Plastic Free July started last Saturday, and enthusiasm for the challenge is everywhere! Yet a week or so into the challenge, we all start to see the cracks. We leave our reusables at home. We can’t find an alternative for that thing we really need. We forget to refuse a plastic straw. We return home triumphantly with cardboard packaged items, only to discover that the cardboard outer contains a sneaky plastic inner.
These things happen, and we think we’ve failed.
Even worse, we think we’ve failed…and we think there’s no point continuing.
Well I’m here to tell you, that isn’t true! There’s no such thing as “failing” with Plastic Free July. There’s every reason to keep going.
Here’s why you can’t fail at Plastic Free July.
1. Plastic Free July is about creating awareness.
If you’re anything like me, before you first realised that plastic is everywhere you probably didn’t notice it much at all. Plastic Free July was my wake-up call.
I’d never actually looked around me to see what plastic I was using, where it was going, or what all the litter I’d see in the streets or on the beaches was actually made of.
Plastic Free July is about changing habits. The first step in changing habits is realising that there’s a problem, and realising that there’s a better way. Plastic Free July does both of those things. It creates awareness, and that leads to changing habits.
Nobody can fail at “being more aware”. We might not be able to act on this awareness straightaway, but awareness is the first step to making change.
By being more aware, we’re starting the journey.
2. Plastic Free July is about changing habits – and changing habits takes time.
After creating awareness comes changing habits.
If you were going to learn the guitar, would you expect to master it after picking it up once? No. If you’re planning to lose weight, do you expect to have reached your target after eating one salad? No.
Plastic free July is no different!
A few weeks ago, our lack of success wouldn’t have even been on our radar. We might not have have thought twice about the plastic straw, or the plastic bag, or the plastic packaging. The fact that we are now means that we’re making progress.
Yes, change can feel uncomfortable and that is part of progress, too.
All these things will help us do better and make better choices next time!
3. Plastic Free July is not about all-or-nothing.
Plastic Free July is about attempting to refuse single-use plastic during the month of July. ‘Attempting’ is the important bit! How can we fail at attempting, unless we give up?
There’s no “must”, it is simply about trying new things, exploring alternatives and changing habits.
Can’t find milk in glass? Or you can’t think of a practical way to pick up dog poo without plastic? Or the local council insists that we put our landfill waste in a plastic bag in the bin? Each of these are just one obstacle, but there are plenty of other places where we consume plastic that are very easy to make a switch.
Don’t focus on the stuff you can’t change. Pick some of the other things that you can change, instead.
4. Plastic Free July is a journey, not a destination.
There are no awards at the end of Plastic Free July for who got there fastest. Of course, the less plastic we use, the better for the planet (especially single-use plastic). But change takes time, and honestly, if you’re completely new to plastic-free living and reducing waste, it takes longer than 31 days.
If you’re completely new to plastic-free living, you’ll likely have a lot of ingrained habits to rethink, and a lot of changes to make.
When I went plastic-free back in 2012, I honestly think it took me 18 months to reduce all my plastic. Some things I didn’t even need to tackle for the first year. For example, I had so many plastic-packaged products in my bathroom that it took me about 18 months to use them all up.
Time isn’t important. What was important for me was the journey – all the things I learned, the missteps, the trials and errors and changes that I adopted to where I am now.
I have no doubts that some people can (and will) get there faster. Others will take much longer. Plastic Free July is about starting the journey (and hopefully continuing it) – not finishing it in 31 days.
5. There’s no such thing as failing.
What is failing, anyway? I looked it up, and I found this definition. “Failure is the neglect or omission of expected or required action.” What does that mean? It means giving up!
If you neglect to try, then you fail. Keep on trying and there is no way to fail.
Which means the only way to fail is to give up, and go back to your old ways.
That is not the same as not being able to do everything. It is not the same as deciding that some things are too hard, for now. It is not the same as slipping up, or forgetting.
Failing is not the same as having expectations of ourselves which come up slightly short against reality.
Success is never a straight line!
Plastic Free July is a challenge. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge! On the flipside, it wouldn’t be so rewarding if there wasn’t a little bit of difficulty. It wouldn’t feel like such an achievement if it wasn’t without trial.
So yes, Plastic Free July is a challenge, but oh so worth it. Success always tastes a little bit sweeter when we’ve had to work for it.
If you think you’ve failed at Plastic Free July, take it from me, you haven’t. We’re only a few days in! There’s plenty more time to look for alternatives, build on our experiences, refuse unnecessary plastic and do better.
No “get out of jail cards” or permission slips to give up from me! We’re all here to support each other, help with conundrums, and cheer along from the sidelines.
Believe me, you got this!
Okay, confession time – who here has been feeling like they’ve failed? Is there anything particular you’re struggling with? Please share and we may be able to help! On the other hand, who feels like they are “winning”?! What tips do you have to share? Any advice from seasoned veterans doing Plastic July for the second, third (or fourth or fifth) time? What would you say to newbies? Any other thought to add? Please share below!