Plastic Free July:
We’re Taking the Challenge,
Will YOU?

A few days ago I was getting some dinner out with my sweetheart, Erica, and we couldn’t finish our meals. We asked for the dreaded to-go container having forgot the Tupperware that normally lives in my car ready solve the to-go conundrum. We had our Klean Kanteen pint glasses with us to avoid plastic cups for water, but we failed miserably in the takeaway container department. As we waited we hoped we’d get the recycled paper compostable stuff. No such luck. The server delivered the container and it was the worst of the worst: PVC clamshell packaging. The horror!

I griped about PVC—polyvinyl chloride—whose building block, vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen. I then went into spiral of self-guilt, talking about being a hypocrite for taking the worst of the worst packaging when I’ve been a plastic pollution activist for more than a decade. In response, Erica challenged me to join her in taking Plastic Free July challenge. I agreed. Though I’ve sailed all the way around the world studying plastic in garbage patches, I hadn’t ever willfully tried to avoid plastic in a structured, formal manner. It seemed like a good learning opportunity. I then sent an email out to the whole Story of Stuff staff to see if they’d take the challenge with me. Our whole office agreed. Game on.

Here’s the skinny on Plastic Free July:

  1. We attempt to refuse plastic and plastic packaging as much as humanly possible for the whole month of July.
  2. We save any unavoidable plastic in a dilemma bag and we’ll investigate it at the end of the month.
  3. In our version, we’ll invite a recycling expert in to go through our plastic and create a few videos for social media about the truth about the markets for different types of plastic—spoiler alert, just because something can be recycled, doesn’t mean it will be. It’s all about economics.

Click-Here-Plastic-Free-July-Signup-Page-FB-shareAt Story of Stuff, we believe that in order to really make change in a big way, we have to change the system or ‘materials economy’ and that personal choice and efficiencies are a good place to start, but a terrible place to stop. Day to day, that’s the work we do: changing the system, empowering our community to take collective action, fighting the bad guys who think unlimited growth in a linear system with finite resource is possible. Our campaign work not only works to stop pollution, but also build the groundwork for a transformed, waste-free world, one with a healthy environment and a healthy population where commerce doesn’t exist to the detriment of the quality of water we drink and the air we breath.

But…in the case of plastic consumption, the personal footprint of a North American is 326 pounds (147 kilograms) per person per year, roughly half of which is single-use. Europeans and East Asians are not far behind in their consumption. And if the plastic industry has their way, that global footprint will double in the next twenty years. That’s a scary thought. It’s our view that any real strategy to tackle plastic pollution starts with reducing how much we use and eliminating the toxic materials that we use to make plastic. That 326 number is compelling. If half of plastic is produced for single-use, it means that avoiding single-use plastic can reduce our personal footprint by half. That’s a pretty good challenge in our book.

We invite you to join us on our quest for a month less plastic. We’re sure to learn a lot. We’d love to hear your stories of plastic avoidance and frustration along the way. So, are you in? Sign up, take the challenge and share your photos!

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