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The idea for a Plastic-Free July initiative was born in Perth, Western Australia back in 2011. In my experience, once you make a concerted effort to add or remove something from your life, you start to notice it everywhere. That’s exactly what happened to Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, the founder of the Plastic-Free July movement.

She decided to “go plastic-free” for a month in 2011 by trying to refuse all single-use plastic. She found it much harder than expected as she started looking more closely at product ingredients and packaging. She visited a recycling facility and came face-to-face with the enormity of the waste problem and just how complex recycling has become. She knew she had to do something.

Others in her community joined her one month plastic-free challenge, and that initial group of 40 people has now become a world-wide movement with over 36,000 participating people, schools and organizations in 85 countries.

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz - Plastic-free-july
Image credit: Plastic Pollution Coalition

The Plastic-Free July challenge is simple:  Do your best to refuse all single-use plastic during July.

“Single-use” refers to plastic shopping bags, cups, straws, packaging. And if that sounds overwhelming, then focus on doing the TOP 4 challenge by eliminating plastic bags, bottles, take-out cups and straws from your life for July.

You can read more about Rebecca’s story – that’s her on the right, reusable bottle in hand – and her suggestions for how to have a plastic-free July in this post she wrote for the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Plastic-Free Times.

And here are a couple of other fabulous plastic-free challenges to spur you on…both created by individuals who felt called to take serious action against plastic.

The Last Plastic Straw

TheLastPlasticStraw350w - plastic-free july2011 was a big year for the creation of plastic-free movements.

Along with Rebecca, that is also the year that Jackie Nunez had what she calls her “Last Plastic Straw moment.” Jackie Nunez - the last plastic straw - plastic free julyJust back from travel in the Caribbean, where she saw plastic trash everywhere, she asked for a glass of water in a Santa Cruz bar and received a plastic straw in her water, even though she had not asked for it.

This sparked her to create The Last Plastic Straw “as a way to connect the individual in a positive, impactful, and tangible way towards a solution to the plastic pollution problem.” She has set out the following ways for individuals and businesses to go plastic straw-free:

Individuals

  • Ask for “no straw” wherever straws are served.
  • Ask your local restaurants and bars to only serve straws upon request.
  • Start living like you love the ocean, yourself, and the planet. Make it official and sign up with the Plastic Pollution Coalition to take the ‘No Plastic Straw’ Pledge.
  • DO LESS…less consumption, less waste, less straws!

Spread the word, download and print their ‘Please Serve Straws Upon Request’ Cards (10MB PDF) to leave with your bill at restaurants and bars and a 2-Sided Bilingual Flyer (1MB PDF) to educate the masses in your community, school, public events, and travels!

Businesses

  • State on menus “Straws available upon request”.
  • Provide a straw only when requested by a customer.
  • Provide either biodegradable or reusable straws. See their Alternatives List under Resources to get started.
  • Get rid of straws completely.
  • Download their Free printable graphics to post in your establishment that will illustrate for your patrons the benefits of their plastic straw free beverage.

It’s an invitation to all bars and restaurants, to be part of the movement to eliminate plastic pollution from the source. As an official Plastic Straw-free Business Leader they will feature you on their list of participating businesses on their website and provide links to your establishment. They will promote your business on social media as a responsible business leader looking to be part of a global solution to end plastic waste in our environment.

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Plastic Free Challenge

The epiphany came to Way Papa Muse during a long road trip and lots of take-out food that was inevitably served up without question in styrofoam containers and accompanied by single-use plastic utensils and excessive packaging.

One night in Pennsylvania he brought his own plate into the diner and had his meal served up on that plate. While waiting, he explained the plastic pollution problem to folks around him. He later posted to his facebook page a photo of the waitress holding a meal on a plate, and the post received lots of attention. This got him thinking… “What if I could invite others to do the same, just think what could be accomplished?”

So the Plastic Free Challenge was born, along with its mascot, Twioos the turtle.

This is how it works:

What?

Challenge yourself to avoid using single-use plastics during this social media event. Then document your process and solutions on social media and spread the word!

When?

The social media event launched on Earth Day on April 22nd, 2016 and runs for three months until July 22nd.

How?

Document your creative solutions to living without single-use plastic and post them on social media using the tag #plasticfreechallenge. If you are a musician, artist, or other creative type you can show off your skills by creating a piece that highlights the mission of the Plastic Free Challenge and send it to them.

Plastic Free Challenge banner - plastic-free july

So what am I doing for Plastic-Free July and the Plastic-Free Challenge?

Well, I tend to live the Plastic-Free July challenge year round. It kind of comes with what we do here at Life Without Plastic.

Jay-Plastic-free-july-challengeBut I am by no means perfectly plastic-free. Ha! Far from it – there’s just so much of it out there (and it does serve some useful purposes – like this computer I am typing on). I do sometimes forget to bring my plastic-free tools with me, and that can create complications – especially for take-out – because I do my utmost to avoid plastic bags, utensils, straws and dishes everywhere I go.

So I am going to make an extra special effort to plan ahead and always have my key plastic-free tools with me – in fact, I’ve created a little portable kit that will be with me much of the time. You can see me wearing most of it – all available at Life Without Plastic, I might add – in the selfie on the right… bag, bottle, straw, sporkutensils, container. (By the way, no, sadly I am not related to Harry Potter; that scar on my forehead came from a tumble down the stairs at age 18 months. I thought I could fly, and did for a second or so.)

How about you?

Jump into the challenges above and do what works for you to avoid ALL or at least the TOP 4 single use plastics!

It’s addictive and gloriously habit-forming. And as the three examples above of powerful wave-making plastic-free movements show, the impact a single person can have on the world is HUGE. So go for it. Create your own plastic-free movement!

6 thoughts on “Embrace Plastic-Free July: The Power of Individual Action”

  1. Well said! Nowadays the use of plastics carriers overwhelming and it just ruined our environment. We all should aware on this and avoid plastic carriers. Thank you for sharing this post.

  2. Within days of our meticulously sorted recycling being collected our bags are already full. Trying to maintain a zero waste household has really shown us how much plastic is forced upon us. A total waste. We try to utilise in the garden as cloches, scoops etc but why do we have to buy a small punnet of fruit or veg in plastic netting and containers. We need smaller producers , local retailers and markets and a less commercial way of living. Great site and thanks for sharing!

  3. I’m wondering if I can return my empty plastic containers to the manufacturer? For example, I still use toothpaste which is in a plastic tube. I’ve got about 5 empty ones now – I plan to send these back to Arm&Hammer with note asking them to reuse or recycle. Has anyone tried this?

  4. Hi there,

    Thank you for your great question. Whether or not a company would take the containers back, I think would be dependent on each companies policy. We would suggest individually contacting the companies to see if it is possible.

    Thank you 🙂

  5. I agree with Sarah Wylie – simply by bringing #plasticfreejuly to the attention of many small business owners you can effect change. Local cafes are more than willing to change their straw supplier to keep their clientele happy – it is simply a matter of raising awareness at a local level.
    If you are reading this you can implement change by refusing and re-using at your local level.
    Thanks,
    Bren

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