The world is in crisis and it hurts—plain and simple. But there’s also treasure in the crisis.
If it wasn’t clear before the coronavirus pandemic forced billions of us to stay at home, it’s clear now. Human activity is crippling the planet and the planet can recover…if given the chance.
But there are also some things that haven’t changed: there are still mountains of plastic floating in the oceans. In fact, microplastics were recently found for first time in Antarctic ice where krill source food. That’s how profoundly our plastic habit has poisoned the earth and its ecosystems.
Right now, many of us are thinking more deeply than ever about our impact, on our shared home and on one another. We don’t know what the world is going to look like when we come out on the other side of this, but we have a chance to make it better.
The simplest, most direct impact we can have on the health of our future, right now, is to change our daily habits. Consider the weight of the plastic waste you’re leaving in your wake, every single day, and make small, sustainable changes to reduce that.
We’ve taken our hugely popular Planet Over Plastic Challenge and freshened it up for Earth Day 2020 with new ideas that are doable from home.
We’ve kept our classic avoid-plastic tips: genuinely helpful, practical little things we can all do, with shout outs for some of our fave eco companies doing it right—not because they paid us, or even know we mentioned ’em here, but because we genuinely love what they’re doing to help rescue this precious planet of ours from drowning in plastic.
Take one tip a day to stay inspired, informed, and empowered. Share the challenge with your friends, family, colleagues. Start a Planet Over Plastic group (virtually, of course) to keep each other pumped and accountable.
Even if you only manage to accomplish 1 of these 31 things, you’ll have made a difference, and contributed to a better world for us all to enjoy again, just as soon as we can.
Planet Over Plastic Challenge, 2020—Take One Tip a Day.
Wednesday, July 1
1. Bring Everything but the Kitchen Sink
Avoid plastic utensils by getting a bamboo set or spork, or wrap a set of silverware in a handkerchief. And don’t forget your reusable cups, mugs, or bottles. Grab everything you need at Eco Products.
Stock up on Eco Utensils
Thursday, July 2
2. Get an Organic, Re-Usable Face Mask
Medical-grade, disposable masks are best used by medical professionals. Several companies have diverted some resources to help address the mask shortage by supplying non-medical grade, material face masks which have been shown to reduce your risk of infecting others. Groceries Apparel is donating 3 masks for every 3 you buy, and they're 100% organic.
Buy 3, Give 3
Friday, July 3
3. Don't Bin It, Baby!
Still throwing your food scraps in the bin? Stop! It's so much easier and more rewarding than you think to compost your food and garden waste. If you don't have a garden to start your compost pile in, indoor composting bins and worm farms are a great option. There are many good ones available to order online, so get collecting. We've got some tips to get you started.
Saturday, July 4
4. Get a Squeaky Clean Tush.
What does an Earth-loving human do during a global shortage of (even eco) toilet paper? Stop wiping your hiney, of course! And start washing your tushy...with a bidet! C'mon, it's not as weird as it sounds and it'll give your bathroom that hip, totally European edge. We recommend our friends at Hello Tushy for a bum (and an eco conscience) that's as slick as a whistle.
Join the Clean Butt Club
Sunday, July 5
5. Fish Don’t Need to Brush their Teeth.
So, keep plastic toothbrushes outta the ocean by quitting ‘em already! While you’re at it, ditch those little floss on a plastic stick things. Go for bamboo and silk floss. We love WooBamboo and Radius for this!
100% Biodegradable Chomper Cleaners
Monday, July 6
6. Go Retro!
Go back to old-fashioned goodies like wooden cotton buds, beeswax, or reusable paper wraps for lunch or leftovers, glass containers for dry food storage. We love Khala Co wraps for storing your leftovers in, or use 'em to wrap up a sandwich for the kids and take 'em for a picnic in the garden, or on the living room floor. They're offering 20% off to all our readers with code: Elephant.
Get Plastic-Free Food Storage
Tuesday, July 7
7. Ecobrick it.
This may be the most fun you can have with plastic. Stuff plastic bottle full of clingfilm, straws, wrappers, plastic bags, whatever fits, as long as it's clean and dry. Pack it in there real tight, until you have something you can build a wall, bench, or even a house with...seriously! Ecobricks are one of the few ways to effectively sequester existing plastic.
Why & How to Ecobrick
Wednesday, July 8
8. Beware the Online Binge Shop.
Before you buy anything, ask yourself: Do I really need it? How did the production of this impact the environment and what further impacts will its disposal cause? Try the 30-Day Rule: wait 30 days after the first time you decide you want something to make your decision. The free, downloadable Wallet Buddy from The Center for a New American Dream is a great constant reminder to buy mindfully.
