Recapping an exhilarating month of no plastic. Wow.

Plastic-Free Groceries
Success! A grocery run almost entirely free of plastic! Can you spot my only blunder?


Plastic-Free July is over! Frankly speaking, I was quite relieved when August 1st rolled around. While I thoroughly enjoyed avoiding plastic for a month, it was challenging experience to say the least.

Plastic is everywhere. Some products only come in plastic! Plastic-Free July meant guilt every time I sipped soy milk (plastic lids), boiled pasta (plastic “windows”), or purchased sponges (good luck buying a sponge not wrapped in plastic). For a month, I longed for tofu. Tofu, why are you so needy? Tofu’s demanding preservations requirements ensure plastic is involved in its packaging. Maybe I should make my own.

Nearly all my toiletries ran out, or almost ran out, during July, causing me much anxiety. These products seem to be universally made with plastic. I couldn’t live without sunscreen, so I replaced it without hesitation. Seeing my body wash, face wash, and acne cream go was quite a shock. My shaving cream and toothpaste are also on their last legs. I got by for the month, but still could use a field trip to the soap dispensary.

But why focus on the negatives? Despite my struggles and all the inconveniences,  Plastic Free-July was an edifying experience, and overall a very positive one. No-plastic shopping completely changed my outlook as a consumer, and I’m convinced many of my new habits will stick. Here are a few examples (you can do them too!):

No plastic bags at grocery stores. Eliminating bags at the grocery store requires foresight. It’s hard to remember to leave space in your backpack or bring tote bags for each shopping run. But it’s very doable! Those little plastic baggies you tear off for fruits and veggies are also problematic. My trick is to bring my own produce bags, or find a grocery store that provides paper (compostable) bags instead! See the picture above for an example of a successful grocery trip!

No take-out in single-use containers. Take-out is an amazing thing. Delicious food to-go is clutch during exam period, and lovely for picnics. While a policy of no plastic containers is demanding, it can be done. It just sometimes means reworking your evening plans. Many restaurants do compostable containers, a huge blessing. Otherwise, bring your own containers! On the phone with Sushi Bella last Saturday evening, I asked if I could take my sushi to-go in tupperwares. The answer: “Yes!” Apparently their customers do it all the time. What a revelation. My girlfriend, her family and I took our tupperwared sushi to Jericho Beach for a wonderful sunset and fireworks display.

Sushi Jericho

No disposable coffee cups or water bottles. This is a big one. In fact, it’s HUGE! Coffee cup and water bottle waste is massive in North America, and in particular on UBC campus. Fortunately the solution is as easy as it comes! Reusable water bottles and travel mugs are not expensive and very convenient. Travel mugs keep your beverage warmer than a cup, and won’t spill when you throw it in your bag. Water bottles don’t leave a plastic-y taste in your month and are super stylish these days. Making the conversion is so worth it. If you forget your mug at home, Common Energy is working on a program that lets you borrow one from your favourite cafe! Find out more about our Mug Share Pilot Program.

Reuse reuse reuse! Reuse as much as possible. The only redeeming part of my purchase of swimming goggle last week was that the fitted plastic container that hugged the goggles on the shelf now works perfectly as a protective case!

I want to make every month plastic-free. If that seems too challenging for you, I strongly encourage you to a try a plastic-free day or week! If you choose to blog about it, I promise I’ll be your faithful reader. Good luck!


-George Radner

Common Energy External Team