You might have heard about Plastic Free July – the little Western Australian initiative has made it pretty big these days! But have you ever taken the challenge? This year, we are doing it as a team and we are encouraging all schools to do the same!

Plastic Free July was initially developed by the Western Metropolitan Regional Council (WMRC) in WA back in 2011 and is now a global movement with people, schools and organisations from 69 countries around the world taking up the challenge to go plastic free for a month.

The aim of the movement is to raise awareness about our exorbitant (and usually rather unnecessary) use of plastic in our every day lives and find simple ways to reduce this.

The idea of eliminating plastic altogether might seem daunting (it’s in almost EVERYTHING!), but that’s why the challenge starts small: refusing and reducing single-use plastic for a month. Single-use plastic includes things like plastic bags, straws, drink bottles, fruit and vegies wrapped in plastic, coffee cups etc. Once you are aware of it, you’ll be shocked at how many single-use plastic items you use!

The good news is that it’s relatively simple to find alternatives – it just takes a little more thinking and preparation. For example, buy yourself a reusable coffee cup, get in the habit of taking a reusable water bottle with you, say no to straws, wrap your sandwich in paper instead of gladwrap.

Bottled water is an example of an incredibly unnecessary item. We are extremely fortunate to have perfectly clean tap water in Australia, so there really is no excuse for schools to sell bottled water. Instead, why not get your school to sell reusable water bottles! Our favourite drink bottles also support a wonderful cause…for every bottle you buy from Bottle for Botol, they donate one to a school in Indonesia, preventing tons of wasted single use plastic cups.

There are so many ways schools can get involved including holding nude food days, screening a movie or organising a clean up day in your local community. There are loads of resources available to help give you ideas. The Plastic Free July website has a wealth of information. Western Australia’s Waste Authority has developed some great resources through its Waste Wise program. Definitely check out their ‘Message in a Plastic Bottle’ curriculum guide for high schools students and their ‘Plastic Free July Activity Guide for primary and secondary schools.

Our team at SimplyCarbon will be taking the challenge this year and we’re excited. We’ll be putting updates on our journey on our Facebook page so stay tuned!

Want your school to accept the challenge? To register, head to http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved-schools.html

Dr Vanessa Rauland is a Co-Director at SimplyCarbon and is heading up the Low Carbon Schools Pilot Program. She has a vast background in sustainability and climate policy, and a PhD in low carbon cities. She is also a lecturer at Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute where teaches, researches and supervises several PhD students.