Plastic-free July: 31-day challenge!

Plastic-free July is a yearly campaign that encourages people to have a go at seriously reducing their plastic consumption. This year, we've come up with a list of ideas to try which, you won't be surprised to hear, contains 31 items! Some involve buying a new product, some involve a bit of campaigning, and some are just a case of adjusting your mindset.

Of course, going plastic-free isn’t just limited to July. You can use these ideas at absolutely any time of year.

We have 3 little rules for this challenge:

  1. Don’t feel bad if something is difficult or even impossible for you because of your personal situation - not everything will work for everybody all of the time
  2. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by some of these changes
  3. Don’t give up too fast – if something doesn’t work for you first time, give it the benefit of the doubt and try again, potentially with a few small changes to make things easier

 

Date

Plastic-free idea

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1 July

Research packaging-free food sellers

Do you have a local market, farm shop, greengrocer or zero-waste store? Do you get the loose fruit & veg rather than the packaged options at the supermarket? Have you thought about taking your own containers to your local butcher / fishmonger / supermarket deli counter? We’ve stuck this idea at the start of the month to give you a strong start to your 31-day plastic detox!

2 July

Do a plastic audit

Try to record the plastic that comes into and goes out of your house. How much is there? Where does it come from? Use this info to help come up with ideas on how to reduce your use.

3 July

Switch to a shampoo bar

It’s worth trying several different bars as everyone’s hair is different. If you generally use a lot of product in your hair, it may take a couple of weeks to get rid of the gunk and get used to your new haircare regime. Also, a so-called ‘vinegar rinse’ (very dilute apple cider vinegar, with some essential oils to smell nice) can work as a conditioner if you feel you really need it and is particularly handy if you live in an area with very hard water.

4 July

Get campaigning

There are all sorts of places where plastic, particularly single-use plastic, is a pain. Sign a petition, contact your local MP about the issue or join a local campaign group.

5 July

Take your own shopping bags

We’re sure most of you are there already on this, so consider today something of a rest day. If you find yourself bag-less from time to time, now’s the time to rethink your set-up to make sure you’ve always got a reusable bag to hand.

6 July

Say goodbye to plastic sponges

Did you realise that your standard supermarket-bought washing-up sponge is made from plastic? And that it sends microplastic particles down the drain each time you do your dishes? A coir scrubber or a loofah pad will solve this problem: they’re made from plants, are super effective, and are compostable!

7 July

Reduce your reliance on wet wipes

Whether you’re using them to clean your toilet or to remove make-up (you don’t want to mix those two up!), wipes are single-use and generally contain plastic. Alternatives: a reusable, washable cloth or scraps from old clothing for your household chores; a reusable cloth for your face; or even just good old soap and water!

8 July

Refuse plastic straws (if you don’t need them)

A lot of businesses have switched to paper straws, but some are still using plastic ones. If you’re not a fan of paper straws, here’s a nifty idea: don’t use a straw at all :p

9 July

Recycle

Don’t panic if you’ve ended up with some plastic sneaking its way into your home already: these things happen! The important thing to do is to make sure recyclable plastics go in the recycling so that they won’t be used only once.

10 July

Make all your food storage reusable

Forget cling film: there are so many other options! Beeswax wraps are a joy to use, and last for ages. If you’re a fan of jam, it’s super simple to end up ‘accidentally’ acquiring glass jars. Then there’s the simple old trick of covering bowls of food with a plate – or plates of food with a bowl! And yes, it’s plastic, but most of us have a tonne of Tupperware lurking in the cupboard that can be used over and over.

11 July

Join a beach clean 

Whether you join an organised one or just incorporate some rubbish removal into your seaside stroll, this is a great way to remove plastic from your surroundings!

12 July

Go litter picking

Don’t live near a beach? You can still help get plastic and other rubbish out of our environment by litter picking in your local area. Make sure to stay safe when doing so!

13 July

Ditch those takeaway coffee cups

Those disposable takeaway cups are deceptive – even if they look like they’re made from paper, they tend to be lined with plastic. Much better to plan ahead a bit and take a reusable cup with you. Or, if you’re feeling abstemious, simply go without the coffee-to-go!

