Toolkit for a Successful Plastic Free July

| July 8, 2022

Over the past few decades, single-use plastics have become such an important part of our day to day lives that it can be difficult to imagine living without them. Plastic Free July is a movement that seeks to change that perception, and show us how doable it is to cut down on our plastic use throughout the month of July. This July we’re encouraging our members to pledge to go plastic free for the whole month. 

We all know that single-use plastics are bad for the environment. Our news feeds are flooded with a depressing trend of stories about their harm to wildlife, plastic islands in the oceans, microplastics in fish, and the carbon cost of creating all of these single-use plastic products. It can be hard to know what we can do individually to combat such a large problem, but Plastic Free July is the perfect way to take action to cut back on plastic use. 

Over the last few years, people across New York State have been making the pledge to go plastic free for the month of July. It may seem difficult at first, but that is the point! It is important to remember that this challenge is achievable, and will have much greater benefits  than simply keeping your plastic out of the landfill for one month. By teaching yourself the ways that you can cut down on plastic in your day-to-day life, you will give yourself the tools that you need to keep making sustainable choices in the future. To cut down on your plastic use in the long-term, you first need to show yourself that it can be done!

To achieve a successful Plastic Free July, here are some steps you can take to cut down on your plastic usage:


  1. Self-audit your plastic use

Different people use single-use plastic in different ways, so it is important to figure out what unsustainable behaviors you are participating in as a first step. Some ways that you might be using plastics are ordering takeout food, getting coffee or other drinks in plastic to-go cups, using single-use plastic grocery bags or saran wrap, or frequently buying plastic water bottles.

A good way to set yourself up for a successful pledge is to take a day or two to think about the plastic that you use regularly, and record it in a notebook or your phone. Once you figure out what plastic you use the most, you can start brainstorming ways that you can cut out this plastic for July!


  1. Seek sustainable alternatives to plastic use

There are many great ways to research cutting down on your plastic use! One great way to start is on the Plastic Free July website, which has compiled a number of ways to phase out common single-use plastics.

Plastic Free July is also a great opportunity to try out a new product that could help you cut down on your waste. If you go through toiletry bottles quickly, maybe you could check out solid shampoo or conditioner. If you use a lot of saran wrap, this could be a good time to get a reusable beeswax wrap instead, or even make your own

If you have behaviors that you cannot immediately change, the Plastic Free July challenge is a great opportunity to take note of them, and keep them on your radar for later. For example, if you go through a lot of seltzer water bottles, you can put a Soda Stream machine on your list for a birthday gift, or for the next time you want to treat yourself.

Another way to practice Plastic Free July is to advocate in your community for greater sustainable options. While you might feel awkward asking your local coffee shop if they will put your drink in a reusable thermos, it will not hurt to ask, and Plastic Free July is the perfect time to challenge yourself in this way. And if your favorite coffee shop will not make your drink in a reusable cup, try making a list of all of the other places in the neighborhood that will. You may be able to change their minds through the competition!


  1. Make a plan for the month

By planning out how you will reduce your plastic use for each day in the month, you will be more likely to stick to your goals. Try to think about the ways that plastic use is a habit for you, and plan ahead in these areas. If you get Chinese food for take out every Sunday night, invite a friend to get dinner at the restaurant, and cut out the plastic container waste. Or you can make your own stir fry on Saturday to save and heat up!

Another great way to hold yourself accountable is to get your friends involved. You can make a competition over who can use the least amount of plastic for the month, or who comes up with the most creative plastic alternatives. You can even throw a waste-free party at the end of the month to celebrate!


  1. Convert these behaviors to the long-term

The best thing about Plastic Free July is that it equips you with the sustainable strategies you need to cut down on plastic in the long-term. It would be challenging for anyone to completely give up single-use plastics, but by finding ways to cut down on your regular plastic use, you give yourself options to keep using for the future. By showing yourself that going plastic free can be done, you can set yourself up for more meaningful lifestyle changes, and reduce your harm on the environment.


Are you ready to make the pledge?

Hopefully this blog post will give you the start that you need to cut down on plastic for this month, and for the longer term! It is never too late to join our Plastic Free July pledge. Sign up here to take our pledge!


By Julia Krushelnycky

< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit

Get Involved