On July 4th, many Americans forget the history of the United States. July 4th, 1776 was the date that the Declaration of Independence was published, letting England know that the American colonies considered themselves free and were dissolving the “political bands” that tied the two together. Just as Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, July 4th is not the day that we won our independence (that’s September 3, 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Revolutionary War).
To be fair, the first step in kicking any bad habit - be it a tax-crazy king or biting your nails - is to decide that the habit is no longer acceptable and to declare that its time is coming to an end. One of the biggest of our collective bad habits is plastics.
This month is #PlasticFreeJuly, and people around the world are committing to reducing or eliminating their plastic use throughout the month, ditching coffee to-go cups and shampoo bottles in favor of cute, reusable travel mugs and shampoo bars.
Don’t let getting down with the red-white-and-blue at holiday parties stop you from kicking your plastics habit! Here are some ways to go plastic-free (or reduced-plastic) on your holiday:
1) If you’re traveling, BYOR (bring your own reusables). If you, like so many, are the ultimate shopper and don’t have a to-go dinnerware kit already but it’s too late to order online, you can purchase almost everything you could need in portable sizes anywhere that camping supplies are sold. If you’re not so big on shopping, bring one of those Tupperware containers that you got from your grandmother that will still be around and in use by your own grandkids (you know what I’m talking about). Throw your container, utensils, and a cup into a bag - you’re all set!
2) If you’re hosting, offer reusables. You can ask people to scrape and rinse their own plates, cutting down on your cleanup later: I’m sure if Emily Post had known about our plastic crisis, she’d support this. If you don’t have enough reusables, encourage people to bring their own (see #1), buy paper/compostable products, and put out separate receptacles for refuse and composting. It’ll cut down on the cost of buying disposables if you ask people to keep their plate as long as possible, too.
3) Look for plastic-free or reduced-plastic drink options. Drinks like water and lemonade are easy to serve in Pinterest-worthy coolers - don’t waste your money on bottled water. Pop/soda/sodapop is available in recyclable aluminum cans, both 8oz and 12oz sizes - grab the 8oz if you typically pick up a lot of half-full pop cans at the end of the party.
4) Go for glass. Yes, that craft brewery may have great brews, but there may also be plastic on their aluminum cans! Cans are often wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap because smaller breweries order their cans in bulk but don’t need too many of one particular variety. Investing in a reusable growler can often save you money when you return to get refills - always a good option - and single-serve glass bottles can be recycled at most local recycling facilities. (Glass, unlike plastic, can be recycled repeatedly and still retain its integrity.)
5) Decorate responsibly. Do you really need the plastic table confetti? Will anyone notice the plastic firework cupcake picks? Why go with a frilly plastic wreath that you’ll toss at the end of the day when you can get crafty and make one to use every year? There are plenty of ways to have a cute party without the plastic!
6) No styrofoam. Your fork pokes through styrofoam plates, and styrofoam coolers don’t work, anyway. If your only option is single-use plastic disposables, for the love of all things frugal and environmentally-friendly, don’t go with styrofoam.
As you’re declaring personal freedom from plastic, don’t forget that people won’t join in your revolution (like the French did for the colonies) if you don’t tell them about it! People are going to notice if you’re using bamboo utensils: a simple “I’m doing what I can to eliminate unnecessary plastic in my life,” is a great way to open a dialogue. If you want to be like the Marquis de Lafayette and turn the political tide in favor of Independence, consider moving beyond personal changes. Advocate at all levels of government, and add your voice to the movement to #BreakFreeFromPlastic!