Download the Wallet Buddy
Thursday, July 9
9. Clean up your Laundry Act.
Use soap flakes, soap strips, or soap nuts instead of conventional laundry detergents that come in plastic-lined cardboard with plastic scoops or thick plastic jugs. They are truly awful for the planet. Look for a recyclable, repulpable, and compostable box for detergent packaging. Dropps are an awesome option, and they ship direct to your door.
Say Bye, Plastic Laundry Bottles!
Friday, July 10
10. Calculate your Carbon Footprint.
How many planets do we need if everyone lives like you? When is...or was your personal Overshoot Day? Have you ever used a Carbon Footprint calculator? Get ready, it's time to ask yourself some uncomfortable questions, but you can't do better if you don't know better, so dive in!
Figure out your Impact
Saturday, July 11
11. Be an Eco Pa(w)rent
Raising a small two or four-legged creature makes an impact on the planet in the stinkiest way. Ditch disposable diapers that’ll never go away and use cloth diapers (they're better for babies’ butts, too) to reduce your cutie’s carbon footprint and save money. Go for compostable poop bags when (socially-distanced) walking your four-legged loves and Google eco ways to dispose of that doggy do.
More Tips for Baddass Eco Parents
Sunday, July 12
12. Become a Domestic God/Goddess
Make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles. Let baking soda, vinegar, water, and essential oils become your new best friends to clean, scour, and disinfect. You can also make your own personal care products, like DIY salt and sugar scrubs. Search Elephant for recipes. We've got loads!
3 Easy DIY Cleaning Products
Monday, July 13
13. Don't Idle that Car, Karen!
Really, folks. This is 2020 and we don't leave our cars running anymore. ~ Sincerely, The Future.
How (not) to be Douche of the Day
Tuesday, July 14
14. Sip Plastic-Free Tea (or Coffee).
Swap away from tea bags whenever possible because most have plastic packaging. Buy bulk or organic teabags without bleach, plastic, and other nasties. Numi Organic Tea is one of Elephant’s all-time favorite companies, and we’ve covered their mission numerous times over the years. Fully compostable packaging, 100% organic and fairtrade—Numi’s got it going on.
What You're Actually Steeping There
Wednesday, July 15
15. Cook from Scratch & Do Take-Out Mindfully.
The more we cook, the less packaging we end up with. Avoiding convenience food items produces less plastic and other waste, is healthier, and pretty fun to do once you get going. Cooking is a great mindfulness practice, too! But mix in some take-out orders from any local, human-scale foodie joints in your area. They need your support right now, just be sure to ask to 'em hold the plastic.
Delicious (Veggie) Meals: 15 Tips
Thursday, July 16
16. Recycle your Old Tech
A lot of us have had the itch to clear out clutter while spending nearly 24-7 at home. If you're getting rid of phones and other electronics, don't dump 'em. Take them to special centers in your area. Some places even have buyback programs. Or if's a real relic, turn it into a decorative conversation piece.
Get Cash for your Old Tech
Friday, July 17
17. Repurpose Over Donation.
The reality of clothing donations is not as simple and romantic as most of us think. Make dog toys/tug o’ war ropes, or tote bags out of old t-shirts. Turn stretchy clothing into hair ties, head bands, or bandeaus. Make sunglass cases, pen, straw, or silverware holders, or handkerchiefs out of soft fabrics. You can also never have enough rags.
The Truth about Clothes Donations
Saturday, July 18
18. Reuse and Repurpose your Own Plastics.
90% of plastics never get recycled. If you are still using Ziploc bags, wash and reuse, Ecobrick it (see April 28), or get crafty with the kiddos. Read up on how recycling works or, actually, doesn't. Seek out companies like TerraCycle, who do things the right way, albeit a bit more expensively. If you can't reuse it yourself, this is really your only eco option.
The Only Way to Recycle
Sunday, July 19
19. Observe an Eco-Sabbath
For one day, afternoon or, even hour a week, don't buy anything, don't use machines, don't switch on anything electric, don't cook, don't answer your phone and, in general, don't use any resources. Breathe in and out. Notice how you feel.
The Art of Doing Absolutely Nothing
Monday, July 20
20. Avoid the Worst Plastic Offenders.
Check the bottom of any plastic container and you’ll see a number (1 through 7) inside a triangle made of arrows. The worst, most toxic (to you and the environment) plastics are: #3 #6 and #7.
