I was recently invited to talk to a lovely bunch of people about single-use plastics in January this year. It’s a hot topic in the UK at the moment, following the success of the wonderful Blue Planet II TV series aired on the BBC. Even the Government are getting involved, with their 25 Year Environment Plan pledging to tackle the growing problem of plastic waste.
Whilst we still have a huge mountain of waste to climb (both literally and figuratively), there has undeniably been big spike in awareness of plastic pollution growing across the UK, with bars swapping to paper straws, and supermarkets pledging to reduce or even swap out their plastic packaging. It really feels as though the tide is starting to turn.
So it seemed a better time than ever to talk to a room of people about the wonderful world of living without single-use plastic, through rubbish stats – that’s stats about rubbish, not poor quality data – and why recycling isn’t actually a good thing, just a less-bad thing. Although my talk was aimed at a UK audience, I think it contains some ideas that would work in all sorts of places! And so I thought I would share it with you lovely people too, because I really do just love talking rubbish 🙂
A common criticism of environmentalists by other environmentalists is the focus on ‘small wins’ – things like energy efficient light bulbs, swapping to canvas shopping bags, saying no to plastic straws. The criticism is usually that this is a ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ approach – something akin to “for god’s sake, sea levels are rising, the planet is warming, the oceans are acidifying, and your signature on an online petition, or using a reusable coffee cup isn’t going to fix this! We need huge, systematic change.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m under no illusion here, I know swapping to eco-friendly bathroom cleaner is not going to prevent the sixth mass extinction event that is currently underway. We cannot beach clean ourselves to a maximum 1.5C degree rise in global temperatures.
But it IS important. It’s important because of what it says about our collective mindset.
What started me thinking about this was watching a screening of Before the Flood, an environmental documentary presented by Leonardo Di Caprio. A particular quote in the film struck me:
Politicians are not elected leaders, they are elected followers. They will do what consensus wants.
Politicians represent their constituents. Extrapolating to wider society, businesses make or procure objects and services for consumers to buy. Politicians who don’t do what the electorate want get voted out, and companies that make products that no one buys go out of business. Continue reading “Why small actions matter”→
In January, I wrote about my purchase of a rather fancy cardboard box. What possessed me to purchase mid-sized piece of cardboard for £117.62 you ask? Well, this box is pretty special – it allows all sorts of things that would normally end up in landfill to go for recycling instead. This is done courtesy of a company called Terracycle.
Terracycle, through a mixture of free collection points and boxes you can purchase for your home or business, pride themselves on recycling the unrecyclable – cigarette butts, flipflops, cassette tapes – and more other things than I could have possibly imagined.
Over the past few years, I’ve been on a mission to reduce the amount of waste our household produces. What I’ve learned in that time is that a lot of waste is avoidable, based on strategies of:
I had a bit of a revelation the other day. I can’t imagine I’m the first person to think of it, but it struck me as significant at the time.
I was at work, and we had some leftover birthday cake in the office. Some people wanted to take a few slices home, but didn’t have any containers with them. “I’ve got a spare container you can borrow” I said, offering a colleague my metal lunchbox (pictured above, minus the lunch). “I can’t take that” they replied, “it’s far too nice to borrow!”
Searching further in my desk drawer I found a plastic box, the type that takeaway food comes in. “That’s perfect”, my colleague said, “I’ll bring it back tomorrow.”
And that’s when it hit me – the problem with plastic isn’t just that it’s disposable, but that it somehow intrinsically embodies the quality of ‘disposable’-ness as well. Plastic represents something that doesn’t require care or preservation – it looks as though it was made to be discarded.Continue reading “The psychological problem with plastic”→
Sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in the big picture of wanting a lovely eco, pared-down life, and feel a bit overwhelmed with the task at hand. When there’s just too much of everything, it often ends up with nothing getting done.
To that end, I’m taking on a room-by-room approach to my house, seeing what’s been ‘greenified’ as much as possible, what could be better, and what needs a complete rethink. I’m starting with the bathroom because it’s a room with a lot of potentially disposable items, and with the expertise of the lovely zero waste community I’m sure that some of the easier wins here will help me with some of the trickier rooms.
Our bathroom is on the small side of what estate agents would call ‘compact’. In the picture of our bathroom at the top of this article, the toilet is behind the wall on the left. Essentially, if you want more than one person in the bathroom at once, one person has to stand either in the bath or on the toilet. It’s friendly. So where items can be minimised or multipurposed, all the better. Continue reading “Eco audit: the bathroom”→
This was definitely not a post I was expecting to write, but on Saturday I was interviewed about shopping plastic free for Sky News! One of their reporters got in touch with me via Twitter on Saturday morning following a referral from the lovely Kate at Plastic is Rubbish, and a few hours later, I found myself in one of my favourite places, Earth Natural Foods, being mic-ed up and ready to film.
In all honesty, when I was first asked, my first reaction was to refuse. I feel incredibly awkward and shy at public appearances, and didn’t want to make a fool of myself. But my lovely partner gently persuaded me that it was a good idea Continue reading “Plastic free and on TV”→
As you can guess from the title of this post, I purchased a cardboard box this week. £117.62 worth of cardboard box to be exact. There it is in the picture above, in all its glory. Isn’t she lovely?
Have I gone completely off the rails you ask? No, I have not. For this isn’t just any old cardboard box, it’s a Terracycle No Separation Zero Waste Box. What this box will enable me to do is to recycle almost all of the final few bits of landfill waste I’m still creating. The stuff that is just too difficult for me to give up, at least right now.
Terracycle are a company who pride themselves on recycling the bits and bobs which aren’t easily recyclable elsewhere. The range of things you can recycle with them is huge: items such as tennis balls, sponges, crayons, backpacks, cassette tapes, safety goggles, flip flops and about a million other things. Continue reading “The most worthwhile cardboard box I’ve ever bought”→
So in November, I wrote a post focusing on easy ways to start reducing everyday single-use plastic after seeing the film ‘A Plastic Ocean’. I was beyond excited when Plastic Oceans shared the link on their Facebook page (I still am to be honest)!
Now on to Part 2 – taking it past the easy wins and up to the next level, particularly in an area close to my heart, or rather to my stomach: food. Rather than my own recommendations, this post is going to be a guided tour round some of my favourite parts of the internet; the people, posts and pages that have inspired me.
Earlier this year, I went to see A Plastic Ocean as part of the Raindance Film Festival in London. Directed by Craig Leeson and starring world-record breaking freediver Tanya Streeter, it’s a film about how plastics get into the ocean, the devastating effects they have, and what can be done about it. I thought my trip to see it would end up being a one-person event, as whilst many of my friends politely humour me about my enthusiastic commitment to avoiding plastic, I appreciate that for many people it’s a bit of niche subject and perhaps not what you go to the cinema to see.
So I’m counting down the hours, because Friday, 14th October is the day that the Zero Waster’s Travel Companion goes on sale! A helpful guide to take you round the world whilst looking after it 🙂
This project was the idea of the lovely Inge, who blogs over at www.gruenish.com and is the brains behind the Zero Waste Bloggers Network. She has worked her socks off, and lots of us have been helping, each contributing a chapter on where you can eat, shop and live zero waste in a whole host of cities across the world!