Climate Crisis Weekly: Plastic Free July — here’s how to do it

  • The Plastic Free Foundation launched Plastic Free July in 2011. Here’s how you can make a difference permanently.
  • Think you’re not in a flood zone? Double check with this comprehensive new data website.
  • Three things we can do to improve resilience efforts against rising sea levels — NRDC
  • And more…

In 2011, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz (the founder of the Plastic Free Foundation) and a small team in local government in Western Australia founded Plastic Free July. Millions of people across the world take part in Plastic Free July every year, with many then committing to reducing plastic pollution on a longer-term basis.

Plastic Free July is a key initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation that works toward achieving a world free of plastic waste. So what can you do personally to cut down on your plastic consumption?

(One important point in the context of COVID: Sara Goddard, who runs the blog Green That Lifepoints out that in a pandemic, “Reusable items — cups, bags, containers — pose no health risks. As long as you keep your reusable items clean, they can be far safer than single-use products.”)

Here are 5 easy ways to make a difference with examples of products that can help you do that — and if everyone did this, it’d make a big difference:

Ditch the plastic bags at the supermarket and other stores and opt for reusable bags. Almost every supermarket sells “bags for life,” and there are loads of fun choices on Amazon, such as this colorful, foldable BeeGreen 10-pack that can hold up to 50 pounds each. If you forget to take them with you — it happens — ask for paper bags if the store tries to push plastic. (Publix, I’m looking at you, despite what your website says.)

Mesh produce bags. You know when you’re in the produce section and tearing off all those flimsy plastic bags in which to put your loose potatoes and onions? Switch to mesh. Check out this cool Ecowaare set of 15 reusable clear produce bags that come in three sizes and are washable.

Use reusable coffee cups and water bottles — yes, there is no shortage of these — such as this Hydro Cell bottle that can actually be used for both hot and cold drinks. This one doesn’t sweat (or burn your hands). Which is great, cause I hate that.

Use bamboo utensils instead of the disposable plastic utensils when you’re out having a socially distanced picnic. Here’s a cool set from BEWBOW that comes in a travel bag and is of course reusable. Bamboo is super durable.

Reusable silicone storage bags for food — forget the disposable sandwich bags and use bags like these, which come in different sizes.

Check out Plastic Free July’s website to learn more.

The First Street Foundation is a Brooklyn-based group of academics and experts who have compiled data and created a website called Flood Factor, where people can check their own address to see past floods, current risks, and future projections for flooding.

One major difference between Flood Factor and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is that FEMA doesn’t take rainfall into account, which is intensifying as temperatures warm. (Pictured: Selmer, Tennessee, which suffered severe flash flooding due to heavy rains in a short period of time on Wednesday.

According to the New York Times:

FEMA said it welcomed First Street’s initiative, saying it would ‘complement FEMA’s efforts.’

‘We know there is no perfect science to predict flooding,’ a spokeswoman said. ‘The Flood Factor product may help property owners with the critical decisions they must make and purchase necessary insurance.’

So, of course, I had to test drive it. I live in a no-flood, no-evacuation zone on the west coast of Florida. I got a 3/10 flood factor — moderate. That means my house has a 15% chance of flooding at least once over the next 30 years.

I am FEMA zone X, which means FEMA considers my house to be in a no-flood zone. However… Flood Factor still recommended flood insurance. (I write about climate change; of course, I have flood insurance.)

Bottom line: It’s a great tool. Check out your house’s stats, and you’ll most certainly learn something new and important. Because resilience is now equally as important as taking action against climate change — as some things are no longer reversible.

Photo: McNairy County Sheriff’s Office

Speaking of flooding, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Rob Moore, who is an expert on water-related impacts of climate change, wrote a blog in response to the House of Representatives’ Democrat-backed net zero bill. It’s titled, “House Climate Plan Takes Aim at Flooding and Sea Level Rise.” He writes:

The ‘growing trend of major flood disasterschronic tidal flooding in coastal areas, and stormwater-related flooding in urban areas are problems the Select Committee Report seeks to address. I’d like to highlight three important areas of recommendations included in the report that would greatly assist the nation’s climate adaptation and resilience efforts.’

I’d like to highlight three important areas of recommendations included in the report that would greatly assist the nation’s climate adaptation and resilience efforts.

Those three things are:

  • Improving Building Codes and Standards (basically, improve them)
  • Insurance — an essential tool for dealing with growing risk (help everyone get insurance)
  • National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reform (Moore says this is so big that it needs its own section)

The NRDC is offering up tangible, actionable solutions to the problem of sea level rise.

The House package won’t ever be passed by the current Senate or the White House, but it’s a start. There’s now a plan that can be implemented, and it’s backed by influential environmental groups like the NRDC.

Could there possibly be a silver lining to the global pandemic? Dr. Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at The Breakthrough Institute, thinks so. He speaks in a virtual chat put on by the Doha Debates about how stimulus packages can and should invest in clean infrastructure in order to bring the world’s emissions down.

Have a listen to what he has to say:

What’s normal? Do we really know anymore? UNESCO made this hard-hitting, thought-provoking video that challenges our perception of normality — and points out that we can make changes for the better in education, culture, information — and science, to include climate.

Because as we at Electrek discussed a couple of weeks ago, many important issues, such as climate change, COVID-19, and racism are deeply intertwined. We have an opportunity to rethink the big picture, and to do something positive about it.


Parents got in on the climate-crisis protest action for #FridaysForFuture in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, this week (and COVID-19 + dirty air = RIP 2020 is right):

Here’s Evelyn Acham (and her dog) in Uganda — and never underestimate the power of your small acts, indeed:

Iohana Santos of Brazil asks the question on her sign, “Who will profit if everyone dies?”

And Travis in Colombia makes the point, “There is no vaccine for the climate crisis.”

Check out our past editions of Climate Crisis Weekly.

Photo: Antoine Giret/Unsplash

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.