I have been aware of Plastic Free July for a few years now, perhaps first coming across the initiative via The Slow Home Podcast in 2016. This year I finally felt that I have the headspace, inclination and enthusiasm to give it a bit of a go myself.
We’ve already made a number of swaps around the home that have definitely helped to cut down on plastic packaging over the last couple of years. Mainly: bulk buying dried goods, refilling toiletries and detergents, scaling way back on the cleaning and beauty products we use and getting a veg box delivered. But despite this, I only have to take a glance into my bins to tell we are still a long way off anything close to zero waste.
Not that zero waste is the goal, to be honest – I think it’s a wholly unobtainable and unhelpful troupe to see a year’s worth of household waste fitting into a Kilner jar! And let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that there is a lot of privilege involved in following a lower-waste lifestyle.
Generally, I feel that taking a slow and steady approach and gradually taking steps toward a more sustainable home is much more manageable and realistic for most. But I do love the way that taking part in a challenge gives me a good kick up the bum to examine the habits that happen on autopilot and make some shifts accordingly. Even the Plastic Free July official site encourages different levels of participation. From going completely plastic-free to avoiding single-use plastics or avoiding the ‘big four’ of bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups.
Personally, I’ve decided to focus on going plastic-free in the kitchen for the month of July. Although I would like to tackle all areas of our household waste, food packaging definitely seems to be the biggest problem area contributing to the bulk of our weekly refuse. (Well, apart from disposable nappies that is – but please allow me to put a pin in that for a moment.)
Although the waste associated with food is our biggest challenge, food and cooking are also my biggest passion, and I always enjoy a culinary challenge. Rather than finding restrictions frustrating, I like the way having boundaries gets me thinking more creatively with my cooking. So I’m viewing going plastic-free and low waste in a similar way.
I know preparation and organisation will be the key to these stumbling blocks. Planning meals in advance, stocking the cupboards and freezer with homemade snacks, being armed with Tupperware at all times when out and about. I’ve already spent a good month mentally preparing, I’ve done a reccy of what items I can pick up plastic-free where and made lists of meals I can adapt with plastic-free ingredients.
That said, although I love to cook from scratch and I’m partial to a bit of baby-friendly baking, my toddler and I partake in a hefty amount of between-meal snacking. Rice cakes, cereal bars, smoothie pouches, crisps, cheese, crackers – these tasty lil’ things all come in unrecyclable plastic packaging. And what about spreads and condiments? Does anyone know of a plastic-free alternative to Marmite and Sriracha???
Going plastic-free in our kitchen for a month is definitely not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge!
Here are a few parameters I’m setting around the challenge…
// I will focus on not bringing any new single-use plastic packaging into the kitchen, but I am going to use up ingredients that we have in our cupboards before replacing with plastic-free. It seems very wasteful to do otherwise.
// Although plastic is the focus I’m also going to try and reduce our waste in general – reusing paper bags at the bakery, using my own containers for takeaway where possible, doing more with our food scraps and watching those leftovers.
// I’m probably gonna cheat when it comes to oat milk! I am going to experiment with making oat milk myself but plan to have Oatly on hand because mornings without decent cuppa are a big no in this house!
// I’m hoping my husband will be up for giving it a good go as well. He works in the office Monday to Friday so will be encountering a few different challenges than I will as a stay-at-home / work-from-home mum.
// Away from the kitchen I do want to explore plastic-free options. I’m going to finally try reusable nappies and wipes and I plan to start ordering loo roll fro Who Gives A Crap.
And a few resources and posts to check out…
Plastic Free July
A great Instagram post from Lucy Lucraft on the problematic nature of the zero-waste movement
The Slow Home Podcast on Plastic Free July
Are you joining in with Plastic Free July this year? We’re almost two weeks in at the time of publishing so I’ll be back to share an update soon.