I'm breaking up with plastic.
Despite missing Plastic Free July - a well known Plastic Free Challenge, it's never too late to jump on the bandwagon and commit to a challenge of your own. So beginning Monday, August 12th, I'll be doing my own Zero Waste Challenge, and I'd love for you to join me.
Though I already consciously avoid buying products packaged in non-recyclable plastics, since learning that 91% of what I've been recycling in the USA ends up in landfill, I decided it was time to up my game.
Why am I suddenly inspired to go plastic-free?
Since traveling full time, I've witnessed many situations which have made me realize how thoughtlessly and selfishly we're living our lives. If you stop to people watch, you'll also be shocked to see how indifferent people are to their consumerism and the unnecessary waste they're creating.
Shoppers walk around Walmart with their overflowing carts to fill the void in their lives. Starbucks customers order their iced skinny mocha with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle in a take out container, only to drink it in store then throw the cup in the trash once they're finished. I can't decide if they're unaware, or just don't care that Starbucks has mugs and glasses for in house beverages.
At this point, it was just frustration quietly but steadily boiling inside of me. The moment that tipped me over the edge was during my volunteer experience in Costa Rica with the sea turtle conservation while we cleaned the beach of trash that had washed up overnight. I picked up a worn down Colgate toothbrush; it was obvious it had been floating around the ocean for a while. That toothbrush was the same type I was currently using, and at that moment, I got off my high horse and realized I wasn't much better than the rest of them.
Costa Rica is handling sustainability so incredibly well, intending to be first the first carbon-neutral country by 2021. The fact that they're doing it as a developing country gives us hope that we can do this too.
Yes, I understand a lot of change needs to be made by the fishing industry, large corporations, and other businesses. However, if we boycott products because of their poor choice in packaging, product-based companies will have no choice but to change the way they do business. It's a great place to start.
What are the goals of this plastic-free challenge?
Buy less. As a result of this zero waste challenge, I want to use what I already own, therefore buying less. Consumerism has us wrapped around its little finger – we often feel the urge to get our credit card out to feel fulfilled. Am I right? I want to break that mindset by thinking twice before buying more products.
Save money. Buy making more conscious decisions I'm hoping to save a few dollars during this challenge. Most people are under the impression that this an expensive lifestyle, but it doesn't have to be.
Spread awareness. You don't need to be an eco-warrior to do your part. We all just need to take baby steps, show each other alternatives, and give encouragement.
But how bad is this plastic problem?
If you're still in need of a little motivation, have a read of these horrendous facts:
One plastic bottle takes approximately 450 years to decompose, yet around the world, one million plastic bottles are bought every minute.
Worldwide, 2 million plastic bags are distributed each minute and are used for an average of 12 minutes.
Plastic kills over 1 million animals each year via choke hazard, suffocation, or malnutrition.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.
What are the rules of the 'Plastic-Free Challenge'?
I posted a poll on Instagram and had the people decide on the rules. Thank you if you were one of them!
These are the rules for the plastic-free challenge:
What is not allowed:
Purchasing of plastic products or products which are packaged in plastic, including recyclable ones.
A big shopping trip before the challenge starts.
What is allowed:
Natural materials such as glass, tin, ceramic, paper, and cardboard as long as they're recycled.
Biodegradable and compostable plastics if disposed of correctly.
Products already owned whether they contain plastic or not.
At the end of the challenge, I'll weigh the plastic I've accumulated and convert the weight to hours. These hours will then be spent volunteering at a beach clean up wherever I am at the end of the challenge.
Have you done the plastic-free challenge?
This challenge isn't to restrict yourself; it's about making health-conscious decisions and choosing eco-friendly alternatives to lessen the waste we put back out into our world.
I will never be a perfect human being in regards to the environment; I'll still catch flights and take long showers. But if I can just do this one thing, and encourage others to make better choices as well, that's a great beginning.
Many people use their vacation as an excuse to let go of their responsibilities. I'm here to show you that traveling waste-free is possible.
I'll be sharing my tips for the zero plastic challenge in another blog post. Please reach out if you have done this before, or would like to end your relationship with plastic as well.