Another Look at Plastic-Free July: Traveling

Plastic-Free July is a concept that started a few years ago in Australia. (You can read my previous Plastic-Free post here)

I knew I’d be traveling this summer, so before I even started Plastic-Free July, I thought about my two main challenges: produce and coffee.

I already use canvas shopping bags for toting purchases from the farmers’ market and the grocery store, so it’s no trouble to keep one in my suitcase; I usually do that anyway. But I often end up using the plastic produce bags at the stores. I decided to take some old ones along for reuse, and that worked, most of the time.

When I got home, I went shopping and found these cotton produce bags.

Cotton produce bags: plastic free AND washable.

Cotton produce bags: plastic free AND washable.

I can use and reuse these. Of course the best option would be to plant a garden, but I don’t have the space, the light, or the dirt for more than the three pepper plants and little spot of herbs that I already have.

As for coffee: here’s the shameful result of 2 weeks of forgetting to keep my travel cup with me.

Accumulated coffee lids and cardboard sleeves: I'm guilty during Plastic-Free July.

A guilty admission: there were a couple more lids that were not recyclable and I didn’t bring them home.

I have a sense of failure here, but at least I collected the lids and cardboard sleeves and brought them back to recycle, then spent the rest of the month drinking my coffee at home. At first I congratulated myself on thinking that it’s easy to find coffee beans in a paper, rather than plastic, container — then I noticed that my electric coffee pot is plastic with a glass carafe. Good grief. I’m going back to using my glass and metal cafe press, so I can feel a tiny bit virtuous.

I think the main lesson of plastic-free July is awareness. Now that I’m actively looking, I see plastic everywhere: jars of prepared foods, bottles of juice, cups of yogurt, plastic-wrapped cheeses, plastic-bagged carrots, plastic clamshells of mushrooms, berries, grapes, tomatoes. Plastic water bottles? No — too big a subject for this post. Not going there.

Now that I see all the plastic, I’m able to think of ways to work around some of it. Even small changes can add up. My home made yogurt tastes pretty good, and saves a few plastic cups per week. And I can’t resist using a photo of these amazing farmer’s market mushrooms one more time.  (Nope. I didn’t push the color. What you see is what you get.)

Plastic-free farmer's market mushrooms.

No clamshell plastic-free mushrooms.

And yes, it hasn’t escaped me that I popped the plastic SD card out of my plastic-bodied camera to load these photos.

Let’s take it one more step: could there be a downside to all this plastic besides the obvious load on the landfills and oceans for the percent that doesn’t get recycled? What about our bodies? What happens to us, with our constant exposure to BPA, pthalates, and possible endocrine disruptors? In other words — all this plastic? Here’s some food for thought…

Plastic-free July is over now, and I admit that being completely plastic-free is beyond my reach. But it’s still possible to use plastic less. Will you join me in a “plastic less” year?

For more information on Plastic-Free July, visit:


4 thoughts on “Another Look at Plastic-Free July: Traveling

  1. Glad to see you’ve embraced plastic free living so much! It’s so true about the awareness – once your eyes are truly open to plastic you see it everywhere! As for me, once I saw it I knew there was no going back. I love your produce bags, very beautiful. I like that you brought your packaging home for recycling – I do that too! Glad I’m not the only one! My boyfriend got given a plastic plate at a conference once for lunch so he brought it home and now we take it with us when we go to the Farmers Market and buy breakfast (not super often but still) so at least the “disposable” item is being reused : )

    • You opened my eyes on the plastic-free issue. I was recycling but only beginning to think “wouldn’t it be better not to use this in the first place?” I still have a lot of legacy cleaning supplies, one of the things my late partner hoarded. It’s beginning to look like he left me over a decade’s worth, so my cupboards will be full of plastic for a while.

  2. Pingback: Friday Faves, August 23rd | Living Simply Free

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