July is here, and for the eco-conscious community, this month is synonymous with the Plastic Free July Challenge. But this year something feels different.
There is an air of fatigue, a sense of being overwhelmed that we cannot ignore. Between global politics, inflation, climate disasters, and the toll of the past few years, small acts like giving up plastic cups starts to feel futile.
We can only be told “every little bit counts!” so many times before it feels like we’re trying to stop a tsunami with a single sand bag.
Don’t get me wrong, the power of the collective is HUGE. For example, it is estimated that the rise of reusable coffee cups now saves 1 million disposable cups from the landfill each and every day (mtpak.coffee) And at Goldilocks I am proud to say we have collectively saved well over 2 million square feet of plastic wrap from ending in our waterways and landfills.
But we need to talk candidly about the emotional tide we are all riding, how we can navigate through it and come out the other side while authentically keeping our eco-minded principles intact.
As a small business owner making eco-friendly alternatives, Goldilocks is not only reflective of my values - in a lot of ways it has become an embodiment of me as a person. I think that’s why this Plastic Free July has hit me particularly hard.
As of late, I have been struggling more and more with living a low waste lifestyle. Ever since the pandemic my routines have been out of whack, I have struggled with my own mental health, my energy levels have been low and I’ve had to give a little more grace in some areas.
One of those areas has been plastic free living.
There have been times in my life when I have been completely plastic free and incredibly strict. As a result this is often the gold standard I hold myself to.
Knowing that I am not currently embodying the level of zero waste living I know I am capable of has contributed to imposter syndrome. After all, how is it fair to promote plastic free products when I am not completely plastic free at all times myself?
But this struck me: our journeys are not static. They evolve with our mental space and life situations. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not be a poster child for zero waste living at all times. The essential thing is to stay aligned with our core values and understand that some days, weeks, months or even years might be better than others.
So what about Plastic Free July this year?
It’s essential to seek alignment rather than perfection. The core of Plastic Free July lies in awareness and an honest attempt to reduce waste, and that can take multiple forms. It might be reducing single-use plastics one day, educating oneself about recycling the next, or supporting policies and initiatives that aim for a more sustainable environment.
So what if this year we shift our thinking and actions to the bigger picture? Ask ourselves what petitions we can sign this month? For example, perhaps this Plastic Free July you challenge yourself to sign 1 petition each week.
This (at least for me) feels manageable. It also addresses the larger scale of the issue that causes us to feel unheard.
If you are able to combine this with some small habits you do anyways, it starts to feel more like we are fighting plastic pollution both from the top down, with policy, and from the bottom up, with individual action.
Such involvement can make us feel like we are contributing to the cause in a more significant way. It is a reaffirmation that our voices matter.
Another alternative could be engaging with local organizations or groups that are making efforts to promote sustainability. Participating in a neighbourhood clean-up. Discussing and sharing ideas on how to live sustainably with friends and family. These simple acts, when done collectively, make us feel less alone.
So, as we embark on this year’s Plastic Free July, let’s remind ourselves of the importance of staying authentic and being compassionate - to not just the world but also ourselves. Making an impact has no one-size-fits-all.
This July, embrace your personal journey. It’s alright if it looks a bit different this year. It’s alright if you stumble. Here’s to making waves together.