14 July

Make your work plastic-free

Consider asking your employer to make some changes that reduce their plastic use and help you to reduce yours too, from buying plastic-free products for your workplace, to making it easier for employees to bring packed lunches and recycle waste correctly.

15 July

Change your toothbrush

Do you change your toothbrush as often as your dentist recommends?! If you’re due a new brush, give a bamboo one a try. The bristles tend to be plastic still, so the quality of your clean shouldn’t be affected. When it’s time to change it, chop the head off and compost the handle.

16 July

Take the plastic out of periods

If you use menstrual products, consider switching to the more eco-friendly options. Reusable menstrual cups are popular, as are reusable pads, period underwear, and plastic-free tampons. You might find that you need more than one option to cover all situations – just experiment.

17 July

Clean with science

You don’t need 50 different plastic bottles of cleaning fluid. Simple household items (which come in plastic-free containers) are as good as if not better than many cleaning products! See what a splash of vinegar + lemon juice, or a sprinkle of bicarb, can do to make your surfaces sparkle.

18 July

Make your own decorations

Fun as they are, balloons and lots of birthday banners are made from plastic. So this idea combines a way of entertaining kids (and adults!) with getting rid of plastic. Even if it’s a while until the next birthday in your family, get a head start by making your own fabric or paper bunting now so you’re ready when things are a bit more hectic!

19 July

Relax with a plastic-free cuppa

Progress is being made here, but many tea bags still contain plastic. Be sure to buy plastic-free options that can go in the compost, or to get loose-leaf teas.

20 July

Support your local milkman

Following on from yesterday’s tip to make your tea bags plastic-free, today’s idea is to switch to plastic-free milk as well. Wake up to a fresh pint waiting for you on your doorstep!

21 July

Take a packed lunch

It’s tempting to grab food on the go, but a little forward planning will hugely reduce your pile of plastic packaging waste. Grab a Tupperware or beeswax wrap and bring your own sandwiches / salad / etc to work.

22 July

Encourage retailers to reduce plastic packaging

When placing an online order, check the retailer’s policies to see whether they offer plastic-free shipping. If they don’t, ask them if they’d be willing to give it a try. It’s important for them to see that this is something customers want.

23 July

Rid your garden of plastic

If you’re getting green-fingered this summer, don’t forget that plastic waste is a problem in gardens too! Do a plastic audit of your garden and see if you can reduce, reuse and recycle.

24 July

Switch to plastic-free deodorant

Deodorants come in all shapes and sizes. If you currently buy one in a plastiky container, switch to an alternative that comes in a glass bottle, a metal tub, or even a cardboard tube.

25 July

Invest in a reusable water bottle

You want your reusable water bottle to be plastic-free, of course, and it needs to be something that’s the right size to carry easily. Consider getting one second hand, if you can.

26 July

Learn your plastic types

Learn what the different numbers on plastic packaging mean so that, if a plastic purchase is unavoidable, you can make an informed decision and prioritise recyclable packaging.

27 July

Switch to soap bars

Stop buying those plastic bottles of soap! A good old-fashioned soap bar does the job just as well. Make sure to invest in ones that are made from eco-friendly, ethical ingredients.

28 July

Find your nearest refill centre

There’s an increasing number of shops springing up where you can take your own containers and refill them with laundry detergent, household cleaners, and more. You might live closer to one than you’d realised!

29 July

Invest in a safety razor

Disposable razors may be convenient, but they’re incredibly wasteful. Take the old-fashioned choice and get yourself a reusable safety razor.

30 July

Buy a plastic-free product for someone else

If you know someone who’s tempted by a plastic-free product but is scared to take the plunge, or feels they can’t quite afford a particular item, why not help them out? Everyone loves a little unexpected gift now and then.

31 July

Shop second hand

If you absolutely need something plastic, ask friends and family, search charity shops, or use online resources like Freecycle to try to get hold of a product somebody has already used and no longer wants. Waste not, want not!