by Delaney Baxter Martin and Aryn Aiken
It’s hard to believe how quickly the summer is flying by. July is starting in a few days, which means Plastic Free July is starting, too.
What is Plastic Free July?
Plastic Free July was started as a local initiative in Perth, Australia, but has now grown into an international nonprofit organization. Every July, they run a challenge to encourage participants to refuse unnecessary plastic, to reflect on their impact on the environment, and to connect with other participants in their community and around the globe. Challengers will ditch common single-use items like bags, bottles, straws, and coffee cups, avoid plastic packaging, or go completely plastic free.
Why are we participating in Plastic Free July?
We are participating in Plastic Free July because plastic pollution is a huge problem. Plastic waste is clogging our oceans, covering our beaches, and killing wildlife all over the planet. Not to mention the environmental impacts of plastic production. Luckily, there are so many easy ways to reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfill. This plastic free challenge motivates us to look carefully at our plastic usage and avoid as much of it as we can.
How can you participate?
- Ditch disposables. Single-use, disposable plastics are one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution. Take a look at your trash or recycling bin to see what disposables you use the most and which you can start to avoid. Having reusables on hand can help you avoid single-use plastic bottles, bags, straws, and more!
- Join the clean up effort. Check out events in your area, such as beach or river clean ups, to tackle pollution in your community. Every year, coastal communities around the world participate in an International Coastal Cleanup day. This year clean ups will be held on September 18th. You can always hit the beach, a park, or the streets with a bag (and gloves!) and start picking up plastic waste you see. Taking a few minutes or hours to clean up will help the environment and make your community look better.
- Support local legislation. Take some time to find out what lawmakers are doing about plastic pollution in your area and how you can support it. In New York State, Governor Cuomo has pledged to ban plastic bags in a new bill. NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal is working with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Lonely Whale, and other groups to ban plastic straws in New York City. Get informed and if you’re feeling inspired to take action, consider writing to your representatives to let them know you care!
- Spread the word. Tell all your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, people you meet at the grocery store, everyone about the Plastic Free July challenge and the issue of plastic pollution. Every big movement starts with small actions, but spreading the movement to those around you is key. Post on your social media (with the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly), organize an event in your community, or bring it up when talking to people you know.
- Keep the momentum going for Zero Waste Week in November!