When I first started Plastic Free July, I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. Anyone taking a walk through a supermarket can see that we have a serious reliance on single use plastics. As a society we value convenience above almost everything else, including our beautiful planet. So, I fully understood that I was going to have to make some serious habit shifts to be able to get through the whole of the month. In fact, I was even prepared for some slip ups along the way.
However, what I wasn’t prepared for was just how many times I would slip up. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be so hard.
Technically, I completely failed. As hard as I tried and as much I learnt throughout the month, I definitely wasn’t completely “plastic free”. Or even nearly plastic free, for that matter. I bought more items than I can count wrapped in the stuff and I felt horribly guilty every single time. I found it all pretty disheartening. For a minute there I felt like I needed to be stripped of my eco warrior card.
However, after reflecting on the whole experience – successes, failures and all – I’ve decided that I did a pretty bloody good job. I think it’s easy to get wrapped up (no pun intended) in being the perfect zero-waster when you see people online who can literally fit a year’s rubbish into a mason jar. But it’s a process. Yes, I failed at being plastic free in July, but that’s okay. Here’s why.
I don’t live near a bulk food shop and I’m also survive on a student budget. So, it simply wasn’t possible for me to get all of the groceries I needed without plastic, unless I drove over an hour away. And, let’s be real, that isn’t exactly helping to “save the planet”. Whilst I definitely learnt ways around using a lot of supermarket plastic (buying produce loose, buying from independent shops and asking for items not to be wrapped, and hunting down products in cardboard boxes), I still had no other option but to purchase some food items in the stuff. I think that the reality is, unless you are relatively wealthy (environmentally friendly products in supermarkets are generally more expensive) or are lucky enough to live a short distance away from a bulk shop, it’s a hell of a lot harder to be entirely plastic free. So, the fact that I even managed to reduce my disposable plastic use by the amount that I did is a huge achievement in my eyes.
Secondly, despite my slip ups, I learnt a hell of a lot. As ridiculously cliche as it sounds, for every mistake I made, I learnt a lesson. When I asked for a glass instead of a plastic cup but still got a disposable straw, I realised that I needed to make a point of asking for no straw as well. When I ordered from amazon without thinking and ended up with reams of bubble wrap, I realised that a trip into town to get the books I needed would be worth it, despite the extra time it might take. And for every cardboard box I bought that had a hidden plastic bag inside, I learnt to put less and less trust in “green washed” packaging. It sucked at the time and I felt seriously guilty, but it also made me a better ethical consumer in the long run.
Being an ethical lifestyle blogger has made me painfully aware of all of my flaws as a consumer, but I’m making a conscious decision to no longer feel guilty for the mistakes I make (or the things I can’t physically change!) whilst I’m trying to be a better version of myself. Plastic Free July, you’ve been one hell of a journey and I’m partially glad to see the back of you! Now that the pressure is off, I’m looking forward to using all of the lessons I’ve learnt through the rest of the year.