Though I'm unsure why the month of July was chosen, I do know that Plastic Free July is an initiative started in Perth, Western Australia that challenges people to go a month without plastic – either by seeking alternatives for a few key items or going cold turkey on everything packaged. Though I haven’t posted any updates for a couple of months (oops), my own efforts to keep my plastic consumption down have ebbed and flowed with varying degrees of success over 2013. My usage of single or short-term use plastic is way down but I have fallen afoul of hidden packaging on a couple of occasions (namely with appliances, most companies use very little plastic in their packaging these days but you still get the odd anomaly). While I’ve been making decent inroads, it’s probably a good time to try and kick start some new habits for the areas I still haven’t tackled yet. So I’m going to try and go completely plastic-free for the month, and will post a tally of any plastic I do accumulate, plus tips on what I use in an average day and how I found a replacement for it.
The idea of going plastic free might come across as a bit eco-evangelistic to some at times, but it can actually be a useful exercise in examining personal consumption, ego and time management, and to see how these inter-relate. The convenience aspect of plastic wrapped goods is understandably appealing for most of us; juggling work, a family, chores and time out doesn’t always leave a lot of time for conscious consumerism. Plus there is often a higher cost attached to the store bought earth-friendly items. So I think it’s important for those of us who either have or make time to alter our consumer habits to put pressure on manufacturers to provide alternatives and for us plastic-rejecters to share ideas that are easy - and economical -  to integrate into the daily grind. When I mention the notion of ego (and this is something I noticed when I tried to get low-consumption last year as discussed in an earlier post), the practice of restraint or limitation – even for just a month-long experiment in alternative consumerism – can give us a valuable insight into the motivation behind our actions. It’s not only the act of asking ‘do I really need this?’, but ‘why do I want it?’ Food is a slightly different beast than the products of your run of the mill shopping mall consumerism, as it’s a basic necessity, but the same lessons can still apply. Pre-shucked corn wrapped in plastic trays, junk food, overpriced individual snack portions, out of season fruit from the other side of the world; many of these types of items are serving ideals of immediacy, aesthetics and indulgence. I’m certainly not saying there is anything wrong with needing the occasional convenience or reward, but when these become part of a frequent consumer habit (which they have been for me at times), then it’s worth asking ourselves what other factors might be at play. My advice on that score is every time you ask yourself a question - and answer it, get in touch with your inner 2 year old and ask 'but why?' until you get down to the root source of your beliefs...or need the phone number for a therapist ;) Done honestly, it's a very simple yet challenging method of self inquiry.

The other benefit of avoiding plastic – not just to the planet – is that the most available non-packaged foods are often going to be whole foods, and any foods made from refined ingredients we are at the very least going to have to get up and make ourselves. Nuts, fruits, vegetables and grains are the most easy items to get with zero packaging, along with some basic ingredients. Dairy can pose a challenge depending on your location (living in the tropics I am not spoiled for those delis and full produce markets I have enjoyed in Europe and southern Australia), but most processed foods and drinks come off the menu. Of course there are many other plastic items we consume, but I'd argue that our largest and most regular input comes from the food we are purchasing every day, which is why I'll mostly be focusing on this.

Anyway, only a week to go - I'm looking forward to joining the PFJ team for the month!

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