I Went Single-Use Plastic-Free for a Month and You Can Too
As the founder of The Dieline, I have become acutely aware of the amount of single-use plastic used in consumer products. I see it first hand in many of the gorgeous projects we feature here. It’s everywhere, and often unavoidable. It has become a part of everyday life.
For the month of July, I chose to go single-use plastic free. It was an easy decision because earlier this year I started educating myself about sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic as we are in the midst of an environmental crisis.
It also explains why you have been seen much more content here, here, and here about designing sustainable packaging, and the effects of single-use plastic on our planet. It’s an exciting time because many brands are choosing to ditch plastic. I believe that the tide is shifting because of the creativity and ingenuity of packaging designers, the incredible efforts of 100% sustainable packaging suppliers, and breakthroughs that are creating a new era of substrates.
How I Prepared
Personal + Home Care
I started preparing at the end of June by doing as much research as possible and stocking up on plastic-free goods and things I would need to live a successful plastic-free lifestyle.
First things first? Plastic-free toilet paper and paper towels from Who Gives a Crap.
I went to my local Lush Cosmetics and stocked up on everything I would need for personal care. Hair, face, body, and deodorant—you name it. All plastic free. Lush is a leader in plastic-free personal care products, even opening their first 100% plastic free store.
In my search for the perfect toothbrush, I learned that the only real plastic-free ones have bristles made from pig hair (no thanks). I also had a hard time finding plastic-free toothpaste. Even toothpaste powder packaged in a tin still came with a plastic seal.
I was fully stocked on cleaning products, but in case I ran out, Common Good and Co would be my savior as all their cleaning products come in glass bottles that I could purchase or refill locally.
Food + Drink
I started by making sure I had plenty of reusable bottles for water, to-go beverages, and my daily cold brew. Lucky for me I had my fair share.
My favorite? The 16oz S’well Traveler bottle with a wide-mouth for ice, brilliantly designed by Beardwood&Co.
Next up were reusable bamboo straws, utensils, canvas produce bags, and bee’s wrap. No more plastic forks when getting takeout or those pesky plastic produce bags at the grocery store.
Foodwise, my biggest worry was how I would find Tofu without plastic. Enter Meiji tofu in Gardena, CA— it’s just like buying the stuff at a deli for just tofu.
How Did It Go?
Overall, Plastic-Free July was a far bigger challenge than I thought it would be, and I ran into many obstacles along the way.
The easiest part was switching over all my personal care products to plastic-free alternatives, and it's something I will continue to do. I also learned that traveling with solid products versus liquid makes packing toiletries in a carry-on bag a cinch.
Getting into the habit of bringing my bottles with me everywhere was a steep learning curve, but I didn't budge. No reusable bottle? Then no cold brew. Now, it’s second nature, and I have a bottle with me at all times. In the month since I started using reusable bottles, I've avoided one-time use cups, straws, and lids altogether.
The hardest part though? Food. OMG, this was the single most challenging area. As a vegetarian, I try to eat lots of fresh produce and thought it would be easy. Boy was I wrong.
At one point in early July, I went to my local grocery store and got completely overwhelmed with the amount of plastic, that I just left. I literally couldn't handle it. Further on in the month, I had to be strategic about where I was getting my ingredients, and what I could actually make that would be single-use plastic-free. As my options were limited, I ended up eating out more often than I would have liked, out of sheer ease. And this meant no take-out food either unless I brought my own container.
Would I do it again? You bet. I will do this every year as a reminder and as a gauge to see how much plastic I can avoid. I learned so many things this month that I’m going to carry with me always. I see the material in a different light now, and I can envision a world with no single-use plastic.
In fact, I think that world is here now. As package designers, brand owners, packaging manufacturers, and consumers, it is our shared responsibility and duty to our planet to make sustainable packaging choices and to eliminate the use of single-use plastic in every project possible.
Our planet is worth it.
Andrew's passion for design developed at an early age when he first discovered Photoshop 4. After receiving his bachelors in graphic design at the age of 19, he began his career in package design as a production artist for a gourmet gift company where he designed products and packaging for major national retailers and brands including Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Jelly Belly. He saw a great need for daily package design inspiration for his own work, and founded The Dieline in 2007. It quickly became the most read package design website in the world.
Andrew now serves as CEO and Editor-In-Chief of The Dieline where he shares his passion for package design with millions of readers. Since then, he has founded The Dieline Awards, now in its 6th year, to formally recognize the world’s best consumer product packaging design. He also founded The Dieline at HOW Design LIVE, now in its 5th year. Andrew is the author of Box Bottle Bag - The World's Best Package Designs from The Dieline, and is a monthly columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine. He is also an advisory board member of AIGA Los Angeles, and teaches packaging design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.