Plastic-free July - An Eco-conscious consumer initiative
The jargon associated with environmentally-friendly consumerism is relatively new and has a first-world edginess. But the ethical concept of caring for the planet and looking after our natural resources is as old as time. This is where Plastic-free July enters the conversation; an annual global initiative that aims to be an influencer in helping to reduce the crisis of global waste. It is just a start, but it is a good start and every little bit counts.
Responsible conversations are replacing guilt-inducing rhetoric, valuable data is overtaking conspiracy theories shrouded in a hippy vibe, and large-scale retailers are helping us become intentional in reducing landfills and 'saving the turtles.' (Our initial frustration at the disappearance of the plastic shopping bag at Woolworths has forced us to take stock and think twice).
Cue #plasticfreejuly, “an international movement that aims to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our environment by encouraging fellow citizens to make the shift towards long-term, environmentally-friendly habits.”
Change always happens slowly, but every step forward - no matter how small - is progress. And sometimes, awareness and consequence are the two ultimate motivators to get us to rethink our consumer habits and start to really care about the future we are building for the generations that follow. That is the vision behind Plastic-free July.
Plastic-free awareness 101
For any real change in habits to occur and for us to reap any real future benefits, a mindshift needs to occur. There also needs to be an actual value-add for any consumer to switch from (cheap) plastic to sustainable or biodegradable packaging options that may initially be a little more expensive.
With disposable plastic proving to be a potential ecological disaster, let’s consider why we need to care about embracing a plastic-free consumer philosophy:
- The carbon dioxide concern: In environmental debates, carbon dioxide is easily a cussword - contributing to greenhouse gasses and global warming. We knew this before Greta Thurnberg embarked on her campaign. “The majority of plastic is produced using non-renewable fossil fuels such as oil, with an estimated 4% of the world’s petroleum being used to make it.1 This produces a staggering amount of carbon dioxide”
- The animal concern: The toxicity of tonnes of microplastics ending up in our oceans and being swallowed by seals, whales, seabirds, fish and crabs leads to disease and affects their ability to reproduce.
- The human concern: As plastic breaks down in landfills, the resulting microplastics are what we end up consuming without even realising it. As plastic breaks down, it releases toxic chemicals which end up in our groundwater which, over time, affects the soil we used to grow our food and the water we drink.
The loud voices calling to reduce plastic pollution are not unfounded and those leading the charge are looking for reinforcements to turn the tide and win the battle in waste reduction.
Among consumers, the transition towards more sustainable plastic alternatives has already started, but the impetus will only gain momentum once we realise this is a community project.
It may take a village to raise a child, and it is certainly going to take a village to create a future for our children. It’s all about paying it forward - one plastic bag at a time.
That is the point of #PlasticfreeJuly - to show that a significant contribution to limit our plastic-related environmental impact starts with consumers’ daily consumption choices and habits. Think before you shop. It is as simple as that.
But breaking bad habits is not so simple, so the Plastic-free July challenge is just the motivation to consciously change the way you shop and develop new environmentally-friendly habits while you’re at it. It’s a win-win scenario.
This call is not a drastic commitment. It is a collective inspiration to buy (plastic-free) into the vision and start building societies that have cleaner oceans, cleaner cities and cleaner air.
It takes 21 days to build a new habit. Plastic-free July is your opportunity to transform our societal bad habits and reduce our waste crisis.
Some suggestions to get you on your merry #PlasticFreeJuly way:
- Challenge your workmates: Who doesn't love a little friendly workplace competition? Swap the in-office table tennis rivalry for a plastic-free challenge. This may include reusable coffee cups and relooking at how you purchase office groceries and cleaning materials etc. (Did you know that most coffee vendors give discounts for using your own reusable travel mug?).
- Challenge your family: As a family, decide that for the month of July you will all boycott the 'big 4’ plastics - plastic bags, drink bottles, coffee cups and straws. This will filter into your kids’ school environment and extended family gatherings. (A family that recycles together, stays together). 😉
- Challenge your kids’ school: Change can start in the classroom. If teachers can bring plastic awareness into their lessons, the momentum can be sustained. Teachers are uniquely positioned to engage, influence, and inspire children - as our future leaders and change makerss - to think critically about the world around them.
- Challenge yourself: “Do as I say and not as I do” has never resulted in effective long-term change. It starts with me and with you. Each one of us has a responsibility to care for the world around us. We don’t have the right to be careless about what we have been given. Before we point fingers and expect governments and retailers to make changes, we need to be doing what we can. That is authentic eco-conscious consumerism. That may start with just a plastic recycling bin in your home and doing a bin audit at the end of the month. It’s an excellent start.
Plastic-free online store
The easiest way to head into Plastic-free July is to head on over to The Unwrapped Co. - an online zero-waste store in Gauteng where you can buy pantry staples and eco-friendly household products. This is the ultimate in eco-conscious consumer convenience at the click of a button. We not only provide quality products but also aim to reduce waste from supplier to store to you - package-free.