It really is an exciting and pertinent time to be delving into the world of plastics. With the incredible Blue Planet 2 series, Sir David Attenborough has once again excelled himself. In addition to capturing our imagination and interest by bringing the magic of marine animal behaviour into our home, he’s also brought the problem of plastics to our attention. He’s shown us the plastic issue isn’t just the stuff of extremist rants. It’s a matter that concerns all of us. When marine animals suffer due to plastic pollution, it’s a concern. When seafood contains plastic, it’s a concern. When tap water in most countries contains plastic (and it does) it’s a concern.
With so much about plastic in the mainstream media right now, I feel like we are drowning in bleak articles assigning blame and instigating arguments about who should be making positive change… Plastic producers? Plastic consumers? ‘The Government’? It’s easy to think that someone else should be fixing the problem. But the truth is, we should all be makimg change – governments, producers and consumers. And we should be doing it right now. All at once: An individual action, multiplied by millions, creates global change.
Luckily, we get to vote on this topic every day. Every time we open our wallets, we vote. Spending is how we cast our vote on whose ethos we support and how we want to treat the planet.
So let’s think wisely about how we cast our votes and what other changes we can adopt in our everyday lives to help us tread lighter.
Through 6 years of working in marine conservation and 5 years of teaching, I have bumbled along accumulating various bits of information and gathering strategies on how to tread lighter. As you take on new habits and they become automatic, second nature, it’s easy to slip into the mindset that everybody knows about these little gems. Recently I have been reminded that it’s really great to share ideas.
Through facilitating solution thinking workshops with over 2,000 children, we have smashed out some great solutions to avoid using single use plastic. By discussing the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), we have agreed that a 4th R should be added, as the first solution – REFUSE. Refuse to use single use plastic.
I focus on single use plastic because it makes up 75% of beach clean rubbish found in beach cleans (these stats differ slightly from country to country, but it’s usually around this rate).
So, enough of my waffling and here are some of the amazing ideas the kids have produced. I hope you find some of them useful. You might already be doing some of them, you might be doing all of them. If you have any other ideas, please do leave a comment so we can share your brilliant ideas. After all, the whole point of having wisdom is to share it and help others to be awesome too…
The products mentioned below are readily available online in most countries. And if you use the Ecosia search engine you’ll be contributing to reforestation just by searching the internet (that’s pretty awesome, check it out!).
Instead of single use plastic straws…
- use your mouth (straws are for suckers)
- use reusable metal straws
- use reusable glass straws
- make straws from carrots (I would love to know if the pupil who suggested this ever tried to make some!)
- or use reusable bamboo straws.
Instead of single use plastic drinks bottles…
- refill your own reusable water bottle (most cafes will refill your bottle for free, so it makes life cheaper too)
- or buy a can if you buy fizzy drinks.
Instead of single use plastic shopping bags…
- use reusable cloth shopping bags
- use cardboard boxes available in shops
- or carry your shopping in your hands or pockets, if you don’t have much!
Instead of single use plastic takeaway coffee cups…
- use a refillable coffee cup (your drink is usually cheaper when you use your own cup)
- or take the time to sit in the cafe for a few minutes and enjoy your drink from a real cup
Instead of single use plastic food containers…
- take your own reusable food container to the cafe or supermarket (again, you will often receive a discount for using your own container)
- or again, take a few minutes to dine in using a real plate
Instead of single use plastic cling film / glad wrap…
- use a beeswax wrap to wrap your food in – you can use small ones for covering the ends of cucumbers or lemon slices in the fridge and larger wraps for your sandwiches etc.
- or use your own reusable food container
Instead of single use produce bags…
- take your own lightweight bags to the supermarket for filling from the food dispensers and the fruit and vegetable aisles
Instead of single use plastic cutlery…
- carry a reusable spork in your bag, ready to use (some brands even provide a handy carry case)
- or why not just carry a fork from your drawer at home?!
For now, let me leave you with determination to use less single use plastic and one of my favourite quotes from the wonderful Dr Jane Goodall:
“We all make a difference. We have to decide what kind of difference we want to make.”