Embrace Plastic Free July with our approachable guide to reducing your everyday plastic footprint

While reducing the use of single-use plastic has long been a key focus for many of us, we’re embracing Plastic Free July 2021 as a prompt to renew our efforts in various aspects of our lives. A worldwide movement initially started by The Plastic Free Foundation, Plastic Free July encourages us all to be a part of the solution by actively making better choices for the month that will, hopefully, continue long after July is over.

This year’s occurrence comes hot on the heels of the New Zealand government’s exciting announcement that, from late 2022, a host of single-use plastic items are to be phased out and eventually banned by 2025. These include single-use plastic plates, bags, cotton buds, drinking straws, fruit labels and some polystyrene products, and a new fund will also be launched to help find alternatives to plastics.

Not-for-profit organisations like Sustainable Coastlines are industry leaders when it comes to action and education around eliminating litter, and an Auckland-based event is occurring on Saturday the 3rd of July with all proceeds to be donated to the charity. Attend This Is The Last Straw at Warren & Mahoney Architects’ Pakenham Street West offices, and there will be short films, educational talks (from the likes of Chloe Swarbrick and Mirama Kamo) and plastic-free drinks and snacks to encourage you to do your bit. Find tickets here.

Otherwise, here are some ways throughout the home and the day that we can individually reduce our plastic usage — during Plastic Free July and beyond.

In the bathroom:
Use shampoo and conditioner bars
Clean, healthy hair, and without a plastic bottle in sight, shampoo and conditioner bars are the future of eco-friendly hair care. Ecostore recently released its first batch of the clever products to very eager uptake; made from plant and mineral-based ingredients, they are vegan, 100 percent soap-free and have a mild pH.

For travelling, eco-conscious blogger Ethically Kate recommends cutting just what you need off your haircare bars, and drying them off before storing in a reusable container.

Clean smarter
Ecostore’s genius new Cleaner Concentrates are a clever way to reduce your plastic use when it comes time to make your bathroom sparkle. Packed in tiny glass bottles with recyclable lids (creating 90 percent less plastic waste), the formulas are 10-times concentrated and are designed to be combined with tap water in reusable spray bottles. The Bathroom and Shower Refill Concentrate cuts easily through dirt, soap scum and hard water spots using citric acid — a safer alternative to Benzalkonium Chloride that is proven to kill common household germs and bacteria. 

Other personal hygiene swaps you can make if you’d like to reduce plastic:
Use a moon cup.
Use a stainless steel safety razor.
Use a soap bar rather than body wash.
Use a wooden or plant based toothbrush.
Use a natural deodorant with cardboard packaging.
Use cotton face cloths rather than face wipes, and simply wash them after use.
Buy beauty products that are packaged in glass and/or use recycling programmes. Brands to look out for are Emma Lewisham, Rawkanvas, RMS Beauty and Aleph Beauty

In the kitchen:
Wrap food and leftovers with compostable or biodegradable food wrap products.
Technology has advanced to impressive degrees when it comes to replacements for cling wrap. Local company Compostic offers a compostable “plastic”-like wrap that is spookily close to the real thing, yet breaks down in 24 weeks in a home compost and 12 commercially. If a compost bin isn’t within reach, bee’s wax wrap is a good reusable option, and If You Care offers compostable baking paper, available from Huckleberry. 

Other food and kitchen hacks for reducing plastic:
Use wooden scrubbing brushes and kitchen tools.
Use biodegradable bin liners.
Use a keep cup.
Use a reusable drink bottle.
Use a glass or metal straw. 
Take your own container when ordering lunch to takeaway.
Take a mason jar and reusable straw for smoothies.
Take your own container to bulk bin stores (such as Sprout the Grocer or GoodFor Wholefood Refillery) to replenish pantry stocks of dried goods, spices and snacks.
Buy cleaning products designed to reduce plastic waste, such as Ecostore’s aforementioned Cleaner Concentrates.

In the wardrobe:
Wear a reusable face mask
With the government mandating mask-wearing on Auckland’s public transport and on domestic flights, it’s time to make mask-wearing a regular habit again if you have dropped that in the interim. Rather than contribute to the many single-use masks that are landing in our oceans, purchase one or two reusable cloth masks — find plenty from both local and international makers here.

Prioritise buying clothes made from natural fibres
If you’re after some new threads, make sure you look at the care label if plastic is something you’re looking to banish from your life. Polyester and cotton-blends are known as the styrofoam of the fashion world – impossible to recycle, when clothing made from this ends up in landfill it’s in there for the long haul. Materials like wool, silk, cotton, linen, merino, Tencel (made from wood pulp), hemp and even leather — provided it’s vegetable-dyed – are biodegradable options. 

Carry a reusable bag in your handbag
Pretty self-explanatory — and with the plethora of canvas bags it’s possible to accumulate, why not keep one at the office too, just in case?

For more tips and tricks, visit the Plastic Free July website.

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