Plastic Free and Taking the Challenge One Step Further

For most of us, living with less waste begins as a personal journey. As we start to discover more about the issues caused by waste, particularly plastic, and the options and alternatives, most of us begin wondering how we can get others involved. Whether it’s our families, our friends, our colleagues, the local school, the local cafes or shops, we want to spread the message and bring others with us on the journey.

Today’s post is about what you can do to take that step: to take the ‘living with less waste’ message out of our homes and into the community.

Host a Movie Screening

A movie screening is a great way to get people together to raise awareness of the issues, and start a discussion about solutions and alternatives.

One of the first things I did after signing up to Plastic Free July for the first time back in 2012 was attend a community screening of the plastic documentary Bag It. Even more than signing up to the challenge, that documentary changed my life. In a little over an hour I’d gone from feeling fairly relaxed about my plastic use to realizing that plastic was a huge problem but with so many solutions – and something that I could do so much about.

Movie screenings can be as big or as small as you like. Anything from:

  • borrowing a DVD from the library and showing it to a few friends and family;
  • Getting a community screening license from a distributor to show a movie in a public place such as a community hall or function room;
  • Using community screening platforms such as Tugg, which allows you screen documentaries in cinemas, through selling tickets in advance. The model works a little like crowdfunding – if not enough tickets are sold, the screening is cancelled.

If you’d like some inspiration for a good documentary to show, my top 10 list of documentaries might be a useful starting point.

Host a Plastic-Free Morning Tea or Supper

Invite others in your local community, workplace or school to attend a waste-free morning tea or supper, where all of the food has been purchased and prepared without single-use packaging.

You can invite community members to accept the challenge and bring a dish without packaging, or you can prepare or source it all yourself to ensure no sneaky plastic makes its way in.

Inviting someone to speak is a great way to engage the group with some of the solutions. Here’s some ideas:

  • Invite a local organisation to talk about the great waste reducing initiatives they’ve adopted;
  • Invite a local eco store to attend to talk about some of the products they sell and their benefits;
  • Invite someone who lives in the in the local area to share the story of how they reduced their own waste.

Set a table with some reusable alternatives to talk about, and give everyone the chance to share their ideas and ask questions. The idea is to get everyone thinking, and talking…and then acting!

Host a Litter Pick-Up or Beach Clean-Up

A litter pick-up is a powerful way to get others fired up to take action. Connecting others to places where litter ends up brings attention to the scale of the problem, and taking action by removing the litter goes a huge way towards protecting the ocean. Removing litter from the environment is also a positive reinforcement of the impact we can have when we work together.

To organise a litter pick up, set a date and time, gather necessary equipment (gloves, tongs, buckets, bags or old pillowcases to collect the litter) and start promoting it to your community. Offering a (plastic-free) morning tea is a great way to reward those who turn out to help and another way to continue to conversation.

Join (or Start) a Local Boomerang Bags Group

In an ideal world we’d all remember our reusable bags – but everyone forgets sometimes, right? Boomerang Bags was set up to reduce plastic bags by providing free bags for shoppers to borrow and bring back. But even better than providing bags, Boomerang Bags is all about communities getting together to volunteer to sew their bags, out of freely donated old fabric.

Before a group launches, they need to make 500 bags. (Nobody wants to launch and then run out of bags in the first weekend!) Boomerang Bag depositories are placed in shopping centres, and then the public are free to take and then return as required.

You can find out more about Boomerang Bags here, including where the current groups are and how to start your own group.

Get your Local Cafe (or Business) Involved

If your local cafe doesn’t give a discount for reusable coffee cups, your local store insists on giving plastic bags to everyone, or your local bar dishes out plastic straws with every drink, have a chat to them to see if they are willing to do something about it. You never know if you don’t ask!

Asking a local cafe, store or business to take part in Plastic Free July is a great way for them to be part of a global challenge and test customers’ receptiveness to charges or discounts, no longer offering single-use items and other initiatives.

