Would you quit plastic for the rest of you life? Could you try and spend one month without creating plastic trash? When I took off on my going zero waste journey a few years ago, it was not about the “if”. It was about the “how to”. For me, it has been important to start from where I am. To keep on moving bit by bit rather than trying to reach the mountain peak with one giant leap. Since every journey starts with a first step, that’s the best way to begin. Simply trying it out and focusing on one month is another way to get started.
As a frequent traveller, I didn’t only get confronted with the unfiltered truth and global state of plastic pollution in various countries. It was also a challenge to find and actually live by those solutions myself in different contexts. While curiosity and creativity are definitely precious travel companions, I experienced that the ‘plastic free’ or ‘going zero waste’ way of living and travelling can actually be a gift. It’s a gift that unpacks a lot within you too. It helps you (re)connect to Earth, to the wilderness, and to your own core values. The lifestyle helps you experience the depth and joy of simple things and helps you to be grateful for the things you can’t buy.
Since this gift becomes even more beautiful when shared, I want to encourage you to take the leap and go on your own journey. The #plasticfreejuly or ‘one month without…’ challenge could be a first step; the starting shot to for you too.
No matter if it’s July or any other month. From today onward, you can start your own challenge any time.
If you agree with the following assumption: “it’s less about the ‘zero’ and not about perfection, but about the journey itself” – Do you think you could spend a month without plastic towards going zero waste?
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”Anne-Marie Bonneau
How do you feel about exploring new paths, challenging yourself, trying and learning new things, and stepping out of your comfort zone? What about taking the leap to do things differently compared to old, familiar habits and getting to know yourself in another way?
Does this sound like an adventure to you? In fact, I would say that a month without plastic can be a journey itself, one you don’t even need to leave your country for.
What is Plastic Free July?
In July, millions of people around the world take on the Plastic Free July challenge. They choose to join the global movement by refusing single-use plastics. Whichever “action level” or goal you’re going is completely up to you. From quitting one item (i.e. take-away coffee cups or plastic bottles), or going zero-waste in one specific area (i.e. toiletries), to trying to quit plastic completely. You define the aim and length of your challenge. And this is why you can start at any time. Even today could be the beginning of your plastic-free journey.
Every journey begins with the first step.
Challenge Accepted … Let’s Go!
Let the plastic-free journey begin! Here’s a step-by-step guide to succesfully spend a month without plastic:
1. Set your travel aim and frame and (depending on your timing) register at Plastic Free July
2. Don’t feel like you have to travel solo: choose a challenge buddy, a ‘travel group’, your partner, friends, family members, work colleagues, etc.
3. Equipment: check what kind of gear you need to start your journey. If you’re more of a spontaneous, flexible, and creative kind of explorer – start with what you’ve got. For example: an old glass jar can make a great take-away container for beverages and food. Once you’ve started, you’ll gather more tools along the way.
4. Guidance: Before you go on a journey, it’s wise to dig in deep, do research about the places you plan to travel to, and study maps before you go. That same principle applies to your plastic-free journey. Luckily, we’re blessed to have fantastic resources to share our knowledge. I’m talking about (e)books, the internet in general, social media or just face-to-face conversations. All of this can act as a fantastic support system and wonderful daily ‘travel guide’ for your plastic-free journey in July and beyond.
GO – Go and explore.
A Month Without Plastic: How to Find your own Plastic-Free Flow
The next step is finding your plastic-free flow. Discover bulk shops or stores with package-free options in your area. Stroll through farmer’s markets, and try out new recipes rather than buying packaged, pre-cooked food.
Sometimes your journey may lead you to situations where you have to weigh out the true necessity of your desires. You’ll have to learn to say “no”. You have to start communicating your wishes and needs very clearly, and be prepared to stand out in the crowd.
You’ll be surprised how single actions through your own choices can spread waves, plant seeds, inspire, and empower others to do the same.
