Alexis McGivern began her plastic-free lifestyle in 2013 after setting herself a 2-month challenge. She completed her MSc at University of St Andrews (Scotland) and currently lives in Switzerland, working for the Global Marine and Polar Programme at IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Here’s your chance to get to know her story.
• What inspired you to begin a plastic-free lifestyle and when did it all begin?
I’ve always considered myself to be an environmentalist, but I was so preoccupied with melting ice caps and issues in far-away places that I never really looked at my own choices and how they affected the planet (I know, right?!). Honestly, the plastic-free thing came in a total epiphany: I was eating a granola bar one day and it suddenly just struck me – where is this wrapper going to go when I’m done with it? Where will it end up? Will it stay in the country? Will it be shipped somewhere else? Will it be landfilled or incinerated? I wondered if anyone else had had these questions and ended up spending the afternoon down the rabbit hole of blogs and pages of people talking about how they managed to live plastic-free, making their own cosmetics, shopping without packaging and learning to be more self-sufficient. I was so enchanted! I made a pledge to myself to quit plastic right there. That was almost 5 years ago now!
• What was the hardest part of cutting out plastic?
Definitely losing the absolute convenience of plastic – you can easily get a snack or even a full meal pre-packaged and ready to move with you on the go.
When I first started plastic-free living, I was really frustrated at having to plan ahead all the time. Turns out there are other ways to be convenient and plastic-free: for example, I always carry a small cloth bag on me so I can grab a sandwich or a croissant on the go, I can get loose fruit from the grocery store if in a pinch and I’ve learned how to whip up quick and delicious snacks at home.
• What are your top three tips for living plastic-free for someone who may feel restrained in doing so?
I definitely understand this! My friends, roommates and family are not necessarily living the same lifestyle, so there are times I’ve had to compromise. I would definitely say it’s important to do what works for you: going cold turkey overnight might mean you’re less likely to stick to it. Start with the easy stuff – the reusable bag, the water bottle and the reusable coffee cup. Once you’ve integrated those three items into your daily habit, I encourage you to branch out and try more changes. Also, don’t beat yourself up if you find it difficult – plastic is made to be extremely convenient and it’s tough to give it up. Instead of focusing on the things you can’t give up, why not pat yourself on the back for all the plastic you can give up through small and easy switches?
I would also say a lot of the plastic-free living “kits” can be expensive and an investment upfront. You can totally make do with what you have; you can reuse plastic bags you already have or use old pasta sauce jars as containers for the bulk store- there’s no need to drop tons of cash for this new habit!
Finally, I’d recommend when you first start out to dig around your trash can and see what type of plastic you are throwing away. For example, mine was full with convenience foods like chip bags, small containers of cherry tomatoes and pre-wrapped cookies. So those were the first things I started with: I learned how to make my own chips, I got my tomatoes loose from the farmers market and I got really good & fast at making cookies!
• How can we learn more about living plastic-free?
My blog, my instagram, and my youtube channel with Josephine from Rogue gone Vogue.*
I also really recommend reading these two blogs: Lindsay Miles’ Treading My Own Path and Anne Marie Bonneau’s Zero Waste Chef – both are packed full with tons of really useful tips and great recipes as well! When I first started plastic-free living, I lived by Beth Terry’s 100 Steps to a Plastic Free Life.
Enjoy and good luck – please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your questions on the blog or instagram!
*Additional note from author: check out a TedTalk Alexis did here as well!
Leona grew up in eight countries on three continents, making the world her home. This has given her the chance to see so many amazing places, which she is passionate to protect. Having recently completed her BSc at Durham University, she is currently working as a field assistant at the Swiss Ornithological Institute.
The Fijian presidency gaveled COP23 to a close just before 7am on Saturday, November 18 after a full night and early morning of negotiations. You can see the details of what happened over the course of the evening here.
