Emma Roberts on the Freedom of Plastic-Free Living: "It Just Feels Good"

The actress challenged herself to not use plastics for a week in partnership with Grove Collaborative.

emma roberts
(Image credit: Courtesy of Emma Roberts)

Plastic. Ugh. With its Earth-harming omnipresence, the loathed packaging material feels more annoying than ever, so much that there is now an entire month dedicated to removing it from our lives. While personal responsibility is only part of the plastic problem (ahem, corporations and government, you’re up), limiting plastic usage is an easy way for individual consumers to feel like they have some control in our current environmental spiral.

As a new-ish convert to low-waste living myself, I was thrilled to hear that Emma Roberts joined the plastic-free party this July. Welcome to the club, girl. The actress and new mom partnered with Grove Collaborative, a plastic-neutral line of cleaning and personal care products, challenging herself to go a week without plastic, in an effort to drive awareness around personal plastic usage. Plastic-free swaps is literally one of my favorite topics of conversation, so I was excited to hear about her experience and learn about the products she's loving as part of her pared-down process.

Marie Claire: Let’s get into it. Tell me about your plastic-free journey.

Emma Roberts: For me [plastic usage] has been something that’s been giving me anxiety for as long as I can remember. With the amount of plastic that I use—and that we all use globally—I would try to remove it [from my daily life], but then I'd just make excuses and keep on using it. So when Grove Collaborative approached me about collaborating in celebrating Plastic-Free July and encouraging other people to join, I thought, This is what I need. I need to be held accountable and to commit to one week.

I’ve been trying to do this as part of my daily life for years, but let’s really take this week and try to eradicate plastic from my house. One of my excuses was that most of my plastic usage is recycled. My recycling bin is always more full than my garbage bin so I guess that means everything is okay. But then when I partnered with Grove, they gave me all of this helpful information and I learned that only 9 percent of all plastic is actually recycled in the US, no matter how much you’re putting in the recycling bin. That just made me feel like, I’m trying to do the right thing with recycling, but then how do I know that it’s even getting recycled? That was really something that was eye-opening. I have to do better and do my part. How can [me] eradicating plastic change anything? If everybody does it, then the world can change. So I went through my house and saw that I’m not doing as well as I could be doing.

MC: What was your biggest challenge in the process?

ER: The hardest part for me—other than just how daunting it feels in the beginning—is that I like to set attainable goals. So when I started the week off, I was like ‘look, I’m not going to be perfect, I’m not going to be 100-percent, but I’m going to be more mindful’ and that way I’m not going to beat myself up if there are things that I can’t quite switch out in the moment. So I really focused on my kitchen and cleaning supplies. It not only looks nicer, but also makes me feel better. And not only is everything refillable and reusable, but I know that the ingredients are good, which after having a baby, part of my plastic-free journey is also having better ingredients around the house.

When I started Plastic-Free July I was in another city filming so I was on set a lot and not in my house, so I was doing a lot of to-go food, like to-go coffee, to-go smoothies and I started noticing the single-use plastic in my meals and beverage. So that was a place where I was like, Ok I really need to look at this. Grove has these amazing silicone straws. I’m a straw person and I've tried metal straws. I wasn’t really into them, but I couldn’t use plastic straws with multiple coffees a day. So I brought these silicone straws to work and I am obsessed with them. I have one in the car, one at home, one in my trailer. I have them everywhere so there’s no excuse for using a plastic straw. They also have these great resealable snack bags, so now I bring those to work. Being on set makes [avoiding plastic] really hard. One day I didn’t bring my lunch, but I noticed at catering they had paper boxes and I hadn’t really noticed that until I started doing Plastic-Free July. And I brought it up to someone at work and it was such a great conversation opener and great to see that other people are thinking about this!

MC: How has becoming a mom impacted this way of living?

ER: It’s hard. In the baby space, so many things are plastic, like bottles and toys, but I try to go for things like wooden toys and things that are better for him and also better for the planet. It’s easy to make excuses when you’re just going through the world on your own, but when you have a child, you think about how you want to leave this world for him and what kind of world is he going to grow up in. I want the air to be clean and the ocean to be clean, and if I can make tiny changes that will leave a better world for our children, that’s something that’s really important. It’s something that me and my mom friends talk about a lot and when I started using the Grove products, I told them and they were like ‘LOVE THIS. Getting everything!’ and it’s just so easy and nice to be able to buy stuff from a brand that makes multiple products and great that you can get it all from one place.

MC: Can you share advice for someone who wants to forgo their plastic usage but isn’t sure where to start?

ER: I think the main thing in getting started is, don’t be intimidated. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and look at your life and be like, ‘I can’t get rid of all plastic, so why even try?’ Set attainable goals for yourself. Like, for the first day, bring your reusable cup when you go get a coffee or cook more at home. It’s just little things like that, that you don’t think make a difference but do. It just feels good. I definitely feel accomplished at the end of each day, like, I didn’t put one thing in the recycling bin.

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Julia Gall
Julia Gall

Julia Gall is the Style Director at Marie Claire, covering all things fashion, as well as styling tips, wardrobe upkeep and sustainability. Check her out at @juliasgall.