Can You Really Be Plastic-Free?

Can You Really Be Plastic-Free? | Ethical Influencers

Plastic Free July has been a great way to reflect on the waste we all produce. Whether you are a veteran zero-waste master, or new to the lifestyle, every little change can make a huge difference, especially when we make those changes collectively.

This month, we’ve been asking the community to share their thoughts, experiences, and challenges across Plastic Free July, to see if it’s really possible to be totally plastic-free.

Now that the month is almost over, we’ve compiled their answers, and hope they’ll inspire you to continue on your own journey to being more plastic-free too. As you’ll see, there are lots of different ways to get involved, and our members are here to help you get started!

Start Your Plastic-Free Journey Slowly


“I think that’s most important is to start slow and easy, it can be so easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated at the world when you first realise just how much plastic is in the world. But by starting slow you are much more likely to get lasting changes.

I’m not doing much more especially this month, I’m just trying my best. I am also going to try and waste less food, which is not linked so much to plastic, just waste in general.”

Read more from Izzy in her realistic guide to zero waste here.

Assess Your Kitchen & Bathroom


“I’ve been interested in the zero-waste movement for a good few years now, but I still find it difficult to avoid plastic, and in fact, I don’t think it’s totally my responsibility.

That being said, I have made a fair few plastic-free swaps in my kitchen and bathroom. I find these are the two places where I accumulate the most plastic and disposable items, so I’d recommend spending some time seeing what plastic you buy on a regular basis, and how you can change that to a less wasteful alternative.”

Read Besma’s guide to plastic-free swaps in the bathroom here.

Change Where You Shop


“One of my favourite things to do to skip single-use plastics is going to the farmer’s market. It is way easier to ask the vendors there if they can use your reusable bags for fruits and veggies than it is in a regular supermarket.

The produce is fresh, it is often cheaper and the amount of single-use plastic packaging you can avoid is quite shocking.”

Change Your Routines


Seeing all of the plastic on the beach, sea surface and the seabed is one of the main things driving me to reduce as much as possible my plastic consumption!

My thoughest challenge has been yoghurt, but I’ve now found a place that sells it in glass. And even better, _ am a big fan of glass jars – they make useful storage but are perfect to pack away lunch, together with paper bags that i keep from my veggies groceries at the market. I then build lunches at my desk in work where I keep a bowl and some cutlery.

It doesn’t have to be hard, but a little organisation really goes a long way. Once you find your rhythm and your own routines, you will fly easy. But you have to find a way that works for you!

Having a picture in mind showing how plastic can be disrupting it is definitely useful when faced with a choice – I picture ocean plastic, animals being trapped or thinking of it as food…”

Read more from Camilla in her posts on ocean plastic and if positive plastic exists.

Change Your Habits


“During Plastic Free July, I continued my journey towards less plastic, mainly trying to cut down food packaging. Hard as it is, since grocery shopping in supermarkets without plastic is not easy!

My small tips:

  • If you don’t have a fresh veggie market close by, change your recipes in order to buy plastic free – swap out ingredients for plastic free ones!
  • If you happen to have forgotten your produce bags, use the paper bags for mushrooms/bread or ask the staff for paper bags. Paper bags should always be available in supermarkets.

Personally, my biggest changes were:

  1. Try to reduce take-away boxes by bringing my own. At first, people might look strange at you if you ask the food to be put in your own container. But in the end they will usually accept it and you might inspire others.
  2. Follow a ‘reusable cup or drink it in’ rule: if you forgot your reusable coffee cup for take-away, have your coffee in. Otherwise: no coffee for you! As a coffee lover, this really pushed me to never forget my reusable cup 😉”

Make & Grow Your Own


“I always reuse where I can, but I’ve been making much more sensible (and cheaper) shopping choices recently. My plan is, if I can make it with what I have already, what is the point of buying it ready-made?

So, I’ve been making my own bread and garlic bread, and we have been really using our home grown veg to its maximum potential!

We pick lettuce fresh from our garden trug (my dad made it) along with peas! Our peppers and tomatoes aren’t ready yet but they will be soon!

I have the idea that if I can get it loose I will, and I don’t even bother with worrying over a few pennies, as I know I’m saving by making better choices elsewhere.”

Move Away from Plastic Little by Little


“It might be difficult to stop using plastic from one day to the other, but little by little it is possible. Here are some plastic products that I stopped buying:

1. Plastic bags
Even though I have reusable bags at home, occasionally if I forgot a bag, I would accept one when I go to a shop. Now I am more aware of this so I always leave one reusable bag in a pocket of my purse so I always have one with me.

2. Plastic bottles
I have a reusable glass bottle that I take with me everywhere. It is more delicate than a plastic one, but I haven’t found any inconvenience yet. I even find it easy to clean and I like that the bottle doesn’t get a bad smell like plastic bottles to do. When I happen to forget my bottle and I have to go to the supermarket, I discovered that there are some juices that come in a glass bottle. I opt to buy those instead of a drink that comes in a plastic bottle. Also when I go out to eat or to the movies, I only take drinks that come in glass bottles. 

3. Plastic straws
I stopped buying straws a long time ago, but this one was hard for me when going out for dinner or lunch. I constantly kept on forgetting to asks drinks without a straw. I guess it happened so much that now I learned from it and it’s becoming part of my “ordering food” routine to add “Can I please have my drink without a straw – thank you!”.

4. Plastic toothbrush
I made this switch a couple of months ago and I´m happy to see bamboo toothbrushes becoming trendy. 

5. Bread in plastic
Some supermarkets have paper bags where you can put the bread. Otherwise, you can get a cotton bag and bring it with you when you go grocery shopping. There are some unpacked loafs of bread that you can put in your cotton bag.

6. Fruits and vegetables in plastic
In mostly all supermarkets you can find some fruits and vegetables without plastic. The ones that you can not find without plastic, you can find at the fruits and vegetable shops or at the market.

7. Rice, pasta and dried food in plastic
When you to the supermarket, look for the products you want in a carton box. Most of the supermarkets have options without plastic. The products you can not find plastic-free, try then going to the closest bulk shop.”

Remember That You’re Making A Difference


“Some things may be driving you mad (oops, forgot the reusable cup again), while other habits you may have already seamlessly adopted (nice knowing ya, paper towels!)

It’s easy to get discouraged, especially when stepping foot inside a supermarket… those places are teeming with single-use plastic, but just remind yourself that you’ve signed up to the Plastic Free July challenge in order to make a difference.

And that’s exactly what you’re doing every time you reject a takeaway coffee cup or a plastic water bottle… Making a difference, by sending a clear message to retailers that this kind of excessive use of plastic is unnecessary.

Change will happen the more people challenge the status quo.”

Read more from Emma in her post on why you should take the plastic-free challenge, and her 52 easy ways to ace Plastic Free July.

Don’t Fret If You Can’t Go Plastic-Free – Get Vocal


“Unless you were able to plan well in advance, many of you, like me will have failed Plastic Free July by now. But here’s the thing, the system is set up for you to fail.

Don’t get down on yourself when you do fail, get angry and get vocal. When I tried this challenge the first time a few years ago, everyday I failed I took it as a personal failure, fining myself each day (then donating it to a charity tackling the plastic issue).

Since then I’ve explored the scale of the systemic changes needed to really avoid single-use plastic – and now I’m really angry. When you do fail, tell your favourite brands that you’ve failed, celebrate the ones that have helped you. Tell your friends and tell your local politicians.”

Read about the first time Sophia tried Plastic Free July here.


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