Hard to believe it’s already been a whole year, but it’s that time again: Plastic Free July. Whether you’re a zero waste superstar or someone just getting started on your waste-reduction journey, I hope you’ll find ways to participate this year.

Plastic Free July is a simple campaign which “aims to raise awareness of the amount of plastic in our lives by encouraging people to eliminate the use of single-use plastic during July each year. It’s focus is on creating awareness of the issues surrounding plastic, particularly single-use, providing alternatives and solutions, and encouraging new habits.”

You’ve probably seen stories about recent wins like cities and corporations banning plastic straws, or losses like the islands of plastic literally choking our marine life to deal. All of these big issues stem from the very small items we almost never think of. But many small actions – whether positive or negative – build up over time and have a huge influence.

So don’t worry: Plastic Free July isn’t advocating for a total zero waste lifestyle. That being said, it does attempt to tackle arguably zero waste’s biggest issue: plastic.

Sounds awesome, right?

What is single-use plastic?

Just what it sounds like, single-use plastics are plastic things that you… use just one single time. Examples of single-use plastics include:

  • plastic grocery and produce bags;
  • hot or cold drink cups;
  • plastic straws;
  • plastic cutlery;
  • water bottles.

The obvious issue is that while we use these items for just a few minutes, the materials they’re made of will be on our planet forever. Because plastic doesn’t go away, it just degrades into smaller and smaller pieces which find themselves in our water, in our soil, and into the things we eat. (Ew.)

Plus, from a money perspective, it’s ridiculous to constantly spend money on items that will immediately be thrown away. Whether you’re a household or a business, single-use plastics just don’t make sense financially!

The good news is that there are simple alternatives to the single-use items you use. Better yet, you probably already have those items in your house. Being kinder to the environment shouldn’t be a difficult or expensive experience – see the section at the end of this post on simple, cheap ways to make big changes in your life.

How to participate in plastic free july

Joining the 2,000,000+ people participating in Plastic Free July is simple. All you have to do is pledge to do you best to refuse single-use plastics for the whole month of July (and beyond!). While you can just do it on your own, you can also join up for-real and get connected to the wider community.

Here’s how:

  1. Sign up on the site to be counted in the official Plastic Free July numbers.
  2. Take a quiz to help you find out what types of plastics are your enemy (and what to avoid during July)
  3. Decide on specific actions you can take during Plastic Free July to reduce your waste.
  4. Spread the word! Share with friends, families, and complete strangers whenever possible!
  5. Share your success online to spread the message even more!
If you’re in Indiana, please tag any photos you share on social media with the hashtag #plasticfreeindiana!

If you’re a total zero waste newbie, you may just want to focus on reducing your single-use plastic usage during the month. If you’ve already been working on that for a while, now may be the perfect time to spread your zero waste knowledge by hosting a zero waste meetup or workshop in your community!

Why & how to participate in Plastic Free July - Green Indy Blog

planning for plastic free july

Plastic Free July shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s really just about getting to know and practicing the 5 Rs of zero waste. If you’re not familiar, it’s a look at our consumption habits that goes deeper than the classic “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

The first – and most important – R is refuse. This is key to Plastic Free July success. Refuse what you don’t need. Think twice about that $5 coffee you want in the morning if you forgot your reusable mug! Next is reduce (use less of what you do need), reuse (give each item multiple uses), rot (compost!), and then recycle. You’ll see recycling is the last option – recycling is a pretty ineffective, energy-intensive process. It is not the great environmental savior we wish it were. Better to consume no packaging at all if possible.

Lucky for you, I have plenty of resources already lined up to help you get ready for success during Plastic Free July. Check out these blog posts for ideas:

You should also search Facebook for local zero waste groups to join and get inspiration from. If you don’t have anything local, there are international Facebook groups that may not be as specific as local groups, but can still help you answer any burning questions you may have!

If you’re in Indiana, please join a nearby zero waste group. Both Zero Waste Indy and Zero Waste Lafayette are active on Facebook. These groups are a great way to ask questions and get support as you explore the plastic-free lifestyle. I also have a zero waste Indianapolis guide available so you can find plastic-free friendly places to shop.

Will you be participating in Plastic Free July? What do you think will be the biggest challenge – and how do you think you can plan for success? Good luck!


Green Indy is a blog about zero waste, minimalism, and generally being less of an a**hole to our Earth (Indianapolis, specifically) by me, Polly Barks. I’m a writer, teacher, and a natural-born researcher/experimenter.


obtusata · June 24, 2018 at 2:51 pm

I didn’t even know this existed, but I just signed up. I’m fairly low waste now, but sweet treats will be hard as my usual store is abysmally low on bulk sweet snacks that I actually like. But, I’ll check their baked goods section and see if I can find some cookies to switch to. Oo, or cookies from the market!

    Polly · June 26, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Yay! A little extra motivation can never hurt – and a hunt for low-waste sweet treats sounds like a good time 🙂

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