During the month of July, millions of people around the world take part in Plastic Free July by committing to refuse single-use plastic items such as straws, bags, and water bottles. Participants are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags, bottles, and containers, and to choose products with minimal packaging.

Why should we refuse to use single plastic items for a whole month?

1. Plastic particles are pervasive in the oceans, in our drinking water, in the soil, and in the air we breathe.

2. Plastic is made from oil. To avoid a worldwide climate calamity, we must drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels by the end of this decade.

Is it even possible to avoid using plastic for a month? From personal experience, I can honestly say that it is very challenging to do this but not impossible.

Even if you can’t avoid plastic for a whole month, you can reduce your use of it by taking the following steps:

1. Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store. Once you get in the habit of doing this, it will become second-nature.

2. Avoid buying bottled water. Carry your own reusable water bottle wherever you go.

3. When buying take-out or delivery food, make sure that the store/restaurant does not give you plastic utensils and plastic straws. Bring your own reusable bag to the store/restaurant. Bring your own reusable coffee mug. Look for reusable food containers made from stainless steel and ask your favorite restaurant to use them instead of plastic containers.

4. When buying personal care products, cosmetics, toys, or other small items, look for products that are packaged in cardboard or paper, rather than plastic.

5. Before ordering anything online, stop and think. Can you get this item in a local store? Can you borrow it from a friend or neighbor? Every time we buy a product online, it is packaged and shipped in plastic. Note: Amazon recently announced that it will replace its plastic bubble wrap packaging material with recycled paper materials in the near future.

6. Avoid purchasing single use plastic items such as plastic utensils, plastic cups, plastic plates, disposable razors, etc.

You don’t have to feel guilty for using plastic. After all, it is pervasive in our society, but if we all do what we can to reduce our use of plastic, it will make a difference in the long run.