Practice the S.T.O.P. Technique
Tuesday, July 21
21. Throw in the (Paper) Towel
Do it! Give up paper towels. It is not as hard as you think. Grab yourself a (sharp) pair of scissors, cut up some old t-shirts or that tablecloth you'll never use, and put those suckers in a small basket or container in your kitchen. Done!
4 More Steps for a More Eco Kitchen
Wednesday, July 22
22. Quit Already
C'mon now, smokers! It's gross: for your health and the planet's, and you know it. Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic that can break into smaller pieces, but will never biodegrade or disappear. Even the biodegradable types take 10-15 years to do so, and can leach out chemicals that were originally in your cigarette into the ground. Plus, y'know: coronavirus, your lungs.
5 Tips for Die Hard Smokers
Thursday, July 23
23. Have a Plastic-Free Period.
Go get yourself that menstrual cup! They’re not as scary as they seem. Easy to use, easy to clean, totally hassle-free for 12 hours at a time: win! Diva Cup have a range of sizes and offer a lot of support for the cup-phobic.
Join the Inner Revolution
Friday, July 24
24. Eat Real Food.
Frozen, convenience, and junk foods are mega culprits for excessive packaging waste. Curb your plastic addiction without even trying by eating more real food, mostly plants: think fruits, veggies (don’t forget your mesh veg bags), legumes, nuts (buy in bulk)...This is one shopping habit that’ll slim down your waste and your waist!
8 Tips for Affordable Real Food
Saturday, July 25
25. Try your Hand at Growing your Own.
It's the perfect time to grow seedlings for your own food or flowers instead of buying the ones in plastic pots from gardening centers. Get cuttings or source heirloom seeds, avoiding those in nurseries that are often GMO and come in plastic. Organize a (socially-distanced) swap with friends or family who grow their own, too.
5 Reasons to Grow your Own
Sunday, July 26
26. Switch to Truly Green Beauty.
Look for a certified organic brand that is vegan, cruelty-free, and uses minimal, sustainable packaging. For The Biome donates 3% of all revenues to support climate justice, sustainable housing, and the empowerment of women. It also produces its formulas with waterless technologies and volcanic CO2 extraction.
Eco Up your Beauty Routine
Monday, July 27
27. Join the Litterati.
One of the upsides of global lockdown is the reduction in litter. But if you're able to go for a (socially-distanced) walk where you are, don’t walk past anything you can take with you. You might save some local wildlife along the way. Or join the Litterati by taking an artful picture of it (then sanitize!) and posting to Instagram with the tag #litterati, then dispose of the trash responsibly.
Do Your Bit & Photograph It
Tuesday, July 28
28. Make Your Yard Creature-Friendly.
Make your yard a welcoming place for local wildlife by installing bird feeders, bee hotels, frog hide-outs...There are lots more ideas online for building simple creepy-crawly and creature homes. This is especially fun to do with children. It'll make you feel more harmonious with nature and help you make memories with the family, too.
27 Ways to Make Memories with Kids
Wednesday, July 29
29. Remember the Dang Bag!
Pack ‘em and stash ‘em—in your carboot, bike basket, handbag, anywhere and everywhere. And, for goodness sake, remember to take ‘em with you when you shop, every time, this month...and beyond. Shopping bags, produce bags, bread bags and bulk food bags—and if so inspired, we have a big, sturdy, tough, and eco, and ethically printed Elephant tote, so you can take mindfulness with you, too.
Get the Elephant Tote
Thursday, July 30
30. Make your Own Condiments.
Get crafty in your kitchen by making your own cucumber or zucchini relish. Chocolate sauce, mustard, and mayonnaise are all quick and simple to make once you get the hang. Everything can be kept in those glass jars clogging up the back of your kitchen cupboard. Or we've even got a recipe for sugar-free probiotic hot sauce. The only question is, "how hot do you want it?"
Cook Up a Fiery Little Devil
Friday, July 31
31. Ditch the To-Go Cup, For Good
While we may not be getting as many take-away coffees as usual right now, it's still the perfect time to make sure that last to-go cup you used is truly the last. The Mindful Manifesto Elephant Journal + Klean Kanteen Coffee *and* Water 16 oz insulated Eco Mug is our own hip, eco mug with Waylon H. Lewis’ Mindful Manifesto to inject a little mindfulness into your days.
Sip More Mindfully