How To Have A Plastic Free Summer
With summer in full swing, the stores have lined their shelves with all the new ‘must haves. But before you get lured in by all the ‘mega deals’ and shiny new products, just take a minute to stop and think, “do I really need this?” Do you really need to buy any new summer ‘stuff’? It will soon be deemed out of style and end up with piles of unused junk in your garage, or worse, the dump! A lot of our summer essentials are made from plastic, so what can we do to work towards a plastic-free summer?
Stop Buying Plastic
It might seem obvious but plastic is in so many of our summer staples that we need to take a closer look at what we are buying.
Take pool toys for example, who doesn’t love a good pool toy to really make the most of the summer fun? Floating around the lake on an inflatable unicorn or playing keepy-uppy with a beach ball in the water is what comes to mind when we think of summer. Unfortunately, a lot of pool toys are made from a plastic called PVC. PVC has a huge environmental impact, right from the manufacturing process all the way through to disposal. It contains phthalates, a chemical that is now a global pollutant, so whilst we’re enjoying our PVC products on the lake, the phthalates are bleeding out into the water. The newer the PVC, the more phthalates it contains; and so the more products we buy fresh off the shelf, the more chemicals will end up in our waterways. Over time the number of chemicals that are released decreases, so using your old beach ball not only reduces the number of pool toys that end up in the dump but will also have a lesser impact in terms of chemical pollution. However, the older the plastic the less durable it becomes and, as all plastics do, PVC will eventually degrade into microplastics, making its way into our oceans and polluting our waters. Making PVC has a huge environmental cost, various environmental activist groups have deemed PVC as the most environmentally damaging plastic. So think twice the next time you go to pick up a bargain. Please refrain from buying any more of this toxic product. Look for plastic-free products to make the most of summer fun in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way!
Another summer staple (at least it should be!) is suncream. Suncream is a necessity but sadly it’s often found in plastic bottles. Ditch the plastic and look for suncream in fully recyclable packaging like glass or aluminum. Or, better yet, get refillable products. Many companies are offering refillable, you just send your empty containers back and they will refill them for you – this is often cheaper than buying the products from scratch again.
Keep an eye out for companies that go the extra mile by using waste ingredients from other industries and up-cycle them into the creation of their own products. I know this sounds a bit weird but take coffee, for example, coffee is often used in many skincare products, some companies take used coffee grounds from the food and beverage industry and use them in their products for their many benefits, including helping to reduce inflammation of the skin. It’s a genius idea and really works towards a circular economy and reducing waste.
It’s easy to forget that liquids, like suncream, can contain microplastics, so we might think we’re doing our bit by recycling the container it came in but we are still contributing to our plastic problem by simply washing these products down the drain. Even our advanced water management systems can’t filter out 100% of microplastics, which end up in our waterways. You can use this handy tool to check for plastic-free ingredients in your products.
Reuse what we already have
Re-use your old items from last season, don’t get caught up in the hype of this year’s trends. Trends always come back around so last season’s things might seem out of date, but soon enough they will be back in; just think of all the plastic that you could save from ending up in the trash!
Summer calls for lots of celebrations, this August alone we have 18 holiday and celebration days! I’m personally looking forward to National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day – I’ll take my cookie with zero plastic packagings, please! Holidays tend to generate a lot of waste, we all get caught up in the festivities, and more often than not, we overindulge and I’m not just talking about food! It might be tempting to buy all the bunting and balloons you can to bring your party to life but re-using your old decorations for example can save a whole load of waste! Not to mention the litter that balloons can cause if they end up loose and fly away. Often wildlife will mistake balloons debris for food, or they can get entangled in the string that’s often attached to the balloon, which can have fatal consequences. If you need to buy new decorations, please avoid balloons and rather than buying new things, head to the thrift store and give a new life to pre-loved products. Or do a swap them with friends, mix and match your decorations for a fresh new look. By re-using your own or someone else’s things, you are being greener than you might think as you are not contributing to the production of new products. This part of the process is often under-looked when we are thinking about our environmental footprint.
Avoid single-use products
Summer is the time for outdoor socials, generally, this means food and drink! Think about all those plastic cups that are brought to the lake – it might seem the sensible option as opposed to taking glass outside, but it’s not environmentally friendly. Think about using reusable cups that you will take home with you, that isn’t going to end up in the bin or the lake itself! The same goes for disposable barbecues, not only are they bad for the environment because they can’t be recycled, but they often contain charcoal which is often unsustainably sourced. Not only this, but they can contribute to devastating wildfires. In July 2021,193 wildfires had already been recorded in British Columbia alone. Of those, 34 percent are believed to be caused by humans. Do the environment a huge favor and stop using disposable grills!
We can all still enjoy a wonderful summer, we just need to be mindful of our choices and consider the impact our actions might have on the environment. We need to think about the whole lifecycle of the product, including how much energy it takes to make, and what happens when we are done with them. Can they be reused or recycled? Let’s try and move away from our self-created throw-away culture, and start looking after the items we buy so they can be used for years to come. When the time eventually comes to dispose of them, do so responsibly. We need to protect the world that we live in and to do that we all must make better choices!