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Plastic Free July: Checking In

by Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

Published July 17, 2014

When I accepted the challenge to commit to a Plastic Free July, I knew it was going to make for an interesting month. I knew if I took a hard look at choices I make on a daily basis, some real changes had to be made. After all, if you looked in my recycling bin every week, almost one half of the material in the bin is single-use plastic.

I jumped into this experiment knowing that I had a bit of an advantage over many others taking the challenge, primarily in the food category. Not only do I grow some of my own vegetables but I also belong to a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) Coop that delivers locally-grown produce to me once a week. Food is a significant source of plastic packaging and by taking these steps; I’ve already eliminated several sources.

What I completely underestimated, however, was the pervasiveness of single-use plastics in all my other food choices. I thought it would be easy to buy in bulk, find products that had alternative packaging, or simply do without for a month.

These things I quickly realized:

  • Buying in bulk is kind-of fun and gives you complete control of only purchasing the quantities you need but some of the choices of food available in bulk are limited. Luckily, there are several bulk candy stores near by office and I can easily find my favorite coffee sold in bulk so I have sugar and caffeine covered for the month. 

  •  Even alternative packaging has hidden (or not-so-hidden) plastic. Milk, for example, besides being sold in plastic jugs, can also be purchased (or delivered to your doorstep) in glass bottles or cartons. Unfortunately, even the glass bottles have a plastic cap and plastic handle and the cartons are actually made of compressed layers of paper, foil and plastic. 

  • By temporarily giving up food that is only available in plastic packaging, I’m eating much healthier. I’m drinking mainly water and fresh lemonade and have generally given up on snack foods. 

  •  While I had grand visions of baking my own bread and making everything from scratch, reality quickly set in and I’ve had to rely on others to help me out. Luckily, I’ve been very successful in finding stores that don’t even blink when I ask about alternative packaging for my food. When I’ve requested “no plastic” they readily come up with an alternative.

There have been some happy surprises during the first half of the month as well as some frustrations. In general, I’m paying much closer attention to my purchasing choices than I thought I would have to – and that is, after all, the whole point of this grand experiment. If you haven’t taken the challenge yet, it is still not too late.

Challenge yourself to live plastic-free for a day or a week. Discover what you can do to make a difference and share your progress with us online using #PlasticFreeJuly!

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