I Tried To Go Plastic Free For One Month, This Is What I Learned

Is it possible to go 100% plastic-free? Well, I Tried To Go Plastic Free For One Month, This Is What I Learned.

Plastic Free July has just wrapped up and according to their latest Instagram post, it was a huge success, with over 3.4 million people from 177 countries taking the challenge to #choosetorefuse single-use plastic. For the month of July, I went plastic-free.

What's the problem with plastic?

The fact that so many people were chatting about it is good news since more reports are surfacing stating that on the current track, oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 (by weight). In fact, there are 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flowing into waterways every single year.

And if you think in Canada these statistics don't apply to us, you are very wrong. 

Three days after Plastic Free July Ended, a team of researchers led by Chelsea Rochman, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto, found that about 31 kilograms worth of plastic bottles, food wrappers, toys, straws and cigarette butts had amassed at the mouth of the Don River in the city's east end over just a two-week period in July.

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A sample of some of the smaller items collected by University of Toronto assistant professor Chelsea Rochman and her lab class. Photo// Chelsea Rochman

Identifying and understanding what types of trash end up in the Don can help give officials the information they need to stem the flow of plastics into the Great Lakes, Rochman said.

"When it comes to plastic pollution (in lakes and oceans) we know the majority of it, about 80 percent, comes from land, with rivers being a major conduit," Rochman said. Adding "plastic production is increasing, and waste management at the moment is staying the same so we have every reason to believe that (plastic pollution) is only increasing over time."

A bunch of ocean microplastic. Pin
Some of the smaller items collected in the study of trash flowing down Don River in Toronto into Lake Ontario. Photo// Chelsea Rochman

In another study, Water samples were taken in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie by the Ministry of the Environment in 2014 found that the number of microplastic particles in the water has grown over the past several decades. Up to 6.7 million particles of plastic were present per square kilometre of lake water, with Humber Bay in west Toronto having the highest concentration, the provincial government found.

Clearly, our obsession with single-use plastic items has reached the point of no return. It's why zero-waste swaps are so essential.

Now I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, but I can honestly say that the general population is simply not getting it. I see it all around me every day.

I see educated people promoting bottled water on their IG accounts. I see people bring plastic cups and straws into the office every day! I want to scream!

They watch my segments on TV and know the issue well but there still seems to be a complete disconnect on their consumption and where their mindless waste is ending up.

Listen I am not going to lie, going 100% zero waste is not easy and it’s because society is just simply not set up that way. Much of our modern technology relies on durable, lightweight plastic materials that are effective and cheap.

But you can start with the big four. There is no excuse in my mind anymore. There are a ton of companies that are making the transition super easy.

Carry a reusable coffee cup, refuse the straw, bring your own bags to the grocery store and STOP buying bottled water!!!! It’s simple! 

For Plastic Free July, I wanted to take my green journey to next-level status and avoid plastic altogether. I am very good with this on a regular basis, but far from perfect that’s for sure, there are times when I am out and forget to say "hold the straw" for example.

It was slightly more challenging than I expected and it was mostly due to hidden plastics that I came across, very unexpectedly!

Hidden plastic

Found inside eco-friendly makeup.

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On my fav body oil!

I Tired To Go Plastic Free For One Month, This Is What I LearnedPin

Inside the lid of all my mason jars.

I Tired To Go Plastic Free For One Month, This Is What I LearnedPin

I realized that my toilet brush has plastic on it.

I Tired To Go Plastic Free For One Month, This Is What I LearnedPin

Produce Stickers, I carry my own bags and cutting an avocado the other day, I saw the sticker, after some research, apparently, the stickers contain plastic, they are made from vinyl and or PVC.

I Tired To Go Plastic Free For One Month, This Is What I LearnedPin

These dumb receipts! Yep they are coated on BPA.

I Tired To Go Plastic Free For One Month, This Is What I LearnedPin

Many receipts are printed on thermal paper, which has a slight sheen to it and a slippery feel and most of them are coated with BPA or BPS, chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system.

My sunglasses, older than the hills, at least! Bought them in a vintage shop, honestly did not even think of the bigger issue surrounding plastic back then! The more you know right?

You get the idea. It's everywhere.

Food shopping is hard enough, to begin with, and when you are shopping at your grocery store, it's almost impossible to go plastic-free. Almost every single item that you place in your cart has some plastic in it.

But once you become mindful of it, it's easier to avoid.

Here are some cool things I learned over the month of July:

I saved money! BIG TIME!

If you buy mainly whole foods and avoid the processed foods (and the packaging that comes with them) you will actually notice savings on your bill. I was less likely to buy junk food and "healthy snacks" that came in either cardboard or plastic.

I cook at home almost 99% of the time and it was much easier to make healthier food. I found it fascinating that reducing plastic use made me eat better!

I packed my lunch daily, avoiding the urge to buy something on the go. I also learned to make guacamole and hummus, because you can only buy those in plastic containers.

I experimented way more with DIY.   You know me, I love a good DIY and share lots of them here on this website.

But I've never really been into making my own toothpaste or deodorant. I tried a bunch of new recipes and am still perfecting them. So my toothpaste and deodorant still come in plastic containers. I had to just accept this fact. If I can perfect the recipes, I will share them with you.

I learned more about how poor recycling is! I became WAY MORE CONSCIOUS! 

The biggest takeaway lesson is that it showed me how impossible it is to be 100% plastic-free, don't get me wrong, I am all for it, and we see lots of big bloggers doing it! But for the average person is simply not an attainable way to live and you will end up giving up before you even begin.

I am so much more aware of where plastic is hiding and have made some great changes to my diet as well. The bottom line, start somewhere! and build from there!

Did you try plastic-free July? What was your experience like?

If you found this post helpful, please help someone by sharing this article – sharing is caring 🙂!

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2 thoughts shared

  1. This is an awesome article! I love that it forced you to notice the details that are often missed by most. I’d be curious to know if you continued to be plastic free or conscious beyond plastic free July?

    Check out the UnEARTH Netted Bag, our non plastic alternative to the Clear Bag Policy! It’s also great for travel, and avoiding those dang plast produce bags at the grocery store!

    Anyway, big fan and enjoyed the read! I did not know receipts had plastic in them!!

    1. Comment author image

      Candice Batista

      says:

      Thanks, Marinna,
      yes, I have continued to try and stay plastic-free, but I will be honest it’s really hard. I do my best and am very mindful of the items I buy. I will take a look at UnEarth, thanks for sharing,
      al my best,
      Candice