5 Ways to Take Action for Plastic Free July

In honor of this year’s Plastic Free July theme, “small steps, big difference,” we’ve compiled 5 ways for you to take action this month to help stop plastic pollution. 

Since its inception in 2011, Plastic Free July has helped millions of people choose to refuse single-use plastics by providing resources and ideas about how to avoid plastic at home, work, school, and throughout the community. Whether you’ve already started eliminating plastic from your life and supporting the wider systems change needed to address this crisis, or are just getting started, Plastic Free July is a great time of year to double down on your efforts.

1. Choose Reuse Over Single-Use

One of the simplest ways to decrease plastic pollution is to embrace plastic-free reuse. Because they are rapidly used and discarded, single-use plastics (e.g., bags, bottled beverages, cutlery and straws, and food containers) are seriously wasteful and need to be purchased over and over again. With reusables, you just need one (or a few) of each item, and these can last you years if not the rest of your life. Using less single-use plastic saves you money, too. You can vastly reduce the amount of single-use plastic in your life by simply equipping yourself with the following plastic-free reusable items:

  • A bamboo, glass, or stainless steel straw
  • A few canvas tote bags, or natural woven basket
  • One ceramic, glass, or stainless steel water bottle
  • One ceramic or stainless steel hot beverage container
  • One set of bamboo or stainless steel cutlery
  • Several bamboo, glass, or stainless steel food containers

If you’re frequently traveling, use reusables to make an Urban Pack Kit to reduce your use of plastic while on the road. And be sure to bring your reusables with you when you’re heading out to your favorite food and drink establishments. Bring reusable cups and straws for beverages, and containers for leftovers and takeout. More eateries including popular boba tea shops are allowing reuse—and if they are not yet, you can encourage them to do so (see below).

2. Tell Your Favorite Businesses to Eliminate Single-Use Plastic

If your favorite businesses have not yet made efforts to reduce or eliminate their use of single-use plastic, Plastic Free July is the perfect time to encourage them to take action. 

When you encounter a business that sells products wrapped in plastic packaging and/or during shipping, you can use this template to ask them to use healthier plastic-free alternatives.

If you are visiting a food or beverage establishment and find that they are still using plastic, you can: 

  • Leave The Last Plastic Straw tip card with your bill requesting the eatery serves straws upon request only
  • Share the Plastic-Free Eateries page with step-by-step instructions, resources, and other support for eliminating single-use plastic at eateries with real solutions  
  • Share this blog post by Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Youth Ambassador Kareena Desai about “The Plot, a PPC Business Member that has eliminated both single-use plastic and waste of all kinds from its restaurant

3. Visit a Reuse and Refill Shop, or Plastic-Free Eatery

It’s encouraging to know that many businesses are already choosing to reduce or completely eliminate their usage of single-use plastic. Across the world, reuse and refill shops make it possible to buy cleaning supplies, dry goods, food, health and hygiene items, and much more from bulk bins while using your own plastic-free glass, stainless steel, wood, or ceramic containers—completely eliminating single-use plastic and packaging. Likewise, many food and beverage establishments have also tapped into reuse, refill, and other plastic-free principles that we know are real solutions to plastic pollution. 

If you want to locate businesses that have already gone plastic-free, visit: 

You’ll find that many food and beverage establishments and stores offer discounts for choosing reuse. Make sure you ask about discounts for bringing your own bags, cups, containers, and other reusable items when you’re out dining, grabbing a drink, or shopping.

4. Encourage Your School to Eliminate Single-Use Plastic

Photo by Ahimsa

Depending on where you are in the world, school might be out for summer or in session. Yet it’s never too early or late in the educational year to begin strategizing how to encourage schools, universities, and other educational institutions to eliminate single-use plastic. Students, parents, educators, and community members are all essential in helping to transform schools from being places replete with plastic into plastic-free places for healthier learning that put less impact on people and the planet. 

Plastics are harmful, especially to young people who are among the most vulnerable to the hormone-disrupting and toxic effects of plastic chemicals. Yet unfortunately, children, teens, and young adults are frequently exposed to plastics. This is especially true at schools, where plastic meal trays, snack and drink packaging, school supplies, and other plastic hazards can seem to be everywhere. 

Thankfully, solutions exist today. Some Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Members are focused on helping schools go plastic-free. Since 2009, PPC Member Cafeteria Culture has been working to eliminate plastic from schools across the country. The organization has led the change in completely eliminating plastic foam food trays from all New York City public schools and in nine other large school districts across the U.S., preventing half a billion plastic foam trays from ending up in landfills, incinerators, the environment, and in students’ bodies each year. The organization continues to partner with New York City schools to implement reusables, eliminate single-use plastic, and educate and empower young people to advocate for solutions.

PPC Business Member Ahimsa has launched its Conscious Cafeteria Project, a 12-month pilot program in New York City to decarbonize 25 school cafeterias and improve students’ environmental health knowledge through its reusable stainless steel foodware model and new educational curriculum. Last year, Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, pediatrician and founder of Ahimsa, presented the project to the Clinton Global Initiative, where Dr. Chelsea Clinton expressed interest in developing a plastic-free cafeteria in her child’s school. 

Find more in our list of Plastic-Free School Resources, which you can use to assist schools, universities, and other educational institutions in their plastic-free transformations—and also check out this blog post, which explains how best to use the resources. 

You can also reach out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and tell its administrators to protect children’s health by banning plastic from school cafeterias.

5. Support Systems Change: Donate to PPC

Plastic pollutes at every stage of its existence. It is becoming more evident that plastic is harming not only our environment and the many creatures who call our beautiful planet home, but that plastic poisons people too. Individual actions can help shift our culture, but a wider systems shift is needed to end plastic pollution at the source. Thanks to supporters like you, we can continue to work with thousands of individuals, organizations, and businesses to stop this crisis—not just throughout July, but all year long.

Please consider supporting our work to educate, connect, and advocate for a more just, regenerative world free of plastic pollution. We truly appreciate whatever support you are able to give.

Looking for more? 

Visit the Take Action section of the PPC website where you will find our pledge, petitions, guides, and events, including our upcoming webinar on July 18, Designing a Plastic-Free Future with Regenerative Materials.

And visit Plastic Free July’s website to find information, tips, events near you, and much more.

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