Week 1 of plastic-free July is already over! How did it go for you?
Being organized is my number 1 tip on effectively starting your plastic-free journey (as you may have seen on my instagram story). That being said, I was underprepared, and things went relatively well.
I didn’t have access to an open market all week long (although my amazing boyfriend did, and bought vegetables and meat in our own containers), and didn’t have much time to cook or prepare food in my busy working schedule.
But of course, living plastic-free is not limited to food preparation. Doing laundry, keeping your house clean and tidy, and keeping yourself clean can all be very heavy on plastic, depending on your lifestyle.
In this post, I’ll be giving you a few shortcuts to make the most of a plastic-free month, without having to spend hours and hours planning your days out or traveling for miles to find an unpackaged cucumber.
step 1: do a quick and dirty plastic audit
Where in your life do you use the most plastic? You should try to reduce your plastic consumption in the most plastic-intensive area of your life. For me, it’s food, and animal protein, more specifically, that I buy to prepare at home.
A quick look at your recycling/refuse bin can help, but spending a few days being extra aware (without being obsessive about it) can help you identify where to pay more attention. Maybe it’s the plastic lid of your daily takeaway coffee. Maybe the lunchtime salad box.
It’s systematic use that matters, here. Going the extra mile to be plastic-free for occasional purchases has far less impact than creating more sustainable habits. It’s also not time-efficient.
Common culprits tend to be:
- food packaging from the supermarket (meat, berries, fish, hummus, yoghurt, milk, snacks, ground coffee, butter, leafy vegetables…)
- takeaway coffee cups – lids and straws, as well as the inner lining on paper cups or iced drinks cups
- regular toiletries – shampoo, hand soap, lotions, toothpaste
- house cleaning – dishwashing liquid, laundry liquid, any spray cleaners, sponges and dishwashing brushes
step 2: setting a one-time slot to feel prepared
I invested several hours figuring out where I could find what I’d need plastic-free. This included all of the previously mentioned;
- hummus and baba ghanoush: the lebanese deli, with my own container (1/week)
- vegetables, fruit and eggs: the sunday farmer’s market, where everything is in paper (1/week)
- bread: a bakery which wraps bread in paper (1-2/week)
- the coffeeshop: bringing my KeepCup (every day)
- sparkling water: a supermarket which sells them in glass (every day)
- bulk grains: a bring-your-own-container shop (1/month)
- household items: a local shop where I can bring my own bottles to refill or buy plastic-free sponges, brush heads and soap (1/month)
For meat, tofu, yoghurt and oat milk, I have to admit, I haven’t found an effective solution yet. So I prioritize what I can control for the time being.
step 3: creating habit
My Sunday routine has become pretty essential to making sure my week goes as planned. By creating weekly, monthly and annual routines, you’re removing the element of uncertainty by knowing where to find what you need at what time.
On Sundays, I go to the market to get all my vegetables, fruit, meat/fish/eggs and sometimes a loaf of bread. I used to make lists, but I now shop more intuitively depending on what’s in season.
I cook up a frenzy for my lunches, which usually last me until Wednesday. By then, I reassess what’s in the fridge to make sure nothing spoils (since I don’t really plan meals ahead of time for evenings).
I bring my KeepCup to the coffeeshop, and a metal straw if having an iced drink. At some point in the week, I go to the Lebanese deli to restock on hummus and the bakery for extra bread.
About once a month, I refill my laundry detergent at the refill store, and buy large bags of lentils and rice.
Rinse and repeat!
step 3: planning for when things go wrong
It’s easy to get super excited and optimistic about how smoothly things will go, at the beginning. I am by no means the expert in this department, but an essential part of my success has been to always have a plan B.
Making packed lunches for 5 days is not realistic for me, because I don’t want to eat 4-day old chicken towards the end of the week. Instead, I might grab lunch outside – and I choose to go where I can sit and enjoy my meal, plastic free. Otherwise, I might pack a leftover dinner in a tupperware for the last couple of days of the week.
Owning lots of reusable bags, cups, straws, cutlery etc is not the same as remembering to bring them. Which I’m sometimes terrible at! To avoid being caught unawares, I keep some items in multiple places (it could be your home, your bag, your office, your car…):
- several reusable mugs/keepcups at home and the office
- reusable cutlery in my bag
- a metal straw at the office
- reusable containers at home and the office
- oatmeal at the office to avoid having to buy breakfast on the go
- reusable bags in every imaginable place
- tins of chickpeas, tuna and beans in case of empty fridge!
- I never leave the house without my reusable water bottle
step 4: making choices
I have found in the past few months that investing my time, effort and money in some things have had a huge impact on my waste, whereas others have been a hindrance and made my life much more inconvenient. And I’ve had to make choices.
Some items that have really helped me reduce my plastic use:
- vegetables from the farmer’s market, which don’t take more time to buy or cost more than the supermarket
- occasionally making my own hummus, which is fun and enjoyable for me
- buying pulses and grains in bulk, which is cheaper and more convenient
- refilling my detergent bottle, which is cheaper than a fresh bottle
- growing my own herbs, which is cheaper than buying them all the time
- Buying a KeepCup, which sometimes even gets you a discount on drinks!
- a reusable bottle, which is cheaper than buying bottles and more convenient
- buying body oil in glass bottles instead of cream/lotion, which is a direct substitute for me personally
- buying natural fibers for clothes and home furnishings, which are more durable and nicer to wear
Some items are just not worth spending my efforts on for the moment, but may become so if my situation, location or life changes:
- making my own yoghurt, which still requires me to buy milk in plastic
- making my own oat milk, which never turns out as nice as my favorite one from the shop
- making bread and many other baked goods, unless I have time
- Buying a sodastream for my obsessive consumption of sparkling water, as I can buy glass bottles instead
- finding lentil and chickpea pasta, and sometimes more unusual grains, in bulk
- buying tofu and tempeh plastic-free is essentially impossible
- buying beauty products plastic-free – I’m pretty low maintenance and only replace the absolute essentials when they’re empty. I return empty bottles to Kiehl’s, as they have a recycling programme!
Make sure you are connected with me on instagram to stay up to date with my plastic-free July on the daily!