For the last decade, Plastic Free July has gotten a lot of traction because people like the idea of no pollution from single-use plastics. But with that traction has come... detraction. This year in particular, it seems that people are speaking out against Plastic Free July because it seems inaccessible... and I have thoughts.
First, Plastic Free July is a lofty goal.
In this world that we live in, almost everything is packaged in plastic or made of plastic - including things we can't imagine being plastic. Getting rid of every plastic in our life overnight is... impossible. But that doesn't mean we can't try. So let's all agree not to judge each other too harshly for being imperfect, but to nudge each other to reconsider our habits to do better than we have been.
Second, plastic-free options aren't widely available.
This, to me, is the biggest deterrent to widespread acceptance of the movement. If we can get a latte on every block, we should be able to refill our dish soap everywhere without it seeming novel or counterculture. We should be entitled to buy a half pound of pasta or rice or 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. Without bulk bins and refillable options, many people can't even fathom reducing plastic waste.
Third, we must match availability of plastic-free foods with the increasing prevalence of SNAP benefits.
In 2023, 42 million Americans use SNAP benefits to help provide groceries... up from 37 million in December 2019. Even if bulk bins are popping up near you, many of the small stores aren't equipped to accept SNAP benefits. Farmers markets are often great options... IF you can make it to the market on that day. So we're thrilled to be leading the charge to bring sustainable (read: Organic, Local, Plastic Free) foods that can be accessed with SNAP benefits, 6 days a week... and we hope to inspire other stores to provide it too.
Finally, people think the Zero Waste movement is too expensive.
But that's often a MAJOR misunderstanding. The commercialization of the Zero Waste movement can be expensive, but that's usually if you're trying to have the newest gadget or the shiniest reusable item. That's the opposite of what the movement is really about! Let's use what we have, and get creative to do it. Remember Kent Calfee reusing his old Hershey Syrup bottle for water on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives? He didn't spend any extra money on a shiny new water bottle to look cool. And that's what made the whole thing cool anyway. (There will be another blog about people who tell me they can get crappy packaged soap much cheaper, and then argue about water toxicity of ingredients... but that's not Plastic Free, that's just poor quality!)
In conclusion, Plastic Free July or the Zero Waste Movement is less about the products, and more about the habits. It's a behavioral shift.