Find out if there are other local initiatives that they can be a part of. Responsible Cafes is an Australian volunteer-run organisation which supports cafes who offer a discount to customers who use reusable cups. They have posters for display, and information that cafes can share with their customers. Plus all cafes that sign up are placed on a map, allowing locals to support the cafes near them who are doing the right thing.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you taken zero waste or plastic-free living into your community, and if so, how? Have you been to any great community events? Are there any other ideas you’d like to add to this list? Any of these you’re planning to adopt? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

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9 replies
  1. Meghan Blanc
    Meghan Blanc says:

    I’ve never heard of these awesome ideas before. Community action is my weakest part of my zero waste and plastic free journey, despite being a zero waste/plastic-free blogger. I’m so painfully shy, but I think I can try some of these. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Meghan! Community action is the most rewarding part, I promise! And there’s no need to suddenly decide to organise a bunch of events, either. Just start looking at what’s around, or slipping ideas to your library, or begin with a few friends. But I warn you…it is a slippery slope! You’ll be chairing a committee before you know it ;)

  2. Jill Shuker
    Jill Shuker says:

    Just about to organise a film show of Before the Flood at my house – first time I have ever done anything like this. I don’t want to make friends feel guilty so am not quite sure how to approach the invite.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Jill! I haven’t seen “Before the Flood” (I know, I know, it is on my to-do list! Maybe you should invite me round?! ;) ) Have you seen it? One thing I would be careful of, especially if it’s the first time, is showing anything too doomsday-ish. I’ve written this list of my favourites, and most are quite positive

      By positive I mean, they show solutions. I think whatever you show, it’s important to have time at the end to discuss and debrief (!) and also be prepared with some next steps. Something like Bag It is easy, you can all decide to refuse something single use. Something like climate change is harder, but you could look up in advance some events, or a community group, and suggest everyone goes along with you. But I think it is important to finish with a “next step” so people don’t feel powerless and frozen into inaction. I hope that makes sense!

  3. Mel
    Mel says:

    I absolutely love you blog. Always great info and a great community of interesting, comments. Your info is never sponsored or full of toxic green wash / alternative truths. I have noticed this is definitely not true with all blogs. Recently called one out on it (“sustainably chic”) and rather than own up to it, being honest about payments and fake news, and discussing a variety of eco options based on needs / values / priorities… they closed comments and deleted the comment history. How does that actually help the planet? I think maybe a couple additions to the above list would be to contact companies to request plastic free packaging, alternatives, no microbeads, etc and contact bloggers and others providing green wash and fake news to call them out and warn their readers. It’s great that so many people are wanting to do the right thing and review their habits but it can be very challenging to filter the ‘eco’ information. (Maybe another blog topic?) ☺ Thanks as always for the impartial info and encouragement.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Mel, thank you so much! I really love the comments too, always different perspectives. Not all that agree with me either which is great – I love hearing things from a different point of view. Often people point out things I hadn’t thought of, and are able to share their own experiences which really adds to the conversation. There are often so many different ways to do things.

      I try to think about what my readers would want to know about, or how I can help them live with less stuff and less waste. I want what I write to be really good, and informative. That’s my aim, always. I’m very clear about that :)

      Re the additions you suggest, it is very hard to keep my posts condensed as it is! But yes, maybe another post is due on the kind of next-steps activism people could do…

      That would be an interesting blog post also re green claims! I’ll mull it over. I like the idea :)

      Ah, my pleasure Mel!

  4. Mel
    Mel says:

    I will admit to being a bit of a chicken when it comes to organising and hosting a full event. However, I am quite lucky to have some fabulous local Councils and other organisations that do movies, workshops, clean ups, etc. I have been organising events on Meetup to attend local events, usually with a lunch or coffee after so we can chat about the event and build local community. It seems to get a combo of repeat attendees and newbies which would not normally have attended the events. It seems to help build a small, local, face to face community. From little things big things grow. ☺

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Mel, I don’t think it matters who organised them, if they are happening! If everyone took advantage of the great community things that are happening all around them (that they haven’t even realised are there), communities would be so much better. So if a council is already doing beach clean ups and movies, no need to reinvent the wheel! Love tht you have found a gap and begun to fill it. As you say, from small things… ;)

  5. juliamaurus
    juliamaurus says:

    I joined Boomerang Bags because I enjoy sewing and because the sewing sessions were conveniently located for me. Soon after that I took my partner along to a screening of “A Plastic Ocean”. I thought a documentary would be a good way for him to understand what I was getting at about reducing waste. The movie was eye-opening and we then signed up for Plastic-Free July and started shopping at Source Bulk Foods (as well as the local market, where we already bought our fresh produce). We are finding the plastic-free journey really positive. We find ourselves getting into conversations with others about the actions we’re taking, which is an opportunity to spread the message.


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