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Plastic Free July: Tips to reduce plastic use

#Sustainable-living
July 2021

At Ecoliv, as a sustainable home builder, we’re all for exploring innovative and more environmentally friendly ways of not only building homes but also the way we live in them day-to-day in a way that is a little kinder for our planet.

We minimise construction waste by factory building our modules, we utilise sustainable plantation timber to reduce our environmental impact, opt for fully recyclable glass wool insulation.

Our passion for environmental sustainability is exactly why we want to spread the good word about Plastic Free July and share some of the Ecoliv team’s best tips for reducing single-use plastic in the home and the office. Are you up for the challenge?

What is Plastic Free July?

The Plastic Free July initiative was started in Australia in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation Ltd. with the vision ‘to see the world free of plastic waste’.

10 years on and it's now a thriving global movement, with a whopping 326 million individuals participating in 2020. Some of the amazing results from last year’s Plastic Free Foundation Impact Report 2020 are:

  • Participants reduced their household waste and recycling by 21kg per person per year.
  • 900 million kg of plastic waste was avoided altogether.
  • 8.5/10 participants made changes that have become habits and a way of life.

Plastic Free July provides us with a fantastic annual reminder and opportunity for more people to think twice about their plastic use, try out new behaviours and create habits that’ll reduce their plastic use and waste in July and beyond.

The Plastic Free Foundation’s values remind us that ‘small changes add up to a big difference’. So even if you go plastic-free for a few days, a week or all month (or forever!) know every little bit helps move us towards a plastic-free tomorrow and changes the world for the better.

Before we jump into all the possible ways for you to be a part of the solution at home and work, here are some of the environmental reasons why Plastic Free July is important.

Why reduce and refuse single-use plastics?

With only 9% of all plastics ever produced recycled and plastic production set to quadruple by 2050, we need to take action fast to reduce plastic consumption and protect and preserve our natural environments.

Pollution

Plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans, and its devastating and deadly impact on wildlife is one of the most widespread environmental problems on Earth. Three-quarters of rubbish along the Australian coast is plastic where scientists predict plastics ingestion in seabirds may reach 95% of all species by 2050.

Ecoliv Handover flat lay

Switch out some (or all!) of these everyday items to be part of the solution this Plastic Free July.

Greenhouse gas emissions

When plastic is exposed to the elements (like sunlight or water), it releases methane and ethylene as it degrades. As plastic is non-biodegradable, for the majority that is not recycled it just sits in landfill or the environment emitting powerful greenhouse gases that are known to exacerbate climate change.

Fossil fuel consumption

Single-use plastics are made using fossil fuel-based chemicals (coal, crude oil and natural gas) meaning it is a nonrenewable and unsustainable resource. Even recycling plastic eats up fossil fuels. The process of recycling plastic also produces greenhouse gas emissions, as fossil fuels are combusted to run the plastic shredding machines and heating machines necessary to turn plastic waste into other products.

By reducing and choosing to refuse single-use plastics we can conserve our natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect wildlife for future generations.

Ways to reduce plastic use at home

As a starting place we recommend trying to implement just a couple of different plastic-free swaps and changes each week at your place to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few ways you can reduce your plastic use at home this July and long-term.

Shopping

  • Put reusable shopping bags in the boot of your car or fold and place them in your handbag so you can pick up groceries and hit the shops on the spur-of-the-moment minus the need or temptation to use plastic bags.
  • At the supermarket, discontinue putting fresh produce into the plastic bags supplied and be sure to boycott any fruit and veggies wrapped in plastic.
  • Before hitting the ‘buy now’ button when online shopping check with the retailer if they have recyclable boxes and compostable satchels.

Food

  • Order your takeaway from local restaurants that use compostable containers or allow you to bring your own Returnr containers.
  • Support zero waste bulk refill businesses near you. Head to The Source Bulk Foods to fill your containers with all kinds of pantry staples like nuts, grains, rice, tea, cereal, flour and herbs.
  • Some breweries, wineries, distilleries, farmer’s market vendors and even makeup brands take their glass containers back to reuse and may even give you a discount on your next purchase. So don’t forget to ask or check their website for a takesies backsies policy!
  • Skip the baking paper (unfortunately it’s not recyclable) and instead invest in reusable silicone baking mats.
  • Store leftovers and freeze food using beeswax wraps and reusable containers you already have on hand.

