Plastic Free July, Plastic-free Life

from Plastic Free July's Twitter feed

Dear Readers,

I don’t know about you, but I like a good challenge. This month, I have been challenging myself to do something that is good for the earth: Plastic Free July.

choose to refuse - plastic free July

I’ve been preparing for this challenge for a while, actually, by investing in reusable alternatives to single-use plastics. I thought I would share some of the products I have found to help me do that.

Stainless Steel Straws

You’ve likely been seeing a lot of news about single-use plastic straws recently. Seattle banned not only plastic straws, but also eating utensils. Starbucks is phasing out the use of plastic straws by 2020. MGM is also ditching the plastic straw. McDonald’s will replace plastic straws with paper ones in the UK & Ireland. (For a full list of all the major companies banning straws, check out this article published by Time.)

Why? What’s the big fuss about with straws? Why are the hashtags #fuckstraws, #thelaststraw, and #strawssuck appearing all over your feeds?

Here’s a few dirty facts about straws.

  • A 2016 study estimates that by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. The second highest plastic pollutant is plastic straws. (The first highest is fishing paraphernalia.)
  • Straws are particularly damaging to the life and health of marine life, such as sea turtles. If you have a strong stomach, check out this video.
  • In Santa Cruz and Monterrey counties alone, beach combers pick up over 5,000 straws annually. Plastic straws consistently make it into the top 10 beach pollutants during International Coastal Cleanup Day.
  • Most plastic straws aren’t recyclable. The average American uses and disposes of 1.6 straws a day. As a country, we use 500 million straws annually, enough to fill Yankee Stadium not once, not twice, but nine times a year.

This is why most people are committing to making their last straw, the last straw that they use.

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And if stainless steel isn’t your thing, bamboo straws are also available, along with reusable plastic straws, glass straws, and rubber straws. The main thing is just to NOT use single use plastic straws!

For those of you interested in purchasing a set for yourself, here’s the link! I would like to point out that these straws DO ship inside the green carry case pictured… wrapped in a plastic sleeve. I was disappointed when I realized this, but it IS listed in the product description… and when I think of the waste I am presenting, the sleeve is incredibly minor in the grand scheme of things.

Glass Water Bottle

glass water bottle
My reusable plastic water bottle

I purchased a glass water bottle from Meijer a few months ago because I felt so. darn. guilty!!! every time I crunched up yet another plastic water bottle. I love my glass water bottle! It’s encased in a decorative silicone sleeve for protection and added grip. Complete with flip top, straw, comfortable sip-system and locking lid, this water bottle keeps me hydrated and healthy.

Here’s the dirt on plastic water bottles.

  • American consumption of plastic water bottles is somewhere between 30 to 40 billion each year.
  • About 17 million barrels of crude oil are spent in the production of these bottles, which are often used once and then disposed of. It takes a quarter barrel of oil to make a single plastic water bottle.
  • Although plastic water bottles are made from PET plastic, which is highly recyclable, in 2016, fewer than half of the plastic water bottles that were purchased were collected for recycling. That means that half of the plastic water bottles sold in 2016 (1 million per minute) ended up in land fills, parks, city streets, or the ocean.

Feminine Products

Okay, ladies: let’s get personal.

Almost all women will, at some point in their lifetime, menstruate. Almost all of those women will purchase disposable tampons, pads, or panty liners. Those products, once used, will be thrown in the trash and taken to landfills across the planet. And not only the products themselves… but the plastic sleeves, applicators, and wrappers they are sold in, and the plastic package exterior, too.

And let’s talk about cost, too. I probably used to spend about $6.00 a month on period products, and I think I’m a cheap spender. Let’s use that number and extrapolate from there. Most women start menstruating at the age of 12 in the US. The average age of menopause is 51 (US statistic as well). Now let’s just talk about the years you personally as a lady will be purchasing feminine care products, and let’s be super generous and assume that for at least 10 years of your life you take birth control.  So let’s say that you are purchasing feminine care products monthly for 23 years of your adult life, and also, to be generous, let’s maybe assume that the cost of feminine care products won’t go up over that span of years. (Don’t worry, they will.) 23 years times 12 months a year times 6 dollars a month is $1,656.00 for your life time. That is $1,656.00 that you literally bleed on and then throw away.

Now let’s talk about quantities. I averaged 15 to 24 pads per menstrual cycle, depending on activity, heaviness of flow, hormones, etc. Throw in a few panty liners for good measure, too, to cover a few days of spotting before or after, or just randomly mid period when my body hated me. There are 157 million women in the United States as of the last census data. All of those women are throwing away pads, tampons, liners, applicators, and packaging daily.

Sustainable feminine care
Natural sea-sponge tampon, Glad Rag reusable pad, and a plastic pad

But now, let’s contrast all that waste with some alternatives. Natural sea sponge tampons turned out to be my favorite. They were comfortable, discreet, durable, and inexpensive. They were also easy to clean–you just have to rinse and wash!

Another plastic-free alternative I loved was reusable, washable, organic cotton pads. I purchased quite a few from Glad Rags via Amazon, VitaCost, and Glad Rags itself. Glad Rags is a women-owned company that I feel good about supporting. Their products are safe, environmentally friendly, cute, and comfy. The drawback was the convenience. It wasn’t easy to use them at work when I was sharing a restroom and work space with others.

I think I invested about $100.00 in reusable period products, and estimate that I have saved myself about twice that amount since switching to reusable alternatives.

Of course, another plastic free alternative is birth control, stopping the flow altogether and eliminating the need for any products, disposable or reusable.

If you can’t go 100% plastic free, or aren’t ready to make that commitment yet, you can choose to support a brand like Seventh Generation or LOLA who make & market organic cotton tampon and pad products.

Coffee Habits

French Press
K Cups vs. French Press

I know this list is getting long, but I am so. freaking. passionate. about this topic!

I’m addicted to coffee, but recently I’ve been trying to make my coffee habits more sustainable by following these tips.

  • Refusing a plastic straw and lid when I order an iced coffee
  • Bringing my own reusable coffee tumbler (for a hot or cold beverage)
  • Ordering my coffee in a mug to be enjoyed in-cafe
  • Electing for brewing a pot of coffee rather than K-cups
  • Using refillable K-cup pods
  • Buying beans in bulk and grinding as needed for small quantity brews
  • Making coffee at home rather than buying it on the road
  • Supporting coffee shops that make an effort to be as sustainable as possible

Well, my dear Readers, I have gone on long enough. There is so much more that can be said for being sustainable, so make sure to check out my Twitter and Instagram for daily inspirational posts about what I am doing to participate in Plastic Free July and how I am learning and growing in the plastic-free lifestyle. (Hint: there are some funny moments along the way!)

Best,

Camille

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