I was so inspired by Bronwyn and the story of her shop Be Free Grocer that I’ve taken a harder look at the plastic issue than I did before. Yes, I was aware that plastics and waste was a major issue, not just in New Zeland but all over the world, and I was doing my bit whenever I could. But I was not totally invested it in – mainly because I didn’t know much about it.
After speaking with Bronwyn I felt almost compelled to do my own research into waste, sustainability and the whole plastic problem the world is facing today; and what I’ve found is shocking – to say the least.
What I found out:
- We have produced more plastic bags over the last 10 years than we did in the last century
- One single plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes but has a life expectancy of a 1000 years
- A single plastic bottle will last for more than 450 years
- Over 100,000 mammals and 1 million birds die every year from ingesting plastic
- 8.7 plastic shopping bags contain enough embodied petroleum to drive a car 1 kilometer.
- 73% of litter on beaches is plastic
- The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year.
- Cigarette butts, plastic bags, fishing gear, and food and beverage containers are the most common forms of plastic pollution found in the oceans.
- There is more microplastic in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way
- 322 million tons of plastic were produced in 2015—the same weight as 900 Empire State Buildings (which is made of granite and steel).
This is just a few of the more shocking yet concisely written facts I found. You can do your own research into it. There is a lot of information out there. Education is the first step to changing our behavior with understanding and purpose; so I encourage everyone to do their own research.
So what can we do? We’ve already tackled sustainability in style and fashion, we have looked at a few easy waste-free snack ideas just to reduce throwaway packaging. But we need to do more; however, more doesn’t mean we have to make huge, complicated changes. Plastic-free living doesn’t mean 100% of plastic from your life – which is most likely not possible today. To me plastic-free means, eliminating the use of something that is designed to be used ones but lasts forever in the environment. You can still use your phone, laptop, your car and continue to take you meds etc but being conscious of one’s rate of consumption and habits helps to manage resources less wastefully.
- Refuse to use plastic and single-use items whenever possible- yes it’s good that you sort your plastic and all that, but here’s the thing – soft plastics like plastic packets, straws, cling wrap etc cannot be recycled. Which means they sit in landfill – FOREVER!! So refuse!
Things you can and should refuse to use – plastic shopping bags, plastic straws, plastic water bottles, onetime use coffee cups and covers, cling wrap, single-use styrofoam or plastic food containers. I’m sure you can think of more…
- Reduce – Reduce your consumption overall. Reduce the amount of stuff you buy every day/week/month – Your bank account will thank you too. Reduce the amount of energy you use and waste by everyone at home being in one room (as much as possible) Eg: Your living room; and using one light source, rather than being in separate rooms consuming energy. Switch off unnecessary and unused lights at home and work, unplug appliances that are not being used.
- Reuse – This is something most people do today (thankfully). So reuse, reuse, reuse everything you possibly can; from plastic bags to clothing.
- Rot – That’s right – Composting! Make your own garden fertilizer gold. Composting is good for the soil, good for the planet and reduces landfill. Click here to find out more about how you can compost easily at home. Click here to watch a YouTube video on how to build your own composter at home at a low cost.
- Recycle – Recycling is in itself a process. It takes up resources to do. So while recycling is a good option, it’s actually the last option we should think of when we think of sustainability. Having said that, recycling is important and we need to do our part in it – like properly sorting out our recyclables for collection.
Behaviorists say that it takes a minimum of 21 days to change our habits (note: this is the minimum amount of time, it actually can take longer… way longer to make create a new habit). Research says that it takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to become automatic. So if you make a mistake don’t beat your self up about it, just resolve to do better and keep going on your journey to reduce your impact on the planet. I’ve thought up something I call the “21-day waste-free challenge” to help me make changes for a more consciously eco-friendly life. Stay tuned.