise: plastic is cheap, convenient, and abundantly accessible. For your plastic-free month challenge, try to avoid all single-use plastics for a month. Bring a reusable straw when going out for drinks. Are you a fan of take-out? Consider bringing a homemade lunch to work.
Single-use plastics are abundant in our landfills. They are cheaply made and exceptionally hard for recycling facilities to process. By eliminating single-use plastics for a month, you’ll probably notice less trash around your home. Other common single-use items are plastic grocery bags, styrofoam containers, drink cups/bottles, and makeup wipes. Something as easy as replacing makeup removal wipes with reusable ones is a great start! Bringing your own grocery bag to the store is another simple change that makes a big difference over time. Your plastic-free month pledge can include as many (or as few) single-use items as you feel comfortable with. Making sustainable change is about working at your own pace to ensure long-lasting change.
Track what can’t be repurposed, recycled, or composted
Another great idea for your plastic-free month is to make a note of which everyday items you use that go straight into the landfill. These are items that we may not think of as a single-use object, but will be thrown in the trash anyways. It’s important to consider how products can be repurposed, recycled, or in some cases, composted. If you’re curious about having a plastic-free month or even a lower-waste month, consider only using items that won’t go directly into the landfill. And if you have items that will be trash, take note of how many of them are leftover at the end of the month.
It’s important to reflect on how many excess products get turned into trash without us realizing it. Any extra food scraps can be turned into compost. If your neighbourhood has a municipal compost, check what your town does with the organic matter afterwards. Many communities will take the compost collected and turn it into fertilizer for local farmers. By participating in a municipal composting program, you’re also doing your part to support your city’s economy.
Reflect on the litter in your community
As you continue through the plastic-free month challenge, take a look at what litter gets tossed on the ground around you. Is it cigarette butts, coffee cups, or maybe public transit stubs? Do you notice any recycling bins around town, or are there only garbage bins? Are your city councillors implementing any bylaws to fight local pollution? What are some high-density areas around town that could use outdoor garbage and recycling bins? As you go through the plastic-free month, you’ll become more aware of the waste around you. Consider what happens with local wildlife if they come across stray bits of garbage.
Get involved in your community
Taking a plastic-free month pledge is a great way to reduce waste in your community. See if you can get any friends, neighbours, or local clubs involved! A quick online search can show you if there are any community cleanups happening, any thrift swaps nearby, or even just like-minded people looking to go greener. Maybe your community park or beach is seeking volunteers to help educate visitors about litter. Or a school could be raising money to take kids on a field trip to a national park. Being involved in your community is another way to get active in environmentalism – and can even make you some great friends in the process!
Shopping in bulk
Odds are, you’ve probably come across photos online of people shopping in bulk using their own adorable glass jars. Shopping with your own containers at bulk food stores is a great way to reduce the amount of plastic used. It’s also common for stores to offer a discount for people bringing their own containers. In different parts across North America and Europe, new grocery stores are popping up with a zero-waste policy. This means that for all your typical grocery items, you’re required to bring your own container to put your items in. Products are then priced by weight, subtracting the weight of the canister. It’s also normal for zero-waste grocery stores to sell glass or stainless steel storage bins.
By bringing your own containers, you’re able to save those small plastic baggies for someone who may actually need it. More often than not, these types of single-use plastics are essential items for people living with disabilities, those struggle with motor issues, or times when sanitation/cross-contamination is a risk.
Looking to practice your hand at sewing or repairing? Taking the plastic-free month challenge is a terrific way to start. A core part of consumerism is based around the idea that as soon as something is a little cracked or chipped, it must be trashed and bought again. Unfortunately, very few items are meant to last a lifetime. In fact, some companies have even been accused of purposely creating items that will break within a year, just because they know you’ll be back out shopping again in no time. This makes an incredible amount of waste over time.
Taking a D.I.Y. approach this month can help you hone some unique skills. Plus, it’s super satisfying to have complete creative control. See if your community hosts any repair swap event. This is normally a semi-reoccurring event where different people with a wide variety of skills get together to share information and fix each other’s items. Do you have a toaster that always leaves your bread crooked and burnt? Don’t know it out: your neighbour might have the tools to fix it. Or maybe you’re great at sewing: you could teach some basic stitches to help mend a pair of jeans. Repair swap events bring communities together and allow us to bond over self-improvement.
Recycle your textiles
If you’re not sure what to do for your plastic-free month, try a closet cleanout. You may have clothes that are damaged, stained, or ripped beyond repair. These pieces may not necessarily have to become trash. If you live in a large city with an active municipal recycling program, see if you also have a textile recycling center. According to Planet Aid, an organization leading international textile recycling, only 15 percent of textiles get recycled each year. This means that clothing is quickly filling up our landfills.
Clothing recycling programs operate in several different ways: by recycling materials into new clothes, by re-purposing fabric scraps into other products, or by donating used clothes to developing countries. Thrift stores are also known to donate unsold/scrap fabrics to a nearby textile recycling plant. This applies to a variety of different materials, both organic and synthetic. Donating or recycling gently used clothing is a great way to ensure it gets a new home.
Tag us in your progress pics!
How you choose to go about your plastic-free month is up to you! Sustainable living shows in different ways for everyone. No matter how your month goes, tag us in your progress photos online! We’d love to see you carrying around a metal straw or swapping makeup wipes for reusable ones. It’s important to celebrate little changes – progress and personal development are never linear. Focusing on a greener tomorrow only happens by working one day at a time. If an item breaks during your plastic-free month, consider replacing it with a plastic-free one.