This July, join together with other environmentally-minded folks around the world for Plastic Free July! This movement encourages one to eliminate (or reduce as much as possible) the use of single-use plastics. We all know that plastics and many other trash items never fully break down, and instead, break into small pieces that can stick around in our environment for years to come. Luckily, there are many things we can do--as individuals and in community--to shift to other resources that use less energy and keep our world clean. 
Here are eight things you can do this month to reduce your waste that might be new to you. 
1. Choose one of your favorite products and visit the manufacturer's website to see if it's available in reusable packaging, or better yet, see if they have a return program for their packaging! Plaine Products is a great example. If they do not have a low waste option yet, send them an email to show that there is demand for better packaging. 
2. Need to buy a product, but can't find it in a local store? Check out EarthHero before Amazon. This site only includes products that are sourced, manufactured, and shipped with the environment in mind. You can read reviews from other customers and find everything from kitchen tools to clothing and jewelry, to outdoor gear! 
3. The next time you run out of a personal care or cleaning product, check out your local refill store. A few local options are Resourcefill in Lafayette, Mighty Market in Martinez, and the Natural Grocery Company in El Cerrito. Harvest House in Concord is an amazing resource for food items, as you can bring your own containers. 
4. Waiting until your day off to buy groceries? Check out the What's in My Fridge Recipe Finder tool to find recipes using the ingredients you already have in your pantry or fridge. For more tips, check out "Make a Meal Plan" on the Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge. 
5. It can be easy and convenient to purchase food without packaging--find your local farmers' market and find recipe inspiration with seasonal produce. Or, check out Zero Grocery, which delivers package-free groceries throughout the Bay Area. 
6. When you need a new item, think secondhand first! This may take more planning than ordering online, but check out Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, or Craigslist to save some money and find a product quickly. You can also find your local "Buy Nothing" group on Facebook to trade useful items with your neighbors.  
7.  If you need to find a product in person, check out your local thrift or consignment store. You can find amazing housewares, books, luggage, games, and even small appliances. Many folks donate to these businesses, but by purchasing from them as well, we can create a more circular economy and save money! 
8. Learn new tips and techniques from other environmentalists. You may be able to save money, effort, and time by implementing their suggestions. Check out creators like the Zero Waste ChefJhánneu, and Levi Hildebrand.
Bonus tip: When you must buy new items, look for companies that use recycled or recovered materials. For example, Girlfriend Collective creates high-quality activewear out of plastic bottles and Norton Point creates sunglasses made with recovered ocean debris.
To learn more about Plastic Free July, visit plasticfreejuly.org. To learn about how we can have the most impact and hold plastic polluters accountable, visit this article from last month's newsletter. 

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