On the first weekend in July 2023, I overcame a personal challenge which was to run the Gold Coast Half Marathon. During the run, I thought a lot about Plastic-Free July. Don't ask me why; I had over two hours of running which was plenty of time to think.
I didn't expect the sheer amount of plastic waste the race generates, or I hadn't given it much thought. Each runner was given a plastic, non-recyclable tote bag, which I promptly declined. The lady who gave me my badge laughed and thought I was cute by denying the bag. So there weren't many who did. That makes me sad.
Over 25 thousand runners over the weekend mean a lot of running gels, plastic water bottles, plastic tote bags, and goodness knows what else.
Nevertheless, we must continue the war on waste and not give up. Every single swap or denial of a single-use plastic item that harms this planet counts.
So let's dive into a more positive vibe by looking into the history of this excellent awareness month.
How it started.
The Plastic-Free initiative originated in Western Australia in 2011. It was founded by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, a local environmentalist, and her Western Metropolitan Regional Council colleagues. The campaign started as a small local event to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of single-use plastics on the environment.
The concept gained traction and spread globally, inspiring individuals, communities, and organisations to take action and reduce their plastic consumption. Plastic-Free July has become a movement that encourages people to challenge themselves to refuse single-use plastics for the entire month of July, intending to create long-lasting habits that reduce plastic waste year-round.
The campaign's core message is centred around empowering individuals to make small changes in their daily lives that significantly impact plastic pollution. It highlights the importance of choosing reusable alternatives, minimising plastic packaging, and raising awareness about the environmental consequences of our plastic consumption.
Looking for ideas?
Here are five easy swaps that can kickstart your journey:
The Snack Swap:
I've unleashed my inner chef and embraced the art of homemade healthy snacks. If you and your family go through as many snack bars, biscuits etc. as we go, this is a great swap that saves you money, helps control calories and reduces waste. All you need is a few essential ingredients you can add to as you like, including rolled oats, banana or any soft fruit, dates, peanut butter, hemp seeds or flour, nuts, chocolate chips and vanilla essence. Combine and bake for 40 mins at 180 degrees Celsius. If you want to make cookies, just blitz the oats before combining them and bake on higher for a shorter time.
You know how we love refills here at Eco Turtle Life. But there are so many items you can refill that save you lots of time, money and reduce waste. I now have a refill pack cupboard for cleaning with refills for laundry, dishwashing, and hand washing. Many of those items are dual-purpose, and I always have big bottles of white vinegar and bicarb soda to hand. Removing toxic cleaning products has been a fun and noticeable swap, and I could never return. Other items like my dog wash refill pouches. Of course, the skincare refills are kept in a different place, with almost all beauty items swapped for reusable and refillable packaging. It helps to have a location to store empties so that when the box gets full, it's time to return or replenish.
Reuse Reuse Reuse!
I absolutely LOVE reusable items. It's become such an easy practice. The things I once thought I could never live without are long forgotten, like cotton buds, face pads, cleaning products like plastic sponges, wipes, beauty travel minis, single-use coffee cups, plastic water bottles, and plastic bags. The eco-friendly alternatives have been a fun pleasurable adventure! I've swapped my disposable body and household cleaning tools for reusable ones. AND they have saved me so much money and time.
Plastic bag swap:
Most places don't supply plastic bags, so this one is almost forced, but restocking your car, backpack, or handbag is much easier than you think. It's all about getting into the routine and constantly replacing it immediately. That way, you will always have at least one when you are out. Refusing single-use plastic bags when you are retail shopping is the best thing you can do for the planet. Like the GC marathon example, every 'NO' counts.
STOP Plastic Bottles:
The one thing I see and pick up consistently and the one item that takes up the majority of litter and waterway waste. Plastic water bottles or drink bottles. I see all sorts of drink bottles lying on beaches, in my local neighbourhood, waterways, drains, you name it. It's unfortunate. I would instead go thirsty than have to buy one, and I do not accept 'free' ones on planes or at events. I make sure I carry my reusable bottle everywhere. This one gets to me the most because it's so evidentially a significant issue. At the gym I like to take count of how many people have single-use water bottles in a class, its normally over 50%! At almost $6 a pop that's not only bad for your health (leaching plastic chemicals due to high temperature's in the gum) but bad for the wallet and the planet. The trick is to find a durable, robust and reusable water bottles that will last a while.
Together, we make a difference.
Plastic-Free July has garnered tremendous support worldwide, with millions of participants from over 170 countries joining the movement each year. It serves as a platform for education, advocacy, and community engagement, inspiring people to rethink plastic consumption and encouraging businesses and governments to implement sustainable practices.
The success of Plastic-Free July has led to increased awareness about the global plastic pollution crisis. It has sparked conversations and actions towards finding sustainable alternatives. It inspires individuals and communities to reduce plastic waste, contributing to a cleaner and healthier planet for future generations.
Remember, the plastic-free journey becomes even more rewarding when we encourage our family and friends to join us. Let's inspire others with our comical mishaps, creative swaps, and the joy of living with less plastic. Together, we can make a difference this Plastic-Free July and pave the way for a brighter, greener future!
Much love: Tam & Gav x