I think it’s no secret that plastic is a huge problem; it’s useful, cheap and lasts a hell of a long time!
The versatility of plastic is damaging the environment and a whole range of products are to blame. The plastic bag ban in England has been tremendously successful with more people using their own bags therefore reducing the potential waste associated with shopping. But in the war against plastic this victory can only be seen as a small skirmish.
What about plastic water bottles? Microbeads? Old mobile phones? Product packaging? Microfibres from clothes? The list in endless.
So, along with shunning plastic bags in 2016 I also avoided disposable plastic bottles, takeaway coffee cups, sandwich bags and microbeads.
How did I do it? I now never leave the house without my rucksack and inside is my Urban Environmentalist Starter Kit (pictured below):
- At least one tote bag: I don’t hold back when I’m shopping and tend to go in for one item and come out with five. Having a tote means that when my rucksack is full I never have to buy a plastic bag.
- A reusable water bottle: I’ve had many of these over the years, but one has stuck with me for an entire 8 months and I wouldn’t want to go into 2017 without it.
- A small coffee thermos: emphasis on small. These guys can be massive with the capability of keeping liquids warm for hours on end… I’m not camping in the wilderness so all I need is a tiny cup to get me from A to B without the need of an unrecyclable disposable coffee cup.
Just three simple items is all it takes to reduce your plastic consumption and help save the environment. It is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you have any suggestions please write a comment so anyone else that reads this can see.
Creating this kit (which I rarely go a day without using) has made me more aware of the waste that I leave behind in my daily life. That is why this year I am going to expand my assault on plastic and tackle different products.
Top of my list is plastic on fruit and vegetables. I will not buy bananas in plastic bags, broccoli wrapped in cellophane or blueberries in a recyclable box that has unrecyclable plastic film covering the top. Half of the time I wonder why so much packaging is there in the first place, is it actually there to make our lives easier? (the famous example from Whole Foods springs to mind here) Or does the sustainable alternative (carboard, paper bags etc) lose out because of costs?
Second, microfibres. Ever heard of polyester? Of course you have, its in most of our clothes. Polyester is heated plastic spun into fibres that can be weaved into fabric. An emerging field of science is investigating how many of these fibres detach when being washed and how they effect the environment.
More of my clothes are going to be from natural sources, cotton being the most obvious, to limit the amount of fibres from my clothes making their way into waterways.
Companies such as Rapanui sell organic cotton clothes, have traceable supply chains, guarantee suitable working conditions and produce 80% less carbon than other retailers without the huge price tag you would assume from such an ethical company. Everybody wins!
I was successful in 2016 and only bought one plastic bag during the entire year and on reflection I probably could have thought of another way to carry my purchase! Hopefully this year I’ll manage to be just as conscious and prove to myself that with a little bit of careful thought I can change lifelong habits for the better.