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Plastic Free July: 14 Ways to Reduce your Plastic Use and Support Local

July is the month to step up and challenge yourself and others to go plastic-free, or at least cut down on your use of plastic, especially single-use plastic. And why not support local while you’re at it, too?

Plastic pollution is a huge problem across the world. Humans produce an estimated 300 million tons of plastic each year, and this plastic ends up polluting our oceans, dams, and rivers. We need to start taking action.

Plastic Free July is a worldwide initiative aimed at educating people on how to decrease the amount of plastic they use, as well as encouraging people to try going plastic-free for just one month. It’s all about learning to make small changes to save the planet.

This movement provides us with the perfect opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the plastic-free world. You can be part of this movement wherever you are, and there are so many local businesses making it easier for us to go without plastic.

Here are some things you can do to reduce your plastic use right now:

14 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use

1. Say no to straws

Many plastic straws find their way into the ocean every year, often getting stuck in birds’ stomachs and turtles’ nostrils.

If you’re able to cut back on your use of plastic straws, why not? Rather get yourself a set of bamboo, glass or metal straws and take them along to restaurants.

2. Carry reusable bags with you wherever you go

Making sure you always have a reusable shopping bar or tote on hand is one of the easiest ways to decrease plastic use. South Africa alone goes through billions of plastic bags every year!

Vinknes, for example, is a local small business located in Strand making handmade tote bags to reduce the use of plastic bags.

3. Get a reusable water bottle

Instead of purchasing single-use plastic water bottles, invest in a reusable one. Not only are they better for the environment, but it’s a way to save money by not having to buy pricey plastic bottles.

4. Carry a reusable coffee cup with you

Instead of buying your coffee or tea in takeaway cups, carry a reusable coffee cup with you. The lids of these takeaway cups are usually made of plastic, and even if the cups are made of paper, they have a plastic lining.

Bonus: Many places will charge less if you bring your own cup.

5. If you don’t have a reusable coffee cup with you, skip the top

It’s okay if you don’t have a reusable cup with you. Simply leaving the top off your cup is better than nothing! The same goes for fountain cool drinks.

6. Support grocery stores offering alternative solutions to single-use plastics

Some stores and supermarkets, such as Food Lovers Market, offer bulk goods with less packaging. Better yet, support local grocery stores and delis allowing you to buy loose fruit, vegetables, etc.

Here are a few local options to consider:

7. Avoid fruit & veg packaged in plastic

One of the main ways many of us pick up plastic is while grocery shopping, particularly when buying fruit and vegetables packaged in plastic.

Try to avoid fruit and vegetables that come wrapped in individual plastic and instead get them from the bulk section of the store. Some supermarkets, such as Pick ’n Pay, even have reusable produce bags available for sale in-store. If not, simply take your own along!

8. Switch to bar soaps

Instead of pump handwash or shower gel, go for soap bars instead.

“It’s such a simple change – using bar soaps instead of pump soaps – but it can make a big difference for wildlife,” says the Wildlife Trusts.

“Using bars means no more bottles for your soap, reducing the amount of new plastic being made. This also cuts down your carbon footprint, since the manufacture of plastic creates a lot of CO2 emissions.”

If you live in the Helderberg or surrounds and you would like to support local, a few local small businesses selling handcrafted soap bars are Soaponification Soapery and BARE Wholefoods and Deli.

9. Buy loose-leaf rather than teabags

Drink tea? Buy loose-leaf tea instead of teabags, which can have plastic components.

“You may be surprised to hear that many teabags have plastic woven into the fibres, or are sealed with a plastic-based glue,” the Wildlife Trusts write. “Following public pressure, a few companies have committed to eliminating plastic from their teabags, and a quick internet search will show you which brands are plastic-free.”

10. Buy secondhand clothing

This Plastic Free July, void new plastic items and plastic packaging by going thrifting (which is also a new trend, by the way).

Here is a list of my favourite online thrift stores in the Helderberg area:

11. Beware when shopping online

If you order things that tend to arrive in meters of shrink wrap and five layers of plastic, resist the temptation — or ask the sellers to go plastic-free when they ship.

12. Reuse plastic containers for green purposes

Reusing plastic is a good way to keep it out of landfills.

Ice cream tubs can be used as dividers in drawers, containers for leftovers. Start growing fruit and veg in yogurt pots and other small plastic pots before moving them to your garden. Be creative!

13. Switch to plastic-free gifting

When shopping for gifts, opt for gifts that do not contain any plastic. Think handmade fabric products, ceramic homeware, wooden décor and toys, wine, pot plants, flowers, etc.

Personally, I love the idea of giving a little girl an heirloom doll instead of a Barbie doll for her birthday. (Are Barbies even still a thing?)

Here are a few gift ideas for those of you wanting to support local small businesses who have beautiful, plastic-free gifting options available:

14. Make Your Own Beauty Products

Instead of buying beauty products packaged in single-use plastic, make your own homemade beauty products that use fewer ingredients, resources, and packaging.

Will you be joining plastic free July this year? If so, what are you giving up? You can find out more and sign up for the challenge here.

Sources: Bustle, Soaring Free Superfoods

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