Plastic Free July

While we work on maximizing our Wake, lets stop and think about the ebb to this flow.

It’s Plastic Free July (lets just call it PFJ for now) and the sun is HOT in Charleston. Now, PFJ is easily green washed into yet another celebration of consumer shame and personal defeat. However, Wake doesn’t view it like that. We view it as a chance to reset and focus on lifestyle choices that walk the walk of everything we believe in. We view PFJ as an opportunity to open our eyes, see all of the plastic that surrounds us, and helps us reach an understanding of consciously reducing our waste.

I remember the first time we did PFJ and I tried going on a grocery run with high hopes of fresh veggies and sourdough wrapped in paper. It took a lot of learning to figure out a combination of groceries, farmers markets and a CSA to reach a point where we felt like our plastic was maximally reduced. The first time we participated in a truly Plastic Free July (meaning that we did not buy a single thing that came with any amount of plastic) we left the month feeling accomplished, but knew that the lifestyle and compromises we were making were not sustainable for our daily lives year round. But still, it’s fun to challenge yourself and see what habits stick! We will put out another blog post this month about shopping for groceries with a reduced waste mindset. For now, here’s a few tricks to living a sustainable Plastic Free July:

Try first and foremost to not purchase or use any plastic when you can. Look for package free produce or alternatives that come in aluminum or glass instead. When picking up produce from the store you can use a reusable produce bag instead of the plastic ones provided. Alternatively, you can also use no bag at all and put the produce straight into your cart. You're going to wash it when you get home anyways!

Next, be conscious of the consumption of “free” plastics. Straws, utensils, styrofoam are all sneaky plastics preying on our convenience. We are excited that as of this month, the City of Charleston plastic ordinance requires that these plastics only be available by request, rather than the default. We hope this will cause people to pause and consider their true needs and give them more opportunity to refuse unnecessary waste. To be on the safe size, add a note on takeout orders to not put any plastic in the bag (it works most of the time), and refuse straws when out to eat.

When you do have to purchase plastic, try to opt for the “extremes” of plastic. This means either choosing robust options that can be easily recycled, or items packaged with the least amount of plastic. An example for this would be getting plastic bag of grapes instead of grapes in a clamshell container to reduce the amount of plastic headed to the landfill. Alternatively, grabbing a big jug of ginger ale is much better than a six pack of individual bottles.

Plastic Free July can also be an opportunity to intentionally pursue education about local plastic pollution issues and advocate for legislative change. Charleston has a nurdle pollution problem (tiny plastic pellets used in the production process for plastic products). Currently, EPA does not have an established federal rule to address plastic pellets specifically, meaning that spills of these tiny toxic pellets into our water go consequence free. Let your representative know what you think about this!

None of these are hard-and-fast rules. They all reflect an effort to be conscious of consumption and reliance on copious amounts of plastic. Realistically, as individuals, we are not going to eliminate plastic in our lives altogether. However, we can certainly aim for the moon and hit the stars. In a home of two we have reached a good rhythm of filling up the kitchen trash can maybe once a month. Plastic Free July usually unveils the need for even less than that when we combine our efforts with composting.

None of this is a perfect science because everyone is different in their day to day needs, but we have found PFJ to be an exciting time of reset in our year and it encourages us to maintain our intentions year round. We hope you will set one goal this month, weather that is to truly remember to bring your own bags to the store or genuinely go without buying any plastic for the month of July, or more realistically something in between. Every choice we make creates a wake.

Wake Refill is co-sponsoring Charleston Green Drinks on July 11 at Common House Ale Works. We will do a litter sweep at 5:30 and follow it with more opportunity to learn about plastic reduction efforts in Charleston.

Plastic Free July
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