It was the end of the month and I felt dejected. There was just no way to completely avoid plastics.

I had made a promise to myself to curb my single-use plastic consumption for the month of July as a personal challenge set out by the Vancouver Aquarium staff and volunteer Green Team (read about my previous adventures), but I felt like I had failed. My “dilemma bag” was filled with plastics that I just couldn’t seem to avoid, like yogurt containers, bulk toilet paper packaging and plastic lettuce packaging (I only like romaine lettuce hearts, so sue me). My only solace was that I wasn’t alone.

“For me, Plastic Free July went horrendously,” said my colleague Tess, the Aquarium’s BCCSN coordinator, when we all met to debrief. She found it especially hard to avoid single-use plastics when she was travelling for work or working in the field. I, on the other hand, was finding it impossible to resist last minute after-work picnic invites, which meant a quick trip to the deli section of a grocery store where EVERYTHING was packed in plastic.

The summer picnic season made it especially hard for me to cut down on plastics.

The summer picnic season made it especially hard for me to cut down on plastics.

Although it was clear to me that no one had excelled in this challenge, we all agreed that it was an important eye opening experience. Indeed, every time I put plastic in my dilemma bag I thought about how I could have avoided buying that particular product and what I would do next time.

The conversation inevitably turned to plastic water bottles. It’s summer! It’s hot! We’re parched! But to pay for water, especially when it flows out through the taps, is a bit ridiculous. Lauren, an interpretive specialist, mentioned Tap Map, which shows the location of every public water fountain and water bottle refill station in Metro Vancouver. The best part is, we have just installed a new refill station in the Teck Connections gallery, and already, in less than two months, it has been used over 9,000 times!

Refilling a water bottle is something I can do, but I just know I can do more when it comes to plastics. Inspire me with your tricks and tips – comment below.

Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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