Top 10 Ways to Sustain a Low-Waste Lifestyle for Plastic-Free July (and beyond)

Top 10 Ways to Sustain a Low-Waste Lifestyle for Plastic-Free July (and beyond)

Plastic-Free July may be coming to a close, but that doesn't mean all our plastic-free efforts have to stop then, too!

What is Plastic-Free July? 

It's an entire month dedicated to raising awareness about single-use and disposable plastics and finding meaningful, attainable alternatives. Beginning in 2011, the movement has grown globally, with each day in July dedicated to a different swap or action we can all take in our lives. 

Plastic Free July® is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution”

For us, it boils down to this: use what you have, start slow, and find products you love. 

Because going plastic-free or low-waste can be a journey and always feels overwhelming at first, we decided to break down our top ten ideas into two categories:

  1. Simple swaps: these are our favourite physical swaps we’ve made of the plastic stuff laying around our house. Requires no-to-low-to-medium investment of your hard-earned dollah-dollah bills.
  2. Lifestyle switcheroos: these are the heart and soul of plastic-free living, the things that will help sustain your swaps beyond July and keep your cup full to continue being a planet-saving badass. Bonus: they are all free!
  1. Switch to bars
  2. Say goodbye to saran wrap
  3. Invest in reusable produce bags
  4. Stash your snacks in silicone
  5. Become a jar hoarder
  6. Support local
  7. Relax
  8. Unplug
  9. Get thyself to nature, stat!
  10. Engage in mindfulness practices

First, the swaps!

Switch to bars

There are a lot of ways to swap out plastic in the bathroom and two of our favourites are shampoo and soap. Did you know both come in bar form?

Bar soap is often cheaper than liquid and you can usually buy it completely unwrapped: we like to load up with a few different scents to keep shower time fun.

As for , we’ve personally tried so many shampoo bars over the years. Often, with sub-par results: some left our hair greasy or didn’t lather well and others didn’t keep their gorgeous scent for too long (all that work to make a bar smell amazeballs with au natural ingredients, and then it just disappears! A travesty.). BUT we finally found one that WORKS.

The High-End Hippie (an Okanagan-based small business) has NAILED shampoo bars. They lather incredibly well, our hair has never been healthier, and they smell great right up until the last wash. 11/10 would recommend.

Say goodbye to Saran Wrap

It's no secret that plastic saran wrap is a dud. I mean, if we’re being honest, it is a bit of a miracle product BUT it's single-use, can't be recycled and isn't very fun when it gets all stuck on itself. Cue a meltdown.

Enter Goldilocks Goods, our go-to for reusable wraps. The Goldilocks team is based in Victoria, BC (hooray for BC Local!) and has crafted a truly winning combination for their wraps. If you’ve never used beeswax wraps before, these are the ones to try: simply warm them up with your hands, cover your bowl, cup, cut food, etc and press down for a long-lasting seal that keeps your food fresh.

The best part: no more tangled wrap!

Invest in reusable produce bags

OK, we may be a little biased with this one (*cough* Market Bags *cough) but really, investing in reusable produce and shopping bags generally is a no-brainer when it comes to going plastic-free.

ICYMI, it was recently announced that plastic shopping bags will be banned in Canada by the end of the year. You can’t believe how many cartwheels we did when we heard the news. We're PUMPED on that. 

However, those pesky single-use produce bags will still be kicking around for a while longer. You know the ones: they tear super easily, aren't great to reuse and well, they're plastic: g-r-o-s-s.

We're huge fans of popping our produce into reusable organic cotton mesh bags for easy transport. Not to mention they'll last for years and when the time finally comes, they can be composted in your back yard (no joke).

Nat removes an orange from the Market Bags mesh cotton reusable produce bag.

Stash your snacks in silicone

Conventional, plastic-based ziplock bags are super convenient for busy people and parents, but good grief, are they ever hard to deal with! Difficult to recycle and sometimes hard to re-use, we often burn through more bags than we need to because of a sandwich blowout or we forgot the chocolate snacks in the back of a hot car, again (oops).

Fortunately, we live in a golden era of reusable ziplock bags. Stasher silicone bags are quickly becoming our personal favourite for reusable ziplock bags. They’re reasonably priced and the best news: buy a few and that’s all you’ll need! Simply wash, rinse, and reuse. A worthy investment.

Become a jar hoarder

Hoarding is no laughing matter but a healthy jar collection is a game-changer when it comes to going plastic-free. Often, we’ll load up on refillable goodies with our reusable bags, then transfer them to jars once we get home. Jars can be used for multiple purposes, from keeping our produce fresh, housing snacks and candies for the kids (or, um, adults), or as vessels for our latest DIY face cream project.

A model refills glass jars from her "Not a Plastic Bag" Market Bags.

Best of all? Upcycled jars are F-R-E-E. Simply wash your old jars and start repurposing! Our favourites to repurpose include wide-mouth salsa jars, pasta sauce, and jam jars.

