Opportunities. Challenges. Solutions. Plastic Free July 2015

conversationswithmysister_plastic free July
Posted by on August 8, 2015


“Think about it…why would you make something that you are going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever. What’s up with that?”

Jeb Berrier, Bagit Movie


Last month the Health and Wellbeing Committee at my son’s Primary School offered me the opportunity to join them to talk at the school assembly. The intention was to introduce the concept of litter-free lunch boxes and encourage the community to join the Plastic Free July challenge. My contribution was to ‘talk from the heart’ about our family’s sustainable living journey. This request was completely out of my comfort zone however, I agreed to share some everyday tips we have implemented in a quest to inspire others and show how simple (and snazzy) reducing plastic can actually be.


The schools long term intention is for zero waste and by encouraging the use of reusable wrapping or ‘naked’ lunch boxes instead of disposable or single-use packaging (compostable or recyclable items are ok) they are continuing with their commitment to sustainability and the environment. Each Thursday the school garbage bins are weighed to check on progress.


Plastic Free July began in Perth with 40 people and is now estimated to involve 36,000 people in 85 Countries including 104 schools and 391 organisations (this includes 40 cafes). When you begin a Facebook page and it generates 33,000 views and 463 shares in two days you know you have hit a chord.

On last check their Facebook followers were totalling 13K and their newly activated Instagram account was over 1K. Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, the co-founder of the initiative and her team of Western Earth Careers, are well on the way of heading up one hell of a revolution which is having an extremely positive impact on our attitude around single-use plastic habits.

Click over to the Plastic Free July website and one of the many things you will learn is:-

“In one week we go through 10 billion plastic bags worldwide, in the USA an average of 2.5 million plastic bottles are used every hour whilst over 500 million straws are used daily”.

Add this to the direct impact this situation is creating for our wildlife as our discarded plastics enter their environment and you are beginning to have an insight into the personal ‘why’ behind our family’s sustainable habits.


So what aspect of our family’s sustainable journey did I talk about at the school assembly…


  • Our initial commitment to reduce our single-use plastic was in support for protecting our oceans and marine life. We were enjoying a beach holiday when the direct impact plastic is having on our animals was brought to our attention via a community organisation called Take3. We then began to notice just how much plastic was blowing around the camp site and actively started pulling shopping bags out of the creek. You can read more about these early discoveries here.
  • We have built up an extremely practical collection of reusables (for lunch boxes) over the last couple of years which I showed during my little 5 minute chat. You can read more about our favourite items and where they were bought here.
  • Lastly I showed the reusable items which I carry in my handbag.

conversationswithmysister_Plastic Free July


Fast forward to August I am excited to share the successful report from the Health and Wellbeing Committee’s first Plastic Free July at the school –

“We ended up running the parents stall [showing examples of practical reusable solutions] three times and the weight of the rubbish collected at the school has gone down. I have also been approached by several parents who told me the message had definitely gone home and that they were in big trouble with their kids if they didn’t pack a plastic-free lunch. So overall I think it went well and it will be good to take the lessons we learnt from this year to make it even better for next year.”


How great is that!!


A huge congratulations goes to those who ran the initiative and the families who actively participated. I don’t know about you but I find hearing about these successes extremely inspiring as forming new habits is tricky. Encouraging change within a single household is tough enough but tackling a community is no mean feat – these changes take time.


For example:- even though a huge effort is made to avoid plastic in our home it still finds its way inside in varying forms. There are still situations where I find myself challenged – such as during a recent family holiday in NZ. We packed our lunchbox reusables and drink bottles but things like taking enough appropriate grocery shopping bags to stock a kitchen destined to feed 5 adults and 4 children for two weeks didn’t happen. Karma was on our side however as our holiday house and local village had some surprises in stall for us.


This is what was discovered as we checked into our family run accommodation:


  • Four separate bins all individually labeled with a list of specific contents:-

– Recycled
– Compost
– General waste
– Cooking oil


  • A No Plastic Bag Policy at the local general store

conversationswithmysister_Plastic Free July


  • The local refuse station which required all rubbish to be separated into respective categories


Another positive example of a community working together to protect our environment. I couldn’t have been happier. Following a similar routine at home has seen our family reduce our weekly ‘landfill’ rubbish down to one shopping bag per week – we still have a long way to go but this milestone is something I am extremely proud of! The only step not available while on holidays (which we follow at home) was a place to dispose of any soft plastics. I have written more about that solution in a previous article called ‘The Great Divide’ which you can read here.


Lastly I’d like to leave you with something to consider: –


Dining in for hot beverages – Simple, Sustainable, Solution

conversationswithmysister_Plastic Free July


One situation I found myself in while on holidays in the snow was succumbing to a daily hot chocolate. I am not a coffee drinker and indulging in a hot chocolate is, as a general rule, my occasional treat so carrying a reusable cup isn’t necessarily routine for me.

I have just confirmed via the Plastic Free July website:


“…each year 2.25 billion take-a-way cups are consumed around the world…”


So how can we be part of a solution?


The above image is me, embracing the simple pleasure of dining in (outside) and enjoying my hot chocolate in a mug rather than using a disposable cup. I actually found myself really looking forward to those quiet 10 minutes of #metime while taking in the magnificent surroundings – actually I wish I was sitting there right now!


{insert reflective pause…}


As for reusable cups, those lucky enough to live in Perth might have heard of the ‘Bring One (reusable cup) Cup Get One Tree (planted on your behalf)’ campaign which is run every July in the WMRC Region. Organisers are on a mission to bring awareness to this escalating situation by doing just as the name says!


The 2015 results are in and they have so far confirmed a total of 1,850 reusable cups recorded – such brilliant news!  You can read more about this positive initiative here.


So that’s my update from Plastic Free July – how did you go?

I am super keen to hear from those of you who have been inspired to rethink your single-use plastic habits and are perhaps considering continuing with your new routine.

If there are any questions, or suggestions, please feel free to join the conversation:-


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I really would love to hear from you!

X Shea

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