Plastic-free July

Plastic-free July is a global movement to reduce usage of plastic, especially single-use plastics every year during the month of July. A great resource for going plastic free is which asks us “Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics?” To assist you in your drive to eliminate plastic and reduce your carbon footprint, I am reprinting my column from December of 2019…

Before getting into plastic alternatives, you might wonder why plastic is such a big deal if you recycle your plastic. The truth of the matter is that most (around 90%) of the plastic we use either isn’t recycled or can’t be recycled, and even when it can be recycled, remember that recycling itself exacts a carbon footprint. See my prior post on recycling.

A better approach is to reduce your consumption of plastic. Start by taking an accounting of the plastic in your home and office. Walk through each room of your house and note what items are made of or housed in plastic. Then start replacing those plastics, especially single-use plastics, one by one. 

Ideas for reducing plastic usage:

  • Refuse to purchase single-use water bottles. Carry a metal or glass water bottle with you when you are away from home.
  • Say no to straws. (Seattle has banned plastic straws, but remember to stay vigilant when traveling elsewhere.)
  • Stop using paper cups (usually lined and topped with plastic) at your coffee shop. Bring your own steel coffee mug to your espresso stand and to work. (During the pandemic this was harder, but many coffee shops are allowing you to bring your own coffee cups again.)
  • Bring metal flatware and reusable dishes to work so you can avoid single-use plastics.
  • When purchasing food, look for items in glass bottles, cardboard boxes, or metal cans (not lined in BPA plastic). As much as possible, purchase bulk items in reusable containers and store them in glass jars.
  • Purchase cloth shopping and produce bags. We use
  • Get rid of vinyl shower curtains, pillow, and mattress covers and replace them with natural fabrics.
  • Consider replacing your foam mattress with a natural cotton mattress.
  • Replace plastic food storage containers with glass (even with plastic lids, they are better), metal tins, or reusable alternatives to plastic wrap such as etee (
  • Purchase cosmetics and other bathroom supplies in non-plastic containers. Buy bar soap rather than liquid soap in plastic bottles.
  • When purchasing appliances look for ones that have minimal or no plastic.
  • Download the Detox Me app on your phone to get more suggestions on reducing your exposure to plastics and other toxins. 

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

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