Now, onto the lifestyle switcheroos!

Support Local

Supporting local is one of our favourite ways to ensure our plastic-free or low-waste lifestyle really sticks. Why? Because local and plastic-free often go hand-in-hand. They are besties.

While it’s not always the case, you’re more likely to encounter goods “unwrapped” (so to speak) at local businesses. Businesses who are making and selling their wares right in the community often don’t have to worry about overpackaging simply because the products aren’t travelling very far! 

And, small businesses often have the flexibility to make their own decisions when it comes to packaging materials. Trust us, we know. We could have easily used plastic hang-tags for our bags but instead, we’ve opted for cute little metal pins (that can be reused to patch up clothes) and plain, cotton string.

Plus, supporting local goes beyond just eliminating excessive plastic from the supply chain: investing your money into your community sends a signal to the world about where your priorities lie: the more you support businesses who are opting to do business differently, the more businesses will do things differently. If this is starting to make your eyes cross, don’t worry, here’s a simpler way of saying it:

We exist as a small, local business because of your support, and we make reusable produce bags in order to help you live your best plastic-free life. It’s all one, big, circular happy dance.

Relax

This is going to sound painfully obvious and maybe a little dumb, but we’re gonna say it anyway: r-e-l-a-x. Rome wasn’t built in a day! It is impossible to go plastic-free overnight and even if you eliminate all the above items from your life, there will still be plastic. Your phone, computer, and car all contain plastic. Unless you intend on moving to the mountains to be a hermit (in which case let’s start an intentional community) you’re going to have to suffer existence with a bit o’ plastic. We’re not trying to be Debby Downer’s over here, just gettin’ real with you. It’s a fact of life in the 21st century. 

We’re not asking you to be an all-my-trash-for-a-year-fits-in-a-thimble type person. We’re asking you to take a deep breath, drop your shoulders, take one step, and then another. You got this.

Unplug

It is sooooooo easy to feel like you’re not doing enough when it comes to low-waste or plastic-free living, when your feeds are filled with carefully curated zero-waste hauls or enviable pantry shelves filled with perfect jars and labels (whose accounts you probably follow for #inspo). We follow those same accounts and we’ve been there. 

Here’s the thing: the comparison game can be detrimental to our actual low waste lifestyle goals! Instead of feeling super-spectacular because you reused a jam jar for your vitamin gummies or that your jar stash is growing, one swipe down the ‘ole Instagram rabbit hole will remind you that your jars still have sticky, gluey bits on them from the label you couldn’t remove and some other account with 500K followers has a jar collection that makes you want to shatter your entire collection.

Let’s face it, it’s really hard not to compare your life with those of others, even if you tell yourself you’re not comparing. You probably are and that’s OK: it’s human nature.

What is the solution to comparison?

Unplug. Set a timer on your social media. When you shut off the feeds (or your apps kick you out, did you know they can do that?! How dare they.) go stand in front of your burgeoning jar collection and give yourself a pat on the back: it probably rocks.

Get thyself to nature, stat!

See above, unplugging. Then, add a healthy sprinkle of nature. As with “Relax” this probably sounds ridiculously simple. “Why are you even bothering to mention this?!,” you might be asking but…here we are, reminding you to go stand under a tree, stare at some flowers, or hike a mountain.

When you’re in nature, all the problems of the world and in your life start to feel itty bitty and it becomes hard to remember why you were so bent out of shape about any of it.

For us, being in nature also serves as a reminder of why we started down the plastic-free path in the first place: to protect our planet.

Engage in mindfulness practices

Yup, we went there: all hippy woo-woo on you. But wait! Don’t go. Hear us out. As with relaxing and getting into nature, engaging in mindfulness practices shifts our thinking. We’ve all had these moments of clarity and peace before, even if they are fleeting (and they are often fleeting). Everything feels aligned, right, and calm. That feeling can be achieved in so many ways: maybe it’s the act of relaxing with a good book; or a silent walk in a forest or field, away from your phone. Maybe it’s meditating or doing yoga that brings you to the here and now. These are all mindfulness practices and we are here for all of it!

Why bother centring ourselves through mindfulness practices?  

When we get present, we can’t spin out into imagined futures. When we centre ourselves, we gain some space between our emotions and the way we respond to them. 

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the state of the world…with a healthy mindfulness practice…we can take a deep breath and focus on the things we can change in our own lives and communities.

Instead of feeling frustrated that we aren’t doing a good enough job at going plastic free…with a healthy mindfulness practice…we can focus on what we have achieved and give ourselves the motivation to keep going.

Instead of feeling FOMO for not having the latest, greatest, Instagram-worthy plastic-free gadget from Ikea…with a healthy mindfulness practice…we can go hug our mismatched jar collection in all its sticky-label residue glory and take comfort in how much of a re-use baller we are.

We hope these swaps and switcheroos help sustain you on your journey towards living plastic-free (or just low-waste)! And, we’d love to know if you have any other tips and tricks that have worked for you. Leave us a comment!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published