Cleaning

  • Say goodbye to plastic bottles by switching from liquid hand wash and body wash to bars of soap.

Support zero waste bulk refill businesses near you. For example, with Roving Refills you can bring your containers and stock up on all your household detergents, laundry powder, shampoo, body wash, window cleaner, deodorant paste and even tooth powder.

eco styles - Modular Homes
eco styles - Modular Homes

Ecoliv Ecological 3 project – opt to refill your household cleaning products and  soap bottles and try out a bamboo toothbrush to get in on the Plastic Free July challenge.

Health and wellness

  • Opt for a bamboo toothbrush over a plastic one.
  • Try out eco-friendly reusable period products like menstrual cups, reusable pads and period underwear.
  • For any households with babies or toddlers, give cloth nappies and reusable baby wipes a try too.

Renovation and decor

  • When renovating select natural and renewable finishes, such as timber or natural stone for your kitchen benchtop over laminate. Check out Paperock, Bette Stone and Parmate.
  • For soft furnishings (like bed linen, curtains and blankets) avoid synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon that break down into microplastics. Look for bamboo, linen and silk options.
  • Invest in floor rugs and carpet made from natural and renewable materials. Such as wool, hemp, sisal, jute and bamboo.
  • Decorate your home with unique furniture pieces made from recycled plastic. Take a look at DesignByThem.

MOON0054 PRINT 006

Ecoliv Cape project – floor to ceiling black linen curtains are an elegant, functional and environmentally friendly addition to this 7.7 energy rated Ecoliv home.

Ways to reduce plastic use at the office

Ditching plastic doesn’t just need to happen at home, there are many strategies for reducing single-use plastics in the workplace. We encourage you to talk about the changes you’re making with colleagues and even see if your workplace can sign up to join the Plastic Free July challenge. Your company may even use July to take action to review single-use plastics used in their operations and seek our more sustainable alternatives. Here are some simple ideas for you and your workmates to take the fight against single-use plastics:

  • Ditch the sandwich bags and cling film. Invest in some quality Tupperware that comes with a lifetime warranty or a bento box style container to take your lunch and snacks to the office.
  • Keep a set of cutlery to the office so you’re not tempted to use and dispose of single-use plastic cutlery if you forget to pack a fork.
  • Instead of buying a bottle of water or a soft drink at lunch, bring a reusable water bottle to refill throughout the day. Add bubbles using a Sodastream before you leave the house.
  • Keep that reusable coffee cup handy. Did you know some cafes even charge less per coffee if you BYO cup? That’s a #moneywin.

More ways you can help

Take the pledge to participate in this Plastic Free July in any way you can, big or small. The great thing is you can customise your challenge to suit you and commit to an amount of time and types of plastic items you’re aiming to reduce (i.e. avoid single-use plastic packaging, target the takeaway top 4: bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups or go completely plastic-free).

If you’re looking for extra ways to get involved and take your Plastic Free July campaign to the next level here are a few suggestions:

  • Share your progress, achievements and talk about what you’re doing to reduce your plastic use on your social media accounts, with family, friends and colleagues. Who knows you may even inspire your mates to join you and you can change your habits together? Join the millions of people globally using #Rethink #PlasticFreeJuly #ChooseToRefuse #PlasticFree #SayNoToPlastic.
  • Every time you leave the house you could aim to pick up five pieces of waste to directly impact the amount of plastic waste ending up in our waterways and oceans. Check out Take 3 For The Sea for more info.
  • Put the pressure on local cafes, restaurants, supermarkets and online stores to do better regarding their use of plastic packaging. For example, ask your favourite cafe if they’d consider discounts for reusable coffee cups and customer supplied containers.

Whether this is your first Plastic Free July or you’re a seasoned plastic-free veteran, we hope we’ve inspired you to take some form of action to reduce and refuse the use of single-use plastics this month and into the future. Remember every little change and chat about our plastic use makes a difference. Together we can all make an impact on plastic pollution and all the best with the challenge.

Contact Ecoliv today to start the process of building your dream (green) home.