The year before last, I made a huge effort to chronicle our plastic usage and find ways in which to curtail it.

You can read about that here.

This is a swan’s nest I saw in Amsterdam harbour. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forget – nothing should have to live like this on account of humanity.

This year… I feel slightly differently about the whole thing.

It’s not that I don’t agree that we should be trying to reduce our dependence on plastic – we absolutely should. We should also continue to try and dispose of the plastic items we do use in a responsible fashion – reusing and recycling where possible.

I just feel that sometimes, all the anti-plastic rhetoric distracts from other environmental issues.

For example – we encourage people to recycle any plastic waste that they have, but simultaneously advise against buying new plastic products. This creates an imbalance – what’s the point in recycling the material if we’re not going to use it anyway? In addition to reducing our consumption of ‘virgin’ plastics, we need to ensure that the plastic we do use is coming from recycled sources. This will be my personal focus this #PlasticFreeJuly.

I also think it’s important to acknowledge that products packaged in glass or cardboard often take up more space in transit, so require more vehicles to transport them (i.e. bottles of wine, vs bag-in-a-box). They also weigh more, so the amount of fuel used on freight is higher than their plastic-packaged counterparts.

I don’t feel like looking at carbon footprints is the answer either – to be honest, I’m not sure which metric we should be measuring ecological credentials on. I just know that avoiding plastic isn’t the whole story.

So, what can we do?

We can reuse things – and not just the pretty things like mason jars. I did a whole post about the uglier items which I hold onto – old food packaging, produce tubs, and sandwich boxes. Keeping these items saves me money, but it also diverts them from landfill.

We can assess what is actually necessary in our lives. Do we need a pack of disposable, plastic cloths for doing our dishes, or could we cut up an old towel? Can we look at what we feel we’re lacking, and try to fill that gap with objects we already own?

And finally, we can recognise that the current state of the world is not our responsibility alone. We can engage with protest groups (such as the Craftivist Collective) to try and influence government policy, we can vote for parties which prioritise our values, and we can hold companies to account for products and packaging which aren’t fit for purpose. There comes a point where we’ve done all that we can reasonably be expected to do whilst living within the realms of modern society, and it’s at this point we need to take a good look at whether or not we can change society itself.

This plastic-free July, I will continue to examine the objects I buy and consume, and continue to look at ways in which I can better myself. But I’m also going to take a look at some of the ways in which I can change the world around me – can I start looking at ways to pass on my mending skills, for example? I definitely plan on taking part in the Canary Craftivist project, but I hope I can come up with other ways in which to make a difference too.

Aside from curtailing your plastic purchases, are you planning to do anything for Plastic Free July? I would love to hear your thoughts.


6 Replies to “#PlasticFreeJuly”

  1. I think your swan photo is going to live with me for some time. 😥 I totally agree about passing on skills, there is a permaculture concept called sankofa (from the Twi language in Ghana) which is all about going back and discovering – or fetching – what has been lost. I believe rediscovering and then USING skills that were once commonplace is such a positive direction for the future and would bring about a huge cultural shift. Your blog has been sending out that message of inspiration for a long time. I’m dipping in and out of https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/ a lot at the moment to inform my collecting and drying of plant materials and there’s a strong message there that if you know about just one plant, share it with others. It’s a powerful and empowering thing. I must admit I get very tired of people pointing fingers at younger generations and labelling them ‘snowflakes’ – stop being critical and derogatory and share some practical knowledge instead, I say! I’m also completely with you on engaging politically, the right to peaceful protest is such a cornerstone of democracy (and a very pertinent subject in the UK just now) and apathy gets us nowhere. I’m happy to report that I have a ‘deconstructed’ knitted canary waiting to be stuffed and finished later. 😆 I’m also toying with the idea of making my own recycled paper to write the letter on, I’ve never done it before and I have none of the usual equipment so it will be a journey of discovery – for which I have to thank you hugely! 🥰


    1. I’ve just signed up to the ‘eatweeds’ newsletter – what an amazing resource! I love the list of things in season.

      It reminds me of my favourite cookery book – a very tatty thing that my mum had from the 70/80s called ‘The Cookery Year’. It was published by Reader’s Digest and goes through the year month-by-month with recipes for what’s in season both within the UK but also through import. It’s got an enormous section at the back which covers “basic” cooking skills – everything including how to knead bread, how to make pastry, how to pluck poultry, how to make jams and chutneys etc… Things which used to be common knowledge but which have slipped from the collective memory.

