When we took on the challenge of Plastic free July just over two weeks ago I had no idea whether we would succeed, or if it was a challenge too big for a family with young children. I have to say as far as challenges go the kids have loved this one and are totally embracing it (probably more so than I am!)
We've had a few hurdles and there have been items that even though we've wanted to cut them out its been tricky to do so. Yoghurts are a main example; in our house the children love yoghurt, in fact both of my kids eat 2 yoghurts every morning for breakfast and if they can will have another after dinner in the evening. This equates to 42 yoghurt pots a week, which in my mind is totally unacceptable for plastic free July! So for the first week I bought no yoghurt! The kids were distraught and I nearly packed it all in. Then I spent a lot of time googling "making your own yoghurt". Now unless you have a yoghurt maker this can take hours (which I don't have) and finally I tried to find alternatives to plastic containers. There is one brand that i found to order online, but at £11.00 for 6, our weekly yoghurt consumption would cost £77.00 which is totally out of the weekly budget for yoghurt. So although not an ideal solution, I now buy yoghurts in 500g pots and buy 7 pots for the week. So in my mind, we have cut down a little.
Its not all bad... I have changed my washing detergent from the little pouches sold in a plastic container back to the traditional power sold bulk in a cardboard box. I have stopped using fabric softener and haven't noticed any difference to my washing. I also bought dishwasher powder, again in cardboard rather than plastic. In the bathroom we now have a bar of soap rather than a dispenser. I bought shampoo and conditioner in bulk, which although doesn't eliminate the plastic, it ensures that I buy a bottle every few months rather than weeks.
What will stick?
I think there are a number of things that we will stick with after this challenge, I am never without my own coffee mug, so that I can refill as I go. The kids no longer want straws in their drinks and one of my children actually gave his straw back in a cafe the other day. We always have bags with us just in case, and we have made a vow to never buy fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic.
In the most part this challenge is making us all more aware. Aware of the fact that when you throw something away it doesn't just go away. It goes onto a tip where is sits for longer than we are here on this earth or if its luckier it goes to a recycling centre where a lot of energy is used so that it can be recycled into something else that will probably only be used once.
Or worse still it end up in our seas and on our beaches where the fish and birds consume it or get entangled in it, I think this is such a motivation for change for us as a family especially living somewhere as beautiful as we do, we are constantly scooping up plastics from our beaches. So although this challenge may be difficult and yes there are times that we don't achieve what we are wanting its a great learning curve for the whole family.