July Green Tip: Learn what small changes you can make to break free from plastic, including: bulk food shopping, toiletries, balloons and decorations, take out containers & cutlery

The Office of Sustainability shares some of its favorite tips and products for staying plastic free.

You may have noticed on the UMB Office of Sustainability’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages that this month was Plastic Free July. This challenge started with 40 people in Perth, Australia, in 2011 and has become a global movement with 140 million people from 190 countries participating today. According to its website, Plastic Free July participants:

  • reduce their household waste and recycling by 15 kg per person per year (3.5 percent less waste)
  • globally reduced 2.1 billion tonnes of waste and recycling including 300 million kgs of plastic consumption
  • made changes that have become habits/a way of life
  • after 11 years, have reduced global demand by 2.3 percent for bottled water, 3.1 percent for fruit and vegetable packaging, and 4.0 percent for plastic straws

This month, the Office of Sustainability shared some of its favorite tips and products for staying plastic free. It’s never too late to ditch plastic, and every bit of waster reduction helps. See below for the tips.

Week 1: Shampoo and Conditioner Bars

Our office loves using shampoo and conditioner bars in lieu of the bottled stuff. Not only are they guaranteed TSA-friendly, they also are small, last as long as a bottle (if not longer), and lower your environmental impact in a few ways. These concentrated bars reduce your water footprint as well as your carbon footprint since they are solid and light. Fewer resources are needed for manufacturing, and since they’re compact and lighter, more product can be transported at the same time. They also help you cut down on waste because they don’t come in a plastic container — to keep them from getting soggy, you can place them on a soap holder or dish.

Pro tip: Purchase locally from companies like Mount Royal Soap Co., which makes a variety of bars for different hair types. Their bars come in a stainless-steel tin and can be purchased without the tin as a “refill.” While you’re at it, skip the liquid hand soaps, and check out their bar soaps that come in a variety of cleverly named scents from “Bird City” (spearmint and sweet basil) to “Salt of the Earth” (lavender, tea tree, and aloe) to “Thrilla’ in Vanilla” (poppy seed and vanilla).

Week 2: Concentrated Cold Brew

Grabbing a coffee to go can add up in dollars and plastic trash. Prepping the weekend before by making a cold brew concentrate is an easy way to reduce your waste and conveniently caffeinate! Follow the recipe below for your concentrate:

  • 5 oz ground coffee (about 1.67 cups)
  • 3.5 cups of water
  • Large pitcher
  • Mason jar(s)

Add coarse coffee and fresh, cold water to your large pitcher. Mix and cover. Allow it to brew at room temperature or in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. Then, strain into another container like a mason jar and refrigerate until it’s time for a cup.

When preparing your drink, mix 1 part concentrate to 2-3 parts water. Top with your favorite plant-based creamer, and you’re good to go! You can add the concentrate to a glass of ice for a cold brew or add it to hot water in a mug.

This is a great way to save time in the morning instead of waiting in line or waiting for your coffee pot to finish its brew. Keep it local by purchasing fresh beans from your local coffee shop like Zeke’s.

Pro tip: Their packaging also contains a compostable liner, so you can drop it off at a local MOMs or Whole Foods for industrial composting. Just make sure you remove the tin tie at the top beforehand.

Week 3: Menstrual Cups

A benefit of choosing reusable over single use isn’t just the savings — it can ensure that necessities are readily available for the people who need them. For those who menstruate and use menstrual hygiene products, you may have noticed that one of the recent items to experience supply chain issues is tampons. By choosing reusable, you don’t need to worry about a supply shortage once your cycle comes around.

Menstrual cups (and discs) come in a variety of sizes and designs and range from as little as $8 (the June Cup) to about $40 (the DivaCup and nixit Disc). Reusable menstrual products may sound like an upfront investment, and preferences can vary from size to shape (cup vs. disc) to material and flexibility, so one cup does not fit all. Once you do find the right one for you, they can last five to 10 years with proper care. The average cup or disc can hold between 25 and 30 ml — the equivalent of three large tampons. Pro tip: It can take one or two cycles to feel confident in inserting and emptying the cup. For most brands, cups/discs only need to be emptied every 12 hours.

Week 4: Leaf Razor

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 2 billion disposable razors get thrown away each year. If you shave, consider an alternative like a safety razor. Safety razors are not new, but they have come a long way in terms of convenience and popularity in the zero-waste movement. One zero-waste razor brand that stands out is Leaf. Leaf razors offer versatility because you can choose one to three blades in your razor, and they are designed like a conventional cartridge razor. When switching out the blades, you can put them into a secure metal tin to send back to Leaf for recycling or drop them off at a local scrap metal shop. Leaf sells tins to deposit used blades, but you can just as easily use something like an Altoid container.

Ditch the canned shaving cream while you’re at it and go for a shaving bar to lather up. In a pinch, a conditioner bar or moisturizing shampoo bar can work, too.

Pro tip: Take your time at first to get used to the weight of the razor. After you get the hang of it, you’ll forget about all of those wasteful cartridges and enjoy the close shave a reusable razor like Leaf can provide.

Keep It Plastic Free All Year

Whether you’re new to the plastic-free movement or a seasoned Zero Waste Warrior, the Office of Sustainability encourages you to try something new and stick to it beyond Plastic Free July. By preventing waste, we can lessen our environmental impact and be friendlier to our Earth. With some minor lifestyle changes, we can make a bigger collective difference than we think.

Stay in touch, and sign up for the Office of Sustainability’s monthly newsletter.

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