The Plastic Free Challenge is over, so what do we do now?

At the end of my first Plastic Free Challenge in 2018, I was excited, exhilarated. I had learned so much and was anxious to keep my Plastic Free momentum going.

But keeping that momentum up isn’t always easy. Despite my best efforts, a single-use plastic bomb exploded all over my house on Christmas Day. Work picked up pace in the new year, and I had less time to make homemade snacks to pack in my daughter’s lunches. I continue to struggle to find Plastic Free replacements that I actually like for certain products.

I’m here to tell you setbacks are OK. No need to let the occasional obstacle derail your Plastic Free journey entirely. Find creative ways to reuse and recycle the unwanted plastic that has crept into your life. And then get back on track.

With that in mind here are our suggestions for continuing your Plastic Free commitments and amplifying your Plastic Free impact:

Make a commitment today to continue your Plastic Free journey for one year. Now is a good time to reflect on what changes you’ve made during the Plastic Free Challenge and how you feel about them. Remember the Plastic Inventory you did at the beginning of the Challenge? Fill it out again and see what’s different.

We hope that many of the new habits you’ve created—like bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store and skipping the straw at restaurants—seem easy and make you feel good. Let’s make a commitment now to continue with these easy and good habits.

Let’s also make a commitment to continue our personal Plastic Free journeys. For some of us, this might mean choosing fewer and fewer plastic-wrapped products at the store. For others, it might mean continuing to swap out more sustainable alternatives as we use up the single-use plastic already in our homes. And for still others, it might mean addressing sources of uninvited single-use plastic in our lives.

It’s up to you how you continue your personal journey between now and the next Challenge in October 2020; we just hope that you do.

Participate in the Earth Friendly Fairfax campaign. Restaurants, coffee shops, and cafes can be huge sources of single-use plastic pollution. Earth Friendly Fairfax is a certification program based on 11 criteria for reducing waste. Check out the full list of criteria here.

350 Fairfax volunteers have started approaching local restaurants across Fairfax County to see if they meet our standards for certification. In just a couple of weeks, we have certified a handful of restaurants in Vienna, Tysons, Merrifield, Reston, and Herndon. Find the list here.

If you would like to join a team approaching restaurants in your area, email 350fairfax@gmail.com.

Advocate for bold legislation on plastic pollution at every level of government. If you haven’t already, check out this post on the #LitterFreeVA campaign from our partners at Clean Fairfax. Clean Fairfax and their Litter Free partners (including 350 Fairfax, of course!) will be following single-use plastic legislation in the General Assembly this January. We expect progress on this legislation this year, and we will keep you posted as bills move through committees and onto the House and Senate floors. Rely on us to let you know when it’s time to get on the phone with your legislators to ask them to support measures to reduce single-use plastic litter across the state.

Also keep your eye on very exciting, super comprehensive single-use plastic legislation at the federal level from Senator Tom Udall and Rep. Alan Lowenthall. They are currently looking for comments on a draft bill that tackles single-use plastic pollution in myriad ways, including by requiring plastic producers to take responsibility for collecting and recycling materials; by banning common single-use plastic pollutants, like carryout bags and Styrofoam containers; and by placing a moratorium on new plastic facilities. Take a moment to comment on their draft today!

We made a lot of progress this October, but there is still work to do! Keep posting your Plastic Free tips and successes with #PlasticFreeDMV, sign up for updates on our Plastic Free business and legislative campaigns, and make plans to participate in the Plastic Free Challenge again next October!

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