9 Swaps to Make Plastic Free July Easier

25 June 2019


Less than one week before Plastic Free July begins. Have you signed up for the challenge yet, because you should. In the meantime I have 5 simple swaps and 4 often overlooked swaps to make your Plastic Free July a little easier.

An important note - Going plastic free is a journey, trying to transition overnight would be setting yourself up for failure. Lauren from Trash is for Tossers has a wonderful post talking about this. And while her post is about going zero waste, many of her points can apply to just cutting out those pesky plastics. Go over to her post if you would like to read the full article, but here are the highlights:

  • Establish your “why”. Will power seldom works. Having a solid “why” for changing something in your life will increase your odds of succeeding.

  • Assess your waste (or in this case, your plastic waste). Look at the plastic in your trash to see where you are most likely to struggle during Plastic Free July. Often you will find bits and bobbles of plastic you wouldn’t have even considered otherwise.

  • Priorities. Sometimes figuring out how to cut certain plastics from your life will take extra effort. This can seem overwhelming and is a big factor in why so many people give up on cutting plastic. So priorities. Maybe don’t cut out all plastic, but cut out the ones that are simplest to swap, then tackle the harder ones one at a time. Remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s making those baby steps and making a difference where YOU can.

  • Replace items as they run out. Don’t feel you have to toss out all your plastic on June 30th and be perfect starting July 1st. A big part of the point is to make transitions into plastic free living that will last well beyond July. Use what you've got, and replace them as they run out.

  • Remember that it is a process. The best way to succeed is to not take everything on at once but to make one change at a time. When it becomes second nature, move on to the next thing.

Okay, now we have gotten that out of the way, here are 5 of the simplest swaps to make for Plastic Free July.

  • Reusable shopping bags. Probably one of the most obvious swaps a person can make. We have several shopping bags and totes we have collected throughout the years. Some we keep at home, and others we keep in our cars for those spontaneous runs to the store.

  • Cloth produce/bulk bin bags. This was an investment I made a few years ago. We made the switch to buying in bulk and trying to buy as much loose produce as possible. But we still needed something other than the store provided plastic bags to put them in. So I purchased some cloth bags for that purpose. Many zero-wasters will say to use jars and to have the cashier tar the weight, but I do not have that option where I live. The best option for me, and likely most people, is to investment into some cloth produce/bulk bin bags.

  • To-go coffee cup and a reusable water bottle. It is important to stay hydrated on the go, so I almost always have my reusable water bottle with me. I have been using a plastic one I bought several years ago before beginning my low waste journey. When the plastic one no longer serves its purpose, I plan to buy a stainless steel one. As for my coffee mug, I try to always keep one in my bag or car for those spontaneous cafe trips. My male roommate keeps one tumbler at work and another in his car so he is always prepared for a coffee fix.

  • Reusable straw or go without. This will often be resolved by bringing your own cup or mug, but I have found it useful to always have a stainless steel straw with me. In fact, I usually have two or three on me so that the people I am with can forgo the plastic straws too!

  • Reusable cutlery and to-go containers. I created a pouch for myself that can fit a set of bamboo cutlery I was gifted years ago.  And there is no need to go out and buy cutlery to fulfill this one. My roommate packs a set of cutlery from home in his work bag and in his car for on the go situations. As for food on the go. If I am going out, often I will put a Tupperware container or my bento box in the car in case I end up stopping for food. This way, I have something to put the food or leftovers in that isn't single use or plastic.

And 4 often overlooked swaps to make.

  • Cloth sandwich or snack bags. We invested in nine or ten cloth snack bags two years ago and it was an amazing investment. They get used almost daily, and the ones we purchased can go in the dishwasher. I can’t remember the last time we even needed Ziplock bags.

  • Cloth food wraps or storage container. Many of us have storage containers we could use instead of plastic wrap. I also like to use cloth food wraps, some covered in soy wax and some regular clothes, to cover my food with. The soy wax wraps will stick to themselves and works like plastic wrap. Lint-free cotton or linen clothes with a rubber band also work well for cover many loose foods. I have yet to have any problems with any of these methods of food storage.

  • Bamboo toothbrush. Bamboo toothbrushes can be tricky because they are still a specialty item, making them expensive. I usually shop around for a good deal and buy my bamboo toothbrushes in bulk. I find the more you can buy at once, the cheaper you can get them. In my last set I bought 12 at around 1.75 each.

  • Washcloth or soap pouch. Loofahs are usually made of plastic, and they are breeding grounds for bacteria. So I opt for using a washcloth or cloth soap pouches and bar soap in the shower. This way I can run the washcloth or soap pouch through the wash with my towels each week AND avoid the plastic.

Some of these swaps you can find local, some you may have to shop around for online (don’t forget to add a note to the seller to not use plastic packaging), and some can be found right in your own home. Yes, often going without plastic can be as simple as getting a little creative with what we already own. And sometimes, if you’re doing this for the long haul, it pays to pick up a few investment pieces. Note your own habits and needs and make the right decisions for your life.

I hope that I could provide some ideas on how and where you can cut out some plastic in your own life. But I would love to know if you have other creative ideas for how to cut out plastic. Have there been simple swaps that worked for you that I didn’t list above? Let us know, share the knowledge in the comments below.