This is a guest post by NQCC member and volunteer, Priscilla Peto. Priscilla took up the challenge of "Plastic Free July" last year and shares with us her experiences and lessons of the past year. The views expressed in this post are the author's and not necessarily those of NQCC.
Plastic Free July is just around the corner, so I thought I’d share my experience of reducing the plastic in my life. Last year was the first time I engaged in the challenge to make my life plastic free for a month. I started by visiting plasticfreejuly.org to see what it was all about and where I could start changing my habits.
It’s amazing how this one month challenge introduced long-term sustainable habits, most of which I continue today. Plastic Free July has significantly reduced my meat intake, reduced the amount of products I purchase and makes me think twice before eating take away and the food outlets I pick.
The reason I’ve reduced my meat intake is because everything is wrapped in plastic so the only time you can buy it is if you take your own container or eat out. The first time I brought my own container and asked for the meat to be placed in it the butcher said “no worries”, he then put a plastic bag on his hand and grabbed the meat before I could say anything. He threw away the bag on his hand and I felt defeated. So in the future, I’ve had to over-explain the purpose of bringing my own container and in my limited experience the butcher or deli attendant will wash their hands before and after grabbing the meat . That works fine, but due to all the extra explaining involved, it makes me do it less.
I’ve completely switched all my tissues, toilet paper and paper towels to Who Gives a Crap which use 100% recycled paper or forest friendly bamboo. The toilet paper gets shipped in cardboard and each individual roll wrapped in beautifully decorated paper. The paper it’s wrapped in has a second use too. Rather than using plastic shopping bags to line my bin, I use these paper wraps or newspapers I collect from work to line them. At home I compost, so the rubbish bin shouldn’t get too dirty or have juices stick to the bin. If there is something sticky just wrap that in newspaper thoroughly and put it in that way.
I think everybody knows they should take their own bags to the shops by now, but when some people forget them they still use plastic bags. What I do is put everything in a trolley and wheel that to my car and place it all individually in my boot. It’s kind of like me punishing myself by making it really difficult so that I remember next time! Alternatively you can grab an empty cardboard box off the shelf and use that or ask a shop attendant to grab a big box from the back if you have heaps of things to carry.
Toothpaste is a hard one to change, there are some recipes out there but I wasn’t so keen on those. However, when I visited Brisbane I got some Lush Tooth Powder. The powder came in 100% recycled plastic and you can return the containers when you're done for them to reuse, I made the decision that this was acceptable in the circumstances.
At the Townsville Cotters Markets there is a lady that sells handmade soaps and she sells a bar soap shampoo. It cleans well, but it does leave my long hair feeling a bit grippy rather than soft. One year since my first Plastic Free July and I still have bottles of shampoo and conditioner to use up. Therefore, I haven’t experimented too much with products so far to make my hair soft but I have done some research in preparation. Some say coconut oil works a treat, but there is a Lush shampoo and conditioner bar in one that the shop attendant told me she used and loved and it smells divine so that will be my first try!
I make my own coffee the majority of the time, but one great suggestion for buying coffee when you’re out is to drink it at the café so that you don’t get a single use coffee cup. This practice also has led to me getting less take out too but if you do decide to eat out, eat in the restaurant instead.
Sometimes when you’re buying a drink out at pubs and clubs as a female the bartenders assume you want a straw. So you need to say it far in advance that you don’t want a straw when you order your drink because it happens so quick otherwise! In my experience though some of them will be a bit smart (or dumb if you ask me) and give you three straws on purpose or tell you to “give it up” like it’s a wasted cause. It’s not though!
Just keep trying and making a conscious decision about the plastic in your life, talk about it with your friends and colleagues about what you’re doing and together we can make a change and raise awareness!