      The threats on the right to peaceful protest is really bothering me – though a lot of the bill doesn’t apply to us, up here in Scotland. The trespass laws impacting the Traveller community, for example, doesn’t apply because of ‘right to roam’. I’m still going to do what I can to fight it – this shouldn’t be happening in a democratic nation and that’s allegedly what we still are. Our MP is a member of the SNP, so tends to oppose everything the Conservative government is doing as a matter of course, but our MSP is a Tory, so I think I need to make another canary to send to both. I’ve decided to write out a copy of the Emily Dickinson poem ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ to go along with them… I imagine I’ll get a positive response from our MP (the SNP having pledged to make Scotland a Netzero Nation https://www.netzeronation.scot/) but I’m unsure about our MSP – we’ve crossed paths before and I don’t think I’m very popular.

      We can but try. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I think it is so important that we keep on trying, no matter what – and who wants to be popular? 😉 We might not feel optimistic about the future but we have to hang on to hope. I love your Emily Dickinson poem idea! Our MP is a dyed-in-the-wool Tory and toes the party / Boris line every time so I’m going to politely request that he responds to my gift of a canary with something a little more personal and tailored than the usual ‘this is what the wonderful government is doing about climate blah blah blah’ claptrap. I’ve been petitioning him about the right to peaceful protest (no surprise that passed through the House of Commons) so it’s time to get back on the climate case once again. All that aside, I really believe that leading by example through living simply, applying and sharing skills and being as self-reliant as possible is equally important – action from the ground up, as it were. Your Mum’s recipe book is the perfect example of what’s needed and illustrates what has been lost to such a degree. When I did O-level Food and Nutrition (back in the age of the dinosaur), the breadth and depth of cooking skills, nutritional knowledge and budgeting taught was quite considerable; by the time my sprogs were in the system, they spent weeks ‘designing’ a dish eg pizza, did all the preparation at home, then put it together in a brief lesson at school. Thankfully, we were able to teach them to cook properly (and how to grow food and forage) with curiousity, invention and love, but what of those youngsters who’ve never had that chance? Society has totally failed them because it suits the system to have everyone shopping and dependent on the big food industry. Sorry, bit of a soapbox moment! On which note, R brought all my oils back from Spain with him so soap making is on again, also my spinning wheel – yay!!!! I’ve spent all my ‘lonely’ evenings listening to podcasts from Eatweeds and have learnt some amazing stuff. Love his anarchic attitude, too – I think I’m becoming more of a rebel the older I get! 😆


  2. Hi Farn, I always love your well thought articles. I have never thought how bottled items are actually heavier during transit and use for packaging, but you have and I appreciate your effort. You write very well; pointing out a problem, but also giving solutions. Brilliant! This is my system for using less plastics as possible. I buy enough cloth bags for when I go grocery shopping, so that I avoid the plastic bags or paper bags. Trader Joe’s has some very good sturdy bags. They also have thin plastic bags for veg, but are reusable and decomposable. When I go cloth shopping, I politely decline their bags and ask for a digital receipt instead of a paper one. I guess my aim is to slow down the use of plastic bags even if it’s one at a time, which means that another one is not manufactured, which means that the environment’s resources are not depleted. That’s my small way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Small or not, it’s all important. 🙂 There’s that saying from the Zero Waste Chef – “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

      We should all be proud of being one of the millions ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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