Authored by Angie Martin with input from Becky Alexander, Stacee Demmer, Jody Elam-Foote, Laura Heck, Lydia Major, Nicolle VanWie, and Dana Waldbillig, September 3, 2019
Imagine what it would take to go plastic free for 24 hours. Now imagine a full month. LHB recently participated in the Plastic Free EcoChallenge throughout the month of July. The objective of this challenge was to inspire people to make small, personal changes to reduce single-use plastics and to see how these adjustments (which hopefully become habits!) add up to much larger changes collectively. The LHB team consisted of 38 employees and came in 49th place out of 776 teams based on points awarded for challenges completed. Here are some of our experiences and take-aways from the challenge.
Some of the modification’s participants made to their daily routine included the following:
- Bought biodegradable sandwich and trash bags or eliminated them all together. Jody said, “Here’s a great way to eliminate those plastic bin liners. I’ve been using newspaper for the past couple of weeks with great success!”
- Recycled contact lenses so they weren’t filtered out of recycling facilities due to their small size.
- Brought their own containers to restaurants and grocery stores.
- Purposefully bought products such as fish oil and peanut butter in reusable glass bottles.
- Switched to concentrated products that contain little to no plastic packaging. As Stacee put it, “I’ve become very conscious of the money and resources used to ship water all over the country and call it cleaner. Concentrate and homemade are most of what we use these days.” Jody added, “I bought shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush this weekend and love them. I found out that most shampoos are 80% water and conditioners are up to 95% water. Why pay for water when you can add it in yourself? A typical shampoo bar will last for up to 80 washes (that’s the work of three bottles of liquid shampoo!) and requires no packaging. I’m a convert!”
- Brought their own reusable cutlery wherever they went. Dana has used this set for the past two years:
- Switched to glass, metal, or wheat straws instead of single-use plastic ones (LHB provides metal straws for every employee – if you haven’t received yours, please ask at the front desk!)
- Instigated discussions with friends and family.
Several people noted that it was difficult to avoid plastic packaging in these instances:
- When planning for parties
- While traveling (particularly on family vacations)
- When purchasing certain items like toilet paper and kids’ snacks.
The big take away here was to plan ahead – participants recommended buying snacks in advance of a trip so you aren’t buying plastic wrapped items from convenience stores along the way, bringing reusable water bottles, keeping a stock of reusable bags in your car so they’re always at the ready, and making homemade decorations for parties instead of buying store bought plastic ones.
Forming New Habits
Participants said they were inspired to continue participating in the following ways:
- Joining social media groups such as Zero Waste Duluth
- Attending beach cleanups
- Using reusable straws
- Asking restaurants/caterers not to include plastic utensils and bags
- Requesting no straw when placing an order for a drink
- Shopping the bulk bins using reusable containers. Becky noted, “Don’t assume you’ll be turned down if you ask for your deli meat, smoothie, chai tea, take-out, etc. to be placed in your own reusable container. I never was!”
- Buying naked produce
- Reducing food packaging waste
As Jody put it, “This challenge made me re-think my use of plastics and has introduced me to several alternatives, which I intend to make habits!” She also provided this link with some great tips on going plastic free: https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/
Small Changes Personally = Big Impact Collectively
When you start to look at all the plastic surrounding us in our daily lives, it can feel overwhelming. Challenges like this remind us of the power of even the smallest, incremental change. If you need inspiration, take a look at the following image of the collective impact from this challenge. That’s the effect 15,236 people had in one month and the amount of plastic they kept out of the environment, just by making a few small changes to their daily routine. These tiny changes add up to a big, cumulative impact when we work collectively. Or as Lydia put it, “Even if you don’t have perfect habits, every instance of making a different choice counts!”
Above is an image of the collective impact of all participants in the Plastic Free EcoChallenge from across the world. For original image and material and additional information about the collective impact click here.