Benalla Sustainable Future Group ask you to think- reduce, reuse, refuse, rethink, repair.

Benalla Sustainable Future Group will be submitting a regular column to the Benalla Ensign - This is the first.

Plastic Free July is a 2011 initiative developed by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, and a small team in local government in Western Australia

It aims to raise awareness of the amount of plastic in our lives by encouraging people to eliminate the use of single-use plastic.

The initiative is a global movement that helps millions of people be a part of the solution to plastic pollution.

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The challenge is to refuse single use plastic during July, and once in the habit, continue to do so.

Some of you may think it is difficult to stop using plastic, and it is.

Plastic is ubiquitous and it is made to last a very long time. It is packaged around our food.

There is evidence now to say it has started to become a part of our food.

It is in our make-up and personal hygiene products. It is in our clothing.

However, if we put in a little thought and effort, we all can reduce our usage of plastic.

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Benalla Sustainable Future Group hopes that the Benalla community can rise to the challenge, and we offer the following ideas to aid people in this endeavour:

● Take your own shopping bag or pack your shopping in a box;

● Either reuse or refuse produce bags. Choose to refuse pre-packed fruit and vegetables, or bring your own reusable netting produce bags;

● Purchase products packaged in cardboard, paper or glass;

● Avoid plastic wrap – use a plate, clean shower cap or fabric covers over your leftovers;

● Store food in glass containers;

● Opt for refills and bulk purchases. Frequent local farmers markets or join the Benalla Bulk Food Co-operative where you can bring your own containers to refill;

● Ask for meat to be wrapped in paper or take your own container to the butchers. Avoid polystyrene trays;

● BYO coffee cup. Support cafes that reduce the price of a takeaway coffee if you BYO or dine-in at your local cafe;

● Refuse plastic straws. If you need a straw, take your own reusable alternative;

● Say no to purchased bottled water. It is so very expensive and totally avoidable;

● Line your rubbish bin with newspaper;

● Use alternative cleaning products such as bicarb soda, clove oil and vinegar;

● Buy ‘experiences’ rather than presents that could end up as landfill;

● Pick up the plastic litter;

● Buy clothing made from natural fibres rather than synthetic, and consider op-shopping before a new purchase; and

● Replace disposable nappies with washable cloth nappies.

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Continue the challenge if travelling:

● Take your own reusable coffee cup and water bottle;

● Purify suspect local tap water with tablets or a UV water purifier; and

● Take your own snacks, earphones, and reusable cutlery.

Think- Reduce, Reuse, Refuse, Rethink, Repair.

If we are all a little wiser with our purchases and consumption habits, a cleaner and healthy environment will follow.

Think about changing your relationship with plastics and challenge your consumption patterns. Choose to Refuse.

For more ideas and to accept the challenge visit this link.

If you would like to send a letter to the editor on this, or any subject, click this link