Maybe it’s the juice or cocktail you explicitly order with a “no straw, please”. Maybe you’re the only one at your table with this request, but you have to be OK with that. It’s about everyday decisions, like choosing your favorite shampoo that comes in plastic packaging versus a simple shampoo bar. Or maybe it’s the drink or snack you can’t really buy because there are no plastic-free options, even when you forgot to bring your own reusable bag. Sometimes you will be the only person at the bakery that brought their own reusable bag in the first place.
The same goes for learning a new language or being on the road. My advice: stay open-minded, present, patient and friendly with yourself and others. There are interesting encounters and potential conversations just around the corner – little treasures along the way that are impossible to plan ahead. But in the end, these are the true jewels of every journey, aren’t they?
How do you set your own challenge, even if you’ve got plastic-free experience?
What if the ‘land of zero waste living’ is not unfamiliar to you? No worries, you know yourself best – so it’s you who sets the right action level, the one that will still be challenging for you. There are still mountains to climb and valleys to discover! Maybe you could ask a café or bar to ditch single-use plastic or come up with a special solution with them together. Or perhaps you decide to call out companies to take responsibility through tagging and posting pictures of trash you found on your way. Maybe you will take the initiative at work to organise a ban for single-use coffee cups.
If you’re in Europe this summer: have you ever tried to attend a festival without creating trash? Which one of your friends will make it through the festival without single-use plastic? What about catching up with your friends and planning a plastic-free picnic? Those challenges can be a bonding experience for you and your community too.
Taking on the plastic-free challenge while travelling can make your time even more special. It can add another layer of depth to your experience abroad. Why, exactly? Well, you will challenge yourself on a different level. You will need to plan a more ahead and will have to find plastic-free alternatives in an unfamiliar environment.
Don’t underestimate your own choices and actions
You’ll be surprised how single actions through your own choices can spread waves, plant seeds, inspire, and empower others to do the same. No matter if you’ll get a direct feedback or if it happens silently. Through living the change you want to see you certainly show others: it’s possible!
A Journey Towards Solutions
You don’t need to travel far or leave your continent. Even in your hometown, you can catch a hint that plastic pollution is a global, human-caused crisis. Anyone can see that it’s an emergency situation where we have to take action toward solutions. Evidently, we’re all part of the process and it’s rooted in our own daily habits and choices.
What’s important to realise is that many countries may have waste management and infrastructure in place, but throwing our ‘trash’ “away” never means it’s truly away. It’s all connected. Our trash always finds a way back to us and pollutes our home for both animals and humankind: there is no Planet B.
Throwing our ‘trash’ “away” never means it’s truly away.
Environmental studies, health researches, news headlines, and political or economic agreements can be overwhelming and fill up lots of space in the media. We’ve all heard it before: “if we go on like this, there will more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050” 1 or “on average, humans eat a credit card’s worth of plastic each week”2.
And while organized clean-ups certainly raise awareness and bring people together to take action, the actual urgency (besides changing narratives) is finding and implementing solutions to reduce or eliminate plastic use. And the best way to do that is to stop the source of production.
You, yourself and your choices
One part of the solution is with you every day: you, yourself, your choices. Your daily actions and behavior as a consumer, customer, and world citizen are what matter. It’s you – it’s us and we have to be the change we want to see. We must also realize that we, you reading this and me writing this, are in a privileged comfort zone of choosing our lifestyle. Compared to the majority of people, we are generally more able to choose, to act and decide to take on challenges like this. We can even take them on with excitement and a bit of a fun. We can choose to go for it or to ignore this challenge with collective consequences for others and us as individuals to carry.
Plastic Free July or the ‘one month plastic free’ challenge is a call to action, a journey, a new way of discovering life outside of the plastic box – step by step – in July and any month beyond. Let’s turn awareness into action.
This story was written by Milli. She has been on her own going zero-waste journey for more than 2 years and is still learning and exploring. She’s excited to hear about your experience and happy to share her own. She would also love to answer your “plastic free” questions. You can find her on Instagram.
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