Somehow we are already almost halfway through 2021! As we approach July, many of us are gearing up for another Plastic-Free July! Plastic-Free July is a campaign that began in 2011 to challenge people to reduce their plastic consumption!
Whether you’re just beginning your sustainability journey, or are fully ready to ditch plastic, the Plastic-Free July challenge is for you. In this post, I’ll share 5 sneaky plastics to try avoiding or reducing this summer + some ideas for plastic-free swaps!
1. Chewing gum
Have you ever opened a pack of chewing gum and wondered what the stuff is even made of? The answer, unfortunately, is plastic. While historically chewing gums have been made from sap, modern chewing gum is made from synthetic rubber. This means it’s going to be present in the environment long after we’re done with it. In fact, gum is a commonly littered item that we often walk right by!
The good news is there are plenty of ways to freshen our breath sustainably. Chewing mint leaves is a great way to get some fresh breath in a plastic free way (plus mint is a very easy plant to grow!). Dried liquorice root is another alternative that may work for you. Mint candies sold in bulk bins or recyclable/reusable packaging are another option that may be more accessible. Finally, there is now a chewing gum company that makes a fully biodegradable chewing gum! Check out Chicza to learn more!
2. Polyester (+ other synthetic fabrics)
Now that summer is on the way, many of us may be swapping out our winter wardrobe for some summer clothing! While doing this, you may notice the tags on your clothing and wonder what “polyester” or “spandex” actually is. In short, it’s more of those sneaky plastics. These materials are incredibly common in fashion, which is why we need sustainable fashion!
One way we can reduce our plastic consumption is to opt for natural materials when buying new cloths. For example, plant-based fabrics like organic cotton, linen, hemp and even bamboo are becoming more widely available for purchase. You can learn more about sustainable fabrics by checking out this post! Buying second hand is also a great way to refresh your wardrobe in a sustainable way. You can do this by checking out in-person thrift stores, or by shopping online at stores like Poshmark, Depop or even through Facebook Marketplace!
If you already own items made from synthetic fabrics don’t throw them away just yet! The most sustainable thing is to use what you already have. However, there are ways that you can reduce producing microplastic waste when washing synthetic materials. Consider attaching a filter to your washing machine or buying a filter bag to catch microplastics.
3. Phone cases
July means warm weather, warm weather means more time at the pool or by the water and that means potential for water damaged phones. If you’re worried about needing a new phone or phone case, consider protecting your phone with a compostable case by Pela.
Speaking of warm weather, it’s time to look into protecting our eyes and skin from the sun! Cheap plastic sunglasses are a dime a dozen at your local dollar store, but what happens when they inevitably break? Landfill. That’s why companies are now making sunglasses that can be composted! Yes you heard that right! Check out these shades, again from Pela!
Now let’s talk about sunscreen. Truthfully there are not many options for a good plastic free sunscreen, you can check out this post for a full breakdown of the options.
Another sustainability concern with sunscreen is in the ingredients, as many are harmful to coral reefs. Consider swapping out your usual sunscreen for one that’s better for aquatic ecosystems this summer, even if it contains plastic packaging. This site gives a good overview of what to look for.
Physical barriers from the sun are another great alternative! Choosing clothing that is lightweight and covers areas prone to sunburn, wearing hats etc. are all great ways to reduce how much sunscreen we need. This also helps us to use less sunscreen, which is better for the coral reefs and reduces our plastic consumption too!
Don’t Worry About Perfection
Remember, Plastic-Free July isn’t about being perfect. Individuals should not be expected to take the brunt of the responsibility for plastic pollution. The goal of this challenge is simply to gain a better understanding for the prevalence of plastic in our everyday lives. Sneaky plastics are literally all over the place. But we can change things up!
Ultimately though, we need corporations and governments to step up and prioritize fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gasses. So in addition to individual action, it’s vital that we stay informed and hold institutions responsible.