I’m thrilled that we have Annemieke of Plastic Free Tuesday back for another guest blog! Today she shares the story of why she started her plastic-free Tuesday habit, how it helps the environment, and tips for for joining the Plastic Free Tuesday movement.
A few years ago I stumbled upon a TED video in which plastic-free pioneer Beth Terry tells about her plastic-free life. I was intrigued. During the years that followed I increasingly often read and heard about how plastic kills animals and ruins the planet. After seeing yet another photo series of bird stomachs filled with plastic, I decided to do something about it. Because I strongly believe that “we should be the change you want to see in the world,” my goal was to reduce my own plastic consumption and waste. Like Beth Terry, I decided to document my journey towards less plastic. So, in April 2013 I started writing on my Dutch weblog Plasticminimalism.
Tiny steps towards a smaller plastic footprint
Because at that time I had no idea how much plastic I consumed, I began (again inspired by Beth Terry) with weekly tallies of the plastic our two persons household threw away. I put any plastic waste in a separate garbage bag. Every week I took the big black garbage bag with plastic waste, turned it upside down and divided it into categories such as veggies, legumes, and nuts. I would then take pictures of each category, identify key problem areas, and decide which product or category to tackle in the week ahead.
During the week I would try find plastic-free alternatives for each and every product or product group. For example, my goals after the first tally included using reusable bags for all my veggies and fruits as well as buying bananas at the organic supermarket rather than at the mainstream grocery store. Over the course of ten months all these small steps contributed to a great reduction of our plastic footprint. I believe that key to my success was that I only took a little step at a time. Only when I felt that I had created a new habit, I would plan the next step.
Plastic-Free Tuesday = one day no plastic consumption, no plastic waste
Over the course of ten months all these small steps contributed to a great reduction of our plastic footprint. We barely bought or threw away any plastic. Nonetheless, news about plastic pollution kept appearing on television and in the newspapers. I started wondering how I could get more people aware of the problem of plastic pollution.
Suddenly, the concept of Plastic-Free Tuesday came to my mind. Inspired by the success of Meatless Monday, I thought this would be an easy way for people to test what it is like to skip plastic. I discussed the idea with some close friends and then launched the concept on my Dutch blog. Soon my close friend Marlies joined, and in the following months, Gerda and others got on board too.
On Plastic-Free Tuesday we skip plastic to reduce our plastic footprint. That means we don’t buy anything that is made of plastic or contains plastic. We also don’t use anything made of plastic that we have to throw away after using it. So no bananas wrapped in plastic, no plastic bags, no take-away coffee in plastic cups, and so on.
Tips for your first Plastic-Free Tuesday
Before you go for a Tuesday without buying or throwing away any plastic, I would highly recommend to first document the plastic you use throughout a Tuesday. Collect all the plastic you buy or throw away during the day and take pictures of it. If you have a camera on your telephone you could easily take pictures throughout the day, for example of that plastic wrapping around the sandwich you bought for lunch (and the plastic bag you got with it!). You will be surprised how much plastic waste you create. This will definitely be an eye-opener. It will also help you plan your first Plastic-Free Tuesday. Here are five tips to get you started.
Make sure to never leave the house without extra bag(s). I have a couple of shopping bags hanging next to the door. This works fine for me. I always carry a few wherever I go. Other people put an extra bag in their purse, backpack, or in the car.
Get some reusable bags for veggies and fruit. Countless small plastic bags are used for fresh produce. Put your items in your own bags. Stick the price tag on the bag. If you buy only one or two items, simply put the price tag straight on the products. No bags needed! My favorite are Re-Sacks, but you can also try find a local alternative or make your own.
Think beyond the regular grocery stores. Those are filled with plastic. Once you pay attention, you will be amazed by the amounts of plastic in your supermarket. For more plastic-free options, check out local markets and specialized stores such as tea shops and bakeries.
#BringYourOwn bottle, jar, or mug for water, coffee, and tea. For health and environmental reasons, choose one made of glass or stainless steel. A budget option is to reuse a glass bottle you got at the grocery store (for example those for fresh juice or pasta sauce). Living plastic-free doesn’t have to be expensive.
Be creative. Forgot your bag? No problem. Ask for or look for an empty cardboard box to put your products in. Or just simply carry the items in your hands. If you do shopping by car, put the items back in the shopping cart and unload it straight into your car.
Yes, you can make a difference!
While some argue that on a global scale, this won’t make any difference, I strongly disagree. First of all, this argument does not make sense if you reflect on the core of our plastic problem. Where does the plastic come from? How come birds are building nests made of plastic? How did the plastic get into the living environment of the bird in the first place?
Exactly. It’s because you and me are supporting the use of unnecessary plastic in our society by constantly accepting and buying it and then disposing of it. If you and me would not buy any plastic, there would not be any (or at least a lot less) plastic.
Secondly, you are not alone! Over the course of the past year or so, people around me noticed my plastic behavior and started to change their behavior too. Amongst the first to do so were my husband, family, and friends. And in turn, they too inspire others to change habits and are creating awareness about the plastic problem.
So please join us next Plastic-Free Tuesday! Living with less plastic isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Take small steps at a time. For example, start #BringYourOwnBag on your first Plastic-Free Tuesday. Once you’re used to doing that, get yourself a reusable water bottle. And so on.
Small steps matter. Together we can make a difference. Please share your plastic-free story on social media using #PlasticFreeTuesday. For more tips and inspiration, visit our website, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or Instagram and join the conversation!