the world according to the curiously-inclined & the easily fascinated

Week 4: One Month Plastic-Free Complete!

A massive thank you to everybody who has donated to my plastic-free challenge this month! I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends, family and work colleagues, as well as the support I’ve received from so many who agree our plastic problem has to be sorted out! Read on to find out how much I managed to raise below….

A month ago I pledged to give up using and buying single use plastic for the whole of June. I had been reading more and more about the plastic soup in our oceans, and its horrific impact on marine life. After volunteering at a river Thames clean-up, I got a close-up experience of just how badly our plastic waste is damaging our local environment too.

Like many others, I was suddenly waking up to just how much single-use plastic features in our daily lives. But it was like waking up to a bad dream. Why are companies not held to account on their plastic consumption? Why is recycling still so inefficient? Why do we have no idea about the long-term effects of micro-plastics in our food chain?

Above all, why aren’t more people talking about the most obvious question:-
Plastic takes over 500 years to decompose, so why is it used it for so many single-use purposes?

Armed with a lot of questions, and not many answers, I decided to see if I could make through the whole of June plastic-free. I wanted to see what solutions I could find to a plastic-free lifestyle. In my previous blog posts, you can read what I found about the weekly food shop, cleaning and toiletry products, as well as 10 easy steps anyone can take to reduce their plastic footprint. So, at the end of it all, what did I learn overall?

 

1) Plastic-free is not time-consuming
A plastic-free lifestyle requires organisation, especially at first. But once I had figured out how and where to shop for my essentials, I realised it was entirely possible to fit into a busy lifestyle. The food shop is where most people baulk, so to use that as an example: I did one bulk food shop for dry cupboard staples at the start of the month, and then went shopping just once a week for fresh produce bought from the weekly market. Other stuff I needed (toiletries, etc) I found easily online.

2) Plastic-free can save money
My food bill was 23% lower in June than it was in May. This was mostly due to buying staples in bulk, no longer buying weekday lunches from Sainsbury’s/Pret, and cooking from scratch rather than heating up supermarket soup, fishcakes etc. This shows the answer to plastic-free food is avoiding convenience food options. It’s cheaper, healthier and better for the planet. No-brainer!

3) Plastic-Free is simpler
Plastic-free toiletries are definitely not as cheap as the very cheapest plastic offering (see my post from Week 2). But I got around this by simplifying my regime and using just soap, conditioner, moisturiser, toothpaste tablets and deodorant for a month. My face didn’t fall off (in fact it looks the same) and my bathroom is also a lot tidier. I’ll be sticking with this approach for sure!

4) Plastic-Free does not mean giving up on life
This month I’ve hosted a dinner party, cooked up a Summer Solstice picnic, competed in athletics competitions, partied in Shoreditch, marched at a Women’s protest, ate takeout food, holidayed in Dorset and generally lived and loved life as much as I ever have. All of it, (barring a minor slip-up, see below!) totally plastic-free!

 

The Difficulties
OK, I mentioned a minor slip-up. On Day 2 of the challenge I ordered a drink at a bar and had been happily enjoying it for a good few minutes before I noticed the STRAW. It being Day 2, needless to say I was extremely annoyed at myself! Other than that, the products I simply could find no plastic free alternatives for were dried pasta, yoghurt, protein powder, make-up and contact lenses. And so I made do without all for the whole month. Overall, however, the difficulties were much fewer than I had been expecting.

 

The Best Bits
The very best thing about my plastic-free month, however, was just how many people I connected with who are also truly concerned about the impact of our society’s out-of-control plastic use. So many friends, family members and work colleagues reached out to me to provide support and advice for which I am hugely grateful. But it also made me realise just how many people are out there who have the potential to enact real change. It’s time for us to remember our power as people!

 

How do we want future generations to judge us?
This question was my initial motivation in undertaking this challenge. It is easy for us to look back on the mistakes of historical cultures with disdain, assuming that our own civilisation is advanced – that we have “arrived”. The truth is we couldn’t be further from solving problems that have plagued us for generations, both socially and environmentally.

The deteriorating health of our oceans struck me as one such issue that simply was not getting the air-time it urgently needs. The oceans (or more specifically the phytoplankton within) create the majority of the oxygen within the Earth’s atmosphereYet at the rate we are chucking away single-use plastics, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. This is not just an issue about unsightly waste, it is a serious threat to the future of our planet as we know it. Let’s do something about it!

 

Want to help end this plastic madness? Here’s what YOU can do !

  1. Take my 10 Easy Steps to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint – these low-cost and low-effort tips will set you on the path to a reduced plastic lifestyle.
  2. Power of Refusal: let companies know you don’t want their excess packaging, or leave it in the shop – make it their problem!
  3. Name & Shame: seen some utter plastic madness (for example, this) in your supermarket? Let them know how unimpressed you are by posting a photo and comment to their Facebook/twitter page. Hold them to account on these public forums!
  4. Write to your MP: the Deposit Return System is the next important policy to improve the UK’s abysmally low recycling rates. Ask your MP to support it!
  5. Tell your friends: voice your plastic concerns, share your plastic-free shopping tips, and spread the word!

These are only small deeds, but they matter because they voice an issue that for far too long has been the elephant in the room. Let’s get talking about it!

 

Finally…
I am DELIGHTED to say that this month,the generosity of my friends, family and work colleagues has raised over £546 for the Marine Conservation Society.Thank you so much everybody, I am so touched by your kindness!

I have also just learnt that my workplace, RBC Capital Markets,have generously pledged to match every donation made to my challenge as part of their commitment to Clean Water campaigns worldwide. This means every pound you guys donated will be doubled, and all together we have raised over £1000! A massive thank you to everybody!

To finish up, here is one of my favourite quotes by historian and activist Howard Zinn…

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”



What are your thoughts?