The Pandemic Made Me A Bad Environmentalist: Why I’m Ready for Plastic Free July


Plastic Free July is a movement that encourages people to refuse single-use plastics for the month of July and beyond. Plastic Free July always provides a great yearly reset for me; it’s an opportunity to focus on which environmentally-focused habits are going well and which could use improvement.

This year, I feel especially ready for Plastic Free July because the pandemic made me a bad environmentalist. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it became difficult to maintain some of my usual efforts to decrease plastic use. Coffee shops didn’t want my reusable mug, which was replaced by plastic cups from the drive-thru. Cloth shopping bags were swapped for plastic bags loaded into the back of my van during grocery pick-up. Instead of restaurant plates and cutlery, there were styrofoam containers and plastic forks from a takeout order. 

This article from February 2021 estimates that 1.6 million tons of plastic waste have been produced each day since the pandemic began. Items like sanitizer containers, shoe covers, gloves, and face masks contribute to this huge amount of waste. In fact, the same article estimates that 3.4 billion face masks/face shields have been discarded each day since the outbreak. Oof. That’s a lot of waste. If we are able to create so much waste together, surely we can work together to make a positive impact. 

cutlery setAs I slowly re-enter society, I have a chance to evaluate some of the habits I developed during the pandemic and attempt to get back to “normal.”

Even if completely avoiding single-use plastic is not realistic at this time in my life, I can still participate in the Plastic Free July movement and make a difference with my choices. 

This year during Plastic Free July, I am going to focus on two specific behaviors:

1. Refusing straws and plastic cutlery when we order takeout

2. Making coffee drinks at home to avoid single-use cups. 

Plastic Free July is a great opportunity to get the whole family involved in working toward a solution to the plastic problem. Young kids can learn about plastic pollution and help out with tasks like recycling and neighborhood clean-ups. Older kids might enjoy having a zero waste competition.

Maybe Plastic Free July can be the right time to start using those reusable shopping and produce bags.

Maybe it’s the time to begin keeping a set of cutlery and a straw in your car or at work to use instead of plastic.

Perhaps July is the month to finally try a menstrual cup or other low waste menstrual products.

Four reusable water bottles/mugsInspired but not sure where to start? Try saying, “No,” to the top four plastics:

  • plastic bags
  • water bottles
  • disposable cups
  • plastic straws 

This post also has some great suggestions for making sustainable choices. Regardless of how one chooses to participate, after so much time spent isolated and apart, Plastic Free July offers a chance to come together for something larger than ourselves.