There’s a time and a place for plastic, but by and large there’s just too much plastic in the world. As a company, we do our part to reduce plastic use in our supply chain and use as much recycled polyester (i.e.: made from plastic bottles) as possible. But it’s an attitude that we can all adopt.
That’s the idea behind Plastic-Free July – a movement to inspire people to avoid most plastic items in your life for a whole month and replace them with a sustainable alternative. If you can do it for a month, you can make it a daily habit. Obviously, this July is a little different (PPE, take out, sanitizers), but there are some easy swaps you can make to reduce plastic pollution and use plastic alternatives well past July. Here’s our guide for how to reduce personal plastic use and what you can use instead of plastic.
Reusable cloth face masks
We’re all for first responders wearing the best personal protective equipment (PPE) available – plastic or not. BUT there are millions of us who are not first responders who have a much better chance at practicing physical distancing; we have more of a choice about where we go and who we interact with. We are the people who should consider making the switch from single-use PPE to reusable cloth face masks.
According to a recent study, an estimated 200 BILLION PPE items are going into global landfills each MONTH. That’s a massive number. Of course, it’s important to think about community safety, but consider the long-term safety of our oceans and environment as well. If you feel like you have enough control of your surroundings, we encourage you to switch to reusable face masks. Just be sure to wash them regularly and follow safety protocols.
Cloth & disinfectant spray instead of wipes
On a similar note, Covid or not, we’re big fans of using spray and rags instead of pre-packaged wipes. Think about how fast you go through a box of pre-packaged wipes. Now where do you throw your used wipes? You can see where we’re going here… every wipe you use ends up in a landfill. So, make the swap to an antibacterial spray and reusable/washable rags – you’ll save a mountain of trash from ending up in the landfill. As long as you’ve got enough rags on hand to never run out, the convenience of wipes is just as comparable. Create rags from old t-shirts, bath towels, and kitchen towels that have seen better days. Designate them as cleaning rags and give them a second life.
Metal or glass containers for leftovers or bulk storage
Is glass a good alternative to plastic? Yes! Metal and glass containers are a great plastics alternatives and they actually help you consume less plastic overall. When you make enough food to last you multiple meals, that’s saving you a trip to the market to get more ingredients, which, more than likely, are packaged in plastic. It’s a similar idea with buying in bulk. Bulk bins are *typically* the way to go to reduce plastic consumption, but even buying non-perishable wholesale items in bulk can really cut back on packaging.
Farmer’s Market vs. Grocery Store
Picture a farmer’s market: tents with open baskets of freshly grown food. Now think of a grocery story: aisles of stocked shelves. One has about a million times more packaging and plastic than the other. So, try to shop for as much as you can from your local farmer’s market. And look around for the items that are usually heavily packaged – lettuce, mushrooms, carrots, bread, pasta. Unpacked, local foods are zero waste products – especially if you compost!
DIY cloth and paper decorations
The funny thing about birthdays, anniversaries and graduations is that time is marching on, and they’re still happening – albeit, differently. Well consider this a great time to swap cheap plastic decorations for thoughtful, sustainable DIY decorations. Make a cute banner out of fabric scraps or sew your own pennant banner if you have some technical know-how. Have some construction paper lying around? You can make old-school birthday hats, a birthday crown, or a paper garland chain. Dive into origami and use thread to fly cranes from the ceiling. Single-use plastic is easy to avoid, and tapping into your creativity to find alternatives can be super fun.
Good ol’ fashioned bars of soap
This is about as easy a swap as they come: bars of soap. Unlike all those big tubs of body wash, a bar of soap has little to no packaging. Look for bars of soap with paper packaging — sometimes you can find soap at your farmer’s market! If you are ordering a special soap online, we recommend at least buying bulk, so you minimize the footprint of the shipping (it’s always something, but hey we’re all trying). You can also find bars of shampoo and conditioner, and even toothpaste comes in a tablet form now. Do some digging and see what works for your skin type.
Reusable bags, bottles and straws
Yes, this is super obvious, but we have to say it juuuuuust in case someone was wondering why we should replace the use of plastic bags, plastic bottles, or plastic straws. The short answer: because they are everywhere and they are unnecessary. The long answer: Globally, 2.7 billion single-use plastic bags are used daily, 1.5 billion plastic bottles are purchased DAILY, and 500 million drinking straws are used daily. THAT’S. TOO. MUCH. Even if your part is a drop in the bucket, do your part to use reusable bags, bottles and straws EVERY time.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s an important list. Being sustainable is not about doing it perfectly, it’s about trying your best and making the swaps when you can. It’s about adopting new habits and passing them on to the next generation. And if we can find plastic alternatives today, we can start to get rid of excessive plastic tomorrow.