Going Plastic Free This July

Published July 07, 2014

by Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

It’s the beginning of July and I’m looking forward to celebrating summer in all of its glory – watermelon, blueberries, steamed crabs, swimming, picnics, fireflies, trips to the ocean, etc.  July means we are squarely in the sights of summer; the new school year is comfortably far ahead of us, days are long, nights are warm and we are looking forward to vacations and time with family and friends.

To be completely honest, however, there is one thing about July’s arrival that's making me a tiny bit nervous. Months ago, I made the public commitment to participate in Plastic Free July.  It’s a global campaign designed to make us think about how we use plastic in our daily lives and an effort to get us to eliminate single-use plastic (plastic that is used only once, usually for just a few minutes, and then sent to the landfill or recycling facility) from our routines. 

Last year, I participated by vowing to eliminate the “top 4” from my routine for the month and ultimately forever.  The “top 4” are the most commonly used single-use plastic items and consist of straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles and coffee cup lids.  

This year will be harder. I’d pledged to try and eliminate all single-use plastics for the month. I’ll be stepping way outside comfort zone here and don’t have any pre-conceived notions that I’ll be 100 percent successful.  My true goal, instead will be to get a better handle on my current consumption of single-use plastic, discover ways to regularly reduce its use and incorporate a few of those new ideas into my life going forward.  Small steps, I know; but steps in the right direction.  

Knowing this will be a significant challenge, I’ve made a few rules for myself:

  • Commit but don’t kill yourself – I’m a working mom with limited free time.  I want to learn from this experience not regret it!
  • Don’t stress about things beyond my control – I’m going to concentrate on things that I can change (how I purchase milk, bread, etc.) not things I can’t (I have never been successful at stopping home delivery of our free local paper, conveniently wrapped in plastic, and I don’t expect to magically become successful this month). That is a challenge for next year.
  • Take at least three lessons learned from this experience and make them a permanent part of my routine.

I made this pledge long before I had done any real research into what it would take to make it happen, and that is a good thing.  If I had known what I was getting into, I’m not sure what I would have done.  But, I made a promise and I intend to keep it – and learn some valuable lessons along the way.  

I also engaged the rest of the staff in the Aquarium’s Conservation Department to join me.  We’ll be sharing our progress with you through this blog and through social media (#PlasticFreeJuly) throughout the month.

Stay tuned to see how we do – and try it yourself! Together we can make a difference for our blue planet. 


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Laura Bankey

Director of Conservation

National Aquarium - Laura Bankey

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