With only a few days left of July, one thing the Green Action Centre team is reflecting on (other than where the summer went!) how their Plastic Free July went. The campaign for us all involved a few bumps and growing pains, a couple wins, and most importantly some strong learned lessons. Here are 5 lessons and points of wisdom we would like to impart on those interested in pursuing a plastic-free lifestyle:
Number 1: Slow and steady wins the race
Going plastic-free for some may be an easy challenge, requiring few changes to your day-to-day living. For many others though, this can be one of the toughest sustainability challenges attempted. If you are feeling like you are in the latter group, you are not alone! As many of our staff noticed, it’s not about going “cold turkey” with plastics, but tempering expectations and going into the challenge understanding there will be trip ups. Ease your way into this one folks, and make sure to understand you are in for a marathon with many, many surprises and challenges. Plastics are pervasive in our world, expect to run into it!
Number 2: Do your research and pick your battles
An important piece of Plastic Free July is to choose your plastic challenge. Going the gusto and eliminating plastics entirely? Or are you taking on the plastic bags and plastic straws challenge? We highly recommend putting some thought into this choice! Being honest about current plastic use habits is an important first step to gauging next steps. It can be difficult to go cold turkey, only to realize half of the meals in your cookbook require something wrapped in single-use plastic. Make sure to research current plastic use, and put some time assessing products to see what is realistic. Again, going plastic free is a marathon, so start simple and work your way from there.
Number 3: Rejoice in the process
The first few days of going plastic free can certainly be the hardest. That first trip to the familiar grocery store can suddenly be a very unfriendly place, and be very daunting. Don’t give up! Rather, this is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in this process and celebrate when you have made a breakthrough. On those moments when you stumble, this can also be a good opportunity to rejoice in the process, being humbled by the problem but understanding too that you are learning. That too is an exciting piece to this. Just remember, there are too sides to every challenge, so stay positive!
Something we often take for granted at Green Action Centre is the power of our community as sustainably-minded individuals. Unsurprisingly, this is a huge help. Our team is fortunate in that we are able to bounce ideas off of each other, hear about best practices and what to avoid, and create new ideas. This is such an important piece to keep us on target and moving forward. How does this translate to you? If you are aiming to go plastic-free, bring in others to try it with you. Get your family on board, or a group of friends. The more the merrier. That way, you can work with others doing the same thing and come up with new ideas together. And don’t forget lesson number 2 when pitching it to others!
Number 5: Have the conversation
As one of our team members mentioned: “even when I realized I had done something that required the use of plastic, I was able to have a conversation with a staff person at the business about why this was important. You could tell he was receptive.” What a wonderful opportunity! We often become so entranced with our own challenge that we forget that these campaigns are part of a larger conversation. Engaging with others and talking about why we are choosing to do what we do is how we can affect change on a larger scale. Even though our team member did have to use a plastic she was trying to avoid, the conversation with this staff person at the business led to an idea of how to actually get this business to perhaps stop using that plastic. Pretty big stuff! So don’t forget to remember why this campaign is important, and don’t be afraid to chat with others about Plastic Free July.
If you want to see how our staff was doing after 10 days of Plastic Free July, click here.
If you want to see how our staff was doing after 20 days of Plastic Free July, click here.
Got something that you learned from Plastic Free July? Start acting on lesson 4 and 5 now and share your wisdom in the comments below! We would love to hear from you!