The overall document coming out of COP23 is the Fiji Momentum for Implementation. Some of the major points of interest include:
Loss and Damage: The main COP 23 agenda item focusing on loss and damage was the review of the report of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts. There was much debate between parties as to whether loss and damage should become a permanent item on the negotiating agenda during future subsidiary body meetings, especially considering what some felt was an unclear mandate, and need, for the Executive Committee to continue its work after the initial 5-year work plan ends in 2020.
Looking at the COP23 decision regarding the Warsaw Mechanism, it looks as though the parties have tried to address this by making clearer the rolling of the Committee beyond these initial five years ending in 2020. This seems to be an alternative solution to making loss and damage a permanent item on future negotiating agendas.
Of course, the underlying tension below much of the loss and damage work and demands in negotiations is that countries see this mechanism as a tool for financing projects addressing loss and damage issues. This COP has done nothing in its official reports to move past the knowledge-gathering efforts of the previous two years and into looking at financial mechanisms attached to loss and damage.
You can find the advanced unedited version of the WIM decision here.
Agriculture: The working group on agriculture finally reached an agreement in the SBSTA/SBI joint task this COP, a decision 3 years in the making (over the course of five sessions). The decision calls on SBSTA and SBI to jointly address food security and agriculture, and specifically its vulnerability to climate change, through workshops and other means not really specified in the decision. The one-page decision then requests observers and parties to submit requests for topics for such meetings, listing 6 topics to begin with which include modalities for implementing the recommendations of the past 3 years' workshops, methods of assessing adaptation/adaptation co-benefits, and improved livestock management systems.
You can find the advanced unedited version of the decision here.
Indigenous Peoples: An outcome many parties were looking to by the end of this COP was the operationalization of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, mandated by the Paris Agreement to focus on knowledge, effective engagement, and climate actions/policies. The final decision accepted by the COP lays out in two pages the purpose of the Platform as understood by the Parties as well as a further explanation/illustration of the three general focuses of knowledge, engagement, and climate policies. Additionally, per the decision, the first activity of the Platform will be a multi-stakeholder workshop on the further operationalization of the Platform's three work areas. The decision still left questions that need to be answered before any full operationalization and so it has been referred to the SBSTA April-May session to be further discussed.
You can find the advanced unedited version of the decision here.
Adaptation Finance: Countries continued to negotiate on the role of the Adaptation Fund in serving the Paris Agreement throughout this COP. They did not decide that the Adaptation Fund "shall" serve the Paris Agreement, but there is agreement that it should serve the Paris Agreement. Shall adds legal weight to the assertion which some countries are not comfortable with as of yet. The conversation moved away from this language and towards the legality of how to transition the Fund. The parties decided that this transition should be the focus of the next negotiating session. Here is a link to the final informal note from the APA agenda item on the Adaptation Fund.
Ocean Pathway Partnership: Fiji along with many partner countries launched the Ocean Pathway Partnership on Thursday. This one page document states the importance in connecting oceans and climate change. It specifically calls out the interconnectedness of Sustainable Development Goals 13 (climate) and 14 (ocean). The document does not create any new agenda item or work program under the UNFCCC (which is what some parties had hoped for), but it does encourage integration of the ocean into future NDCs and into other negotiating streams. At the launch, Fiji announced that Sweden would be the co-chair of the Ocean Pathway Partnerships. Here is additional information about the Pathway although the final document is not posted yet.
To check out the decisions coming out of COP23, you can check out the UNFCCC website.
Thank you for following along during our time at COP23! Please reach out to us if you have any addition questions about the UNFCCC process.
Anna is a master's student pursuing a dual degree in Climate and Quaternary Studies with the Climate Change Institute and in Global Policy with the School for Policy and International Affairs. Her research interests include climate change adaptation governance and interactions of international climate governance and ocean governance regimes.
Interested in reading more? Find more posts at 'COP23 Perspectives: The University of Maine Delegation to the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Negotiations'