It’s official: I have made it through two weeks of Plastic-Free July! I chose to share my PFJ updates on Wednesdays because they are often referred to as the “hump” in the week. Given how this week has gone, what better day to talk about pushing through a tough challenge than Hump Day?
This week has been one for the books. A few hours after my last blog post went live, I was munching on one of my favorite snacks, Pretzel Crisps, when I finished off the bag. I was suddenly faced with a realization: the bag that only moments ago had elicited such joy was now yet another piece of unrecyclable, single-use waste.
Shortly following this thought, I began poking through my cupboards and fridge to examine all of my food. I was quickly overwhelmed by what I saw. Plastic encased my cereal, the frozen veggies in my freezer, both jars of peanut butter in my pantry (because anyone who truly knows me knows that peanut butter is life), and all the condiments in my fridge, just to name a few things.
In that moment, while staring at the accumulation of single-use plastics that I’d purchased, the plastic-free challenge seemed impossible. Does anyone else undergoing the challenge relate? (Spoiler alert: you’ve got this!)
So, today’s blog post is all about the DOs and DON’Ts that I’ve learned so far during these two short weeks.
First things first: DON’T beat yourself up over the things you’ve already bought prior to the challenge.
This thought refueled my desire to continue the challenge. Why? Because, even if I were to give all of those items away to someone else, it was ultimately me who bought them. In other words, I already gave a big thumbs-up to the company who packaged those goods that said, Why, yes, please keep needlessly making more flimsy plastic that will end up in a landfill somewhere because it was purposefully put into an “unrecyclable” category!
I found a great example of this while making a cup of tea for myself on Sunday. I opened the box to grab a tea bag and found that each tea bag was individually packaged in unrecyclable plastic sleeves:
Does this mean that you have failed the challenge if you have shared this same realization? I’d like to think it doesn’t. Personally, I recycle what I can, and have already put some thought into the things I can change to prevent myself from putting out as much plastic waste.
For example, instead of getting a frozen bag of broccoli from the store, I could go to the Farmer’s Market or produce aisle instead. The awesome thing about the Farmer’s Market in the town where I live is that it runs each Saturday morning, rain or shine. Plus, I can support locals with their own sustainability efforts, which is pretty cool!
DO make sure to plan ahead for trips!
If you are planning to go on a trip at some point, this advice is definitely for you. The best way to minimize the amount of single-use plastic you’ll come in contact with on your trip is to get all of your favorite snacks/meals and drinks ready ahead of time in reusable containers.
This weekend, I went on a six-hour road trip to attend my best friends’ wedding shower. (You do what you’ve got to do for your friends, especially if you’re maid of honor!) In preparation for Friday night’s drive after work, I packed some Taquitos in a to-go container and refilled my water bottle. My roommate also packed her own snacks and water bottle. As silly as it seems to celebrate that minimal preparation, it kept my roommate and I satisfied the whole drive without any additional stops for food/drink!
Unfortunately, my planning fell short as I fell victim to single-use plastics on Sunday’s journey back home. I had a pounding headache, which caused me to feel extremely nauseous. As a regular coffee drinker, I sometimes get caffeine headaches when I haven’t had a cup in a while, so I chalked it up to one of those.
And, as sad as I am to admit it, I found myself with two of the “Big Four” in hand once again along with an espresso shot in a plastic container:
Lesson learned, however, and I will now pack a reusable coffee container when I embark on future trips. 🙂
And speaking of planning, DON’T go to the
grocery store without a plan.
Did you notice that I purposefully struck out “grocery” in the title? That’s because it’s important to have the proper planning when going into any store to prevent leaving with a plastic bag.
Up until this week, I had been doing a great job with that one. If I went to the store without one of my cloth bags, I made sure I could easily carry out the few items I needed without a bag. It’s only happened twice so far and felt a little odd the first time, as if I was somehow going to get caught “stealing,” but the second time was a breeze. Just make sure you’ve got your receipt at the ready if an associate stops you.
Another thing I’ve learned is that you should always alert the associate helping you that you don’t want anything bagged (or that you’ve brought your own) as soon as they begin checking out your items. Case-in-point: I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday to pick up a few things and had planned to walk out carrying them.
As the cashier was scanning my items, I ran into a friend and was too busy catching up to notice that she had wordlessly bagged them until I turned to pay. My heart dropped as I walked out of the store with the bag in hand, not wanting to seem rude by asking her to take it back.
But, once again, I am choosing to look at this as a lesson learned rather than a defeat!
Most important of all: DO your best.
If you’ve skimmed past everything else, make sure you read this part because it’s probably my biggest tip of the whole post. Even if you slip up here and there during the challenge, remember that it’s about making you aware of the amount of single-use plastic you are using and showing you ways you could change how often you fall back on them.
While the hope of the challenge is ultimately a lifestyle change once you start seeing more sustainable alternatives for the “Big Four” (among other plastics you often use), it’s definitely not meant to make you feel bad every time you find yourself with one of the “Big Four” in hand.
After all, we’ve already made it through two weeks. What’s a few more?