For the past year I have been learning more and more about the negative impacts plastic has on the environment and our oceans, about 'zero waste' lifestyles and people who put their values into action. Following this gradual process of environmental education I decided that I wanted to live according to my values.
In order to do this, I resolved to live for a month with limited plastic consumption, especially reducing my intake of single-use plastics. As I began I was met with a challenge much more difficult than I had expected, and started to notice plastic everywhere.
There is plastic on our food (milk, pasta, grains, pre-packaged foods, lots of vegetables, produce stickers).
There is plastic on our parcels.
We put our trash in plastic bags.
We put our groceries in plastic bags.
We eat our food with plastic utensils.
We get our plastic utensils wrapped in plastic.
We chew plastic in chewing gum.
And we love to throw plastic away.
As I plod along on my daily runs I see it in the river, on the river banks and in the streets. I see recyclable bottles tossed aside and I see a large majority of people who don't care. Many of us don't think twice about it, this normalized part of our society.
But would we think twice if we knew that birds and fish eat our plastic--filling their stomachs and leading them to starve? Would we think twice if we knew that the plastic we consume breaks down into tiny, tiny pieces in the ocean, making it nearly impossible to clean up? Would we think twice if we knew it was created from fossil fuels, feeding even further into the problem of out-of-hand CO2 emissions?
There are sources of plastic I didn't consider the difficulty of avoiding: gifts of plastic-wrapped chocolate from friends, plastic linings inside milk cartons and the packaging of online orders. I didn't expect that asking for the things you buy to be put in alternative packagings (i.e. bringing your own mug for coffee, your own cloth bags to put bread into, your own jars in which to put coffee beans), would be met with skepticism and sometimes outright refusal. But I also didn't expect the moments of recognition by others of an issue, and interactions with people that left me glowing with hope for the future.
Change will only come when we stand for what we believe in, and I believe in the benefits to our planet of adopting a plastic-free lifestyle.
If we believe in reducing our plastic intake, we need to approach skeptics with confidence and explain why adopting this lifestyle matters. After all, why feel embarrassed to be saving the oceans and reducing our environmental impact? That's right, we shouldn't.
Over the course of the past month I wasn't entirely successful in my attempt at a plastic-free me, but I have learned a lot and plan to implement plastic-free habits into my everyday lifestyle. Some simple things I've found that each of us can do to reduce our plastic intake are:
In conclusion, plastic has many negative effects on our oceans and the wider the environment, and it will only be when we collectively stop using it that positive change will begin to occur. Sometimes it is difficult to remain positive about the state of the environment, especially as we find ourselves living in a world seemingly so oblivious to the negative impacts we are inflicting upon our natural resources. However, there are people out there that care, and positive changes actions are being implemented every day.
For example, very recently France banned plastic cups, plates and cutlery. In order to work towards similar positive actions, get involved and write to your local government representative about why banning single use-plastics is important to you, your country and the planet.
Stay positive and determined, and remember that together we can do something BIG.
Mariama lives in the UK whilst studying ice and other earthy things. She enjoys running through wild places, going on adventures and learning stuff.