Plastic-Free Challenge

Ever wonder how much plastic you really consume in your day-to-day life? Challenge yourself! This one-month challenge will kick-start your amazing adventure to saving our planet! So what are you waiting for!?

This is a simple guide to help you start reducing your plastic waste. The first step is to take notice of all the items in your life that are plastic, then taking the necessary steps to reduce your plastic consumption. So, lets get started….

– Getting Ready –

Step 1.Grab a scrap sheet of paper and a pen  

Take a look all throughout your house: in your bathroom, your kitchen, your work space, your backyard, your bedroom, your closets. How about your kids toy box? Or for those canine parents out there, your dog’s toy box. Think about what your house and your furnishings are made of – flooring, acrylic paint, insulation, foam or stuffing of beds, sofas, and pillows. Dig deep!

Then take a quick mental drive through your regular day. Do you stop at Tim Hortons for a double-double in the morning? What does your typical lunch look like, take-out, fast-food, or do you pack your own? On your way home, do you stop at the store for a few groceries?

Write down everything you can think that is made of plastic or contained in plastic, or has plastic components.     Be sure to remember: fabrics named nylon, polyester, acrylic, or polyolfin and bath products with microbeads. Small or large, write it down.

How much room do you have left on your page!? Did you remember to include the pen you were using to write the list?? Keep writing, get another sheet of paper  if needed.

Step 2. Access what you possess! 

Now, looking at your list start crossing items off that are large, reusable or not removable (furniture, house materials, appliances, electronics, etc). These items do contain plastic, but they are not single-use products.   *It is important to notice how plastic has revolutionized many of these items and when it is time to retire them to be aware of their components to ensure proper disposal, but we will get there later…

Next cross off but highlight those High-Use, re-useable items like toys, clothing, kitchen tools, reusable food storage containers, accessories, stationary, décor, and other plastic items currently being used regularly. The key here is to be aware, so when replacing the items you search for a non-plastic replacement and again, ensuring proper disposal.

NOW, what should be left are your single-use/limited-use, disposable plastics. Things like food packaging (for example, yoghurt containers or frozen vege bags or kids snacks – any food that is sold in plastic wrapping), plastic food wrap and sandwich bags, to-go coffee cups, fast food packaging, straws, drink bottles/containers, soap containers, bath and shower product bottles, cosmetic containers, hair elastics, tampons/pads, diapers, razors, toothbrushes, floss, cleaning supplies, dog poop bags, grocery bags, garbage bags…

The list goes on. But here is where we start.

Step 3. Discover Your Change 

Look at your list that only shows single-use/limited-use, disposable plastics circle at least 4 items that you KNOW you can stop using immediately without additional cost or too much effort. *what you choose to eliminate first is up to you or you can simply follow along below!


Week 1: BYO Bag

The easiest and cheapest to eliminate is plastic shopping bags (grocery bags). Click here to get tips on Plastic Free Grocery Shopping!


For the next 7 days, your goal is to refuse every plastic bag you are offered! Yes, every single one! No more excuses, its time to step up and build that “BYOBag” habit. Here’s how:

– Are you simply buying one or two things? Just say “No” to the bag and use those two be-A-u-tiful things attached to you…  your hands!

Get a reusable cloth bag. Almost every store sells them. However, If spending money is “not your bag, Baby”,  then use what you have: a backpack or large purse!
You can also try RE-USING that mound of plastic bags under your sink, it is still better as you are not consuming more.

“Oh Darn! I forgot my cloth bag!” Oldest excuse in the book! Avoid this by leaving at least one cloth bag (or bin) in your car at all times! Build the habit of putting the bag back out to your car – it might help to leave your mobile phone in the car when you bring in the groceries! Then you HAVE to go back and get it, and bring your cloth bag back to its rightful place!

Pay attention when you are at any till – it is in a store clerk’s nature to put your items in a bag. You will be surprised how fast they can “Bag It” before you have a chance to say “No Bag Please”. I regularly have to take my items out and hand the plastic bag back, awkward yet effective!

Week 2: The Travel Mug

Seven days down, and zero plastic bags! Give yourself a pat on the back and keep going! Time to add to level up! Week 2, in addition to #banthebag, its time for the Travel Mug.

So, if you must have that Dbl Dbl, get yourself a travel mug. There are so many out there and almost every coffee shop sells them.

Extra bonuses to having your own mug besides saving the planet every time you buy a coffee:

  • You usually get a discount when you Bring Your Own Mug!!
  • Your hot drink will taste better and not of the melting plastic lid!  
  • And you can put a bunch of cool stickers all over it!

Calgarians now have the luxury of recycling PAPER coffee cups, but don’t let this be your excuse: the plastic lid IS NOT, I repeat, NOT recyclable. So if you really are in a pinch without your travel mug at *insert favourite coffee shop* refuse that LID to stay on track with your challenge!

Week 3: Say NO to Plastic drink bottles

Now armed with your cloth bag and your travel mug, you haven’t consumed a plastic bag in fourteen days or a coffee cup in seven. But all that coffee and shopping plastic-free has made you thirsty for WATER. Did your mind just go to your favourite brand of bottled water – Evian, Dasani, Perrier?!  Week 3 is about saying NO to bottled water (and other plastic bottled beverages)!  #tapwaterplease


Find your Travel Mug a friend… a refillable water bottle! Any kind works, I prefer my stainless steel one  but to get started just find one and use it.

Tap water is the best water! You are blessed to have amazing, clean drinking water on command, its time to stop taking it for granted. Re-fill your new water bottle and start gulping it down!  For my fellow Calgarians reading this, Calgary has world-class clean tap water  we should be proud of!

For more info on bottled water, check out one of these 3 top documentaries: Flow, Tapped, and Blue Gold (all on Netflix).  Or this article from CBC, Tap vs Bottled .

Week 4: Straws Suck

At this point you’re toting a cloth bag, water bottle and travel mug inside, feeling pretty proud of yourself. On average you have kept 21 coffee cups out of the landfill, countless bags from being consumed, and if you have only one bottle of water a day, 7 plastic water bottles have not been used by you! That is amazing! You’ve also started a journey of creating these good habits that have a compounding effect!

Now for one more addition to your #sayNO initiatives! Straws.

This is an easy one, promise. Just say “No Straw Please” any time you order a drink. That’s it.

When faced with the Thick Drink problem – smoothies or shakes or slushes… Ask for or bring a (metal) spoon instead.

Check out the “Last Straw Pledge” with the Plastic Pollution Coalition

– The End?… No,  It’s Just The Beginning!!! – 

Week 4 has ended. You have successfully taken the steps towards removing single use plastic from your life. The past four weeks will have taught you how to Say No to the Big Bad 4! You should have a well rounded idea of how much plastic is really in your life. So now what?

Carry on. Continue these habits, spread the word to your friends and family, and keep tuned in to Plastic-Free YYC for more info and tips on a plastic free lifestyle!