Easy Ways to Become More Eco-Friendly

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It’s officially the end of July (where did the month go?), which means the ‘Plastic Free July’ movement has also officially come to an end. If you’re unsure what that means, let me fill you in. Plastic Free July is a global movement to help millions of people reduce the amount of single use plastic they consume, and in turn, help to become part of the solution to plastic pollution. Over the last month I have been sharing daily tips over on my Instagram account (you can peek me here) all about how to make small changes to your everyday life, in order to create less waste. Tips like how to reduce bathroom waste (especially as females, we create an alarming amount of waste), to how to limit single use plastic in the kitchen, and everything in between.

My Journey to a Waste-Free Life

First off, I want to start by saying that I’m still very much on this journey and have a long way to go before I’m even close to being waste-free. I am not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but I have come a long way over the last couple of years, and that alone makes me so damn proud. So, where did my journey begin? It all started when I was inspired by a close friend of mine. Over the last few years I have been watching my friend, Erika, gradually reduce the amount of single-use plastic that her and her husband use, and whether she meant to or not, she also inspired me to do the same in my life. The changes started small, and they were a gradual process, but now they are very much part of my life and the things I do every day. From bringing my own produce bags and shopping bags to the grocery store, to using re-usable food storage bags and beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap, to switching to a bamboo toothbrush from a plastic one, to recently ditching tampons for a reusable menstrual cup. As I said, the changes were gradual, and I have a long way to go, but as I watched Erika make these changes, I couldn’t help by be inspired to follow suit.

So, it’s the end of Plastic Free July. Now what?

If you’re someone that was inspired by the Plastic Free July movement and have found yourself well on your journey to producing less waste, then the next step is to simply keep going. Every time you feel like a habit has been created – meaning that you no longer have to actively think about it – it means that a new change can be introduced. Maybe that means when your hand soap has run out in your bathroom, instead of rushing to buy a new one in a plastic bottle, you head to a zero-waste store that can refill it for you and save you from tossing that plastic bottle right in the garbage. 

If this is the first time you’re hearing of the Plastic Free July movement, then don’t panic! You haven’t missed anything, and you are definitely not too late. This movement is just the beginning. Head to the Plastic Free July website and take some timing checking out all the fantastic resources they have there. While you are starting to get acquainted with this movement, also take some time educating yourself on the plastic and waste problem in general; changes like these are not easy to implement, so I find when you understand why you’re making these changes in the first place, it’s so much easier to keep going, even when it feels like an uphill battle.

THINK ABOUT IT. WHY WOULD YOU MAKE SOMETHING THAT YOU’RE GOING TO USE FOR A FEW MINUTES, OUT OF A MATERIAL THAT’S BASICALLY GOING TO LAST FOREVER, AND YOU’RE JUST GOING TO THROW IT AWAY. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?" 

- Jeb Berrier, BagIt movie

Remember how I mentioned that the inspiration behind the changes I have made was watching my close friend and the changes she was making? Well, that friend of mine decided to follow her passion and share it with the world by launching a mobile Refillery business in the GTA. Cool right? I asked Erika to answer a few questions to provide a little insight into how her journey began, and how you can kick-start your own journey as well. 

1. How and when did your journey begin to become more eco-conscious? 

It began when we [my husband, and I] started to cut out meat from our diets a few years ago after learning more about the impact of the meat industry on the environment. From there the changes were gradual: switching beeswax wrap for plastic wrap, reusable coffee mugs for single-use ones, changing from a pick-up truck to a hybrid car, and so on. Then on a trip to New Zealand during the early part of 2019, we were introduced to the concept of ‘refilling’ for household essentials, and were hooked. 

We aren't even close to perfect, which frankly isn't our goal, but slowly we are becoming more and more aware of what we can do as consumers to make a difference. 

2. As someone who is brand new to this journey, what changes do you recommend I focus on to start with?

Start simple and don't try to be perfect because you'll drive yourself crazy! Have fun with it and try something new each month. Start with bringing our own bags to the grocery store, bringing your own coffee mug and water bottle with you wherever you go, and grow from there. 

3. A lot of the time it's easy to feel that our small changes won't have a large enough impact of the world. How, and why, do you think that we need to start changing that narrative? 

I totally understand how it’s easy to feel this way, and my husband and I tend to feel this way at times too. But when we do, we always like to do some quick math to help put things in perspective. Like this: if 7 billion people skip a single-use coffee cup just once a month for a year, that's 84 billion coffee cups OUT of the landfill in a year! That a pretty big impact right there. 

Without one there is none; we always try to channel that. We also encourage folks to chat with their family and friends about the changes they’re making as well, as it is so easy to inspire others around you without even knowing it! 

4. The #plasticfreejuly movement is officially over. What do you think needs to happen to continue with this momentum?  

We need to take what we have learned this past month and apply it for the rest of this year, and then many years to come. It’s a lifestyle, and you'll get better and things will get easier, with more tools in your tool belt.

5. So you own your own Refillery! That's cool...but what's a Refillery, and where can I find you? 

We are called Park Market & Refillery, and we refill any clean, dry container of your own with home and body goods. Put simply, you pay for the product and not the packaging. And, every time you refill, you keep single-use packaging out of our landfills. We carry everything from shampoo and conditioner, to dish soap and laundry soap in bulk. We refill our large containers, so your products are part of the circular economy. Its truly a beautiful thing. You can find us at www.parkmarketandrefillery.com for more information, or follow us on Instagram for daily tips, product information and where to find us.  

"WE DON'T NEED A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE DOING ZERO-WASTE PERFECTLY. WE NEED MILLIONS OF PEOPLE DOING IT IMPERFECTLY."

- Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero-Waste Chef

5 Easy Changes to Implement Today

To help kick-off your journey, here are 5 super easy changes that you can implement today to become more eco-friendly:

  1. Buy yourself a reusable coffee cup or thermos and take it with you every time you’re heading to your local coffee shop. (Note: Starbucks offers 10c off your beverage when you use a reusable mug.)

  2. Ditch plastic water bottles for a reusable one, and again, get in the habit of taking it with you everywhere you go.

  3. Take your own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. Not only are they better for the planet, but they are also much sturdier than the average plastic bag.

  4. If you’re a fan of Bulk Barn, take some clean, empty glass jars with you next time you go. Bulk Barn has a Reusable Container Program that allows you to use your own jars instead of plastic bags. They’ll weigh the jars for you before you fill them up, then weigh them after, so you only pay for your bulk goodies.

  5. Similar to number 3, take your grocery shopping experience one step further and use reusable bags for your produce, instead of the plastic produce bags provided by your grocery store. You can use any bag you have at home already or get yourself some cute ones, like these from The Market Bags. (They are made in Kelowna, but Park Market & Refillery also sells them right here in the GTA.)

I hope this post inspired you to make some changes and help to create a more sustainable, plastic-free world. This conversation, and the momentum created by the Plastic Free July movement, needs to continue, and it all starts with us. As consumers, we have more power than we think we do to create lasting change. The movement has just begun.