You can’t make anyone else care. You can’t will them to want to reduce their environmental footprint. The willingness has to come from within. I arrived at that place about 10 years ago, of wanting to reduce my impact on our earth and generally live more mindfully. But I spent the better part of those ten years being incredibly overwhelmed by all the areas of change that called for an awareness – being energy efficient, eating locally, flying less, greening my commute, supporting local products, the scope was endless and to be honest, overwhelming.
About 2 years ago, I started my personal journey towards living with less plastic (I say journey because I’ve by no means waxed it and am very much still learning). But this commitment alone shifted things in a big way for me. I think it lies in the relatively simple execution. So, in assuming that you do already care, in great big bucket loads, here are my 5 reasons why I believe joining the plastic-free revolution is the best place to start reducing your environmental footprint.
1. It simplifies the bigger picture
I touched on it briefly above but it’s worth a point in its entirety. This whole eco-consciousness business can really make your head implode sometimes. And it should. The problems we as a society have contributed to creating due to a collective lack of understanding are monumental. But as an individual just wanting to live with a clean footprint and clear conscience, I’ve often slumped at the weight of all the things I need to consider before even executing a simple day-to-day task. Before I can get dressed in the morning, I’ve already wondered where my jeans are made, are my coffee beans sustainably grown, what’s in my toothpaste and should I be making more of an effort to green my commute. It can be completely overwhelming not knowing where or how to even start living greener.
For me, cultivating a focus on plastic-free living simplified all of that. By that, I don’t mean it makes all of those areas of concern go away. Of course not. But it gives you one clear area of focus to be 100% committed to.
2. It makes you feel accountable
Now that you’ve committed to just this one area, you’ll quickly realise it’s a facet of living you will come into contact with daily, and multiple times at that.
So, while you might only buy jeans once a year, you’re consuming beverages, foods and home and beauty products in plastic containers all the time. All the time.
And specifically, because so many small actions require this one question “how can I reduce my reliance on plastic in this situation?”, living with a plastic-free focus has for me become like a walking meditation of positive action and accountability.
For every time you say no thanks to a straw, or remember to take your glass container to dinner in case you have leftovers, you’re taking your impact into your own hands. Empowered actions make us feel good because we’re living in alignment with something we believe in and therefore, I’m far more likely to make a concerted effort to practice it in every situation. Here’s a great plastic-free checklist to give you an idea of just how accountable you can be in this area.
3. It cultivates subtle awareness
How often have you heard the saying “be the change you wish to see in the world?” Simply put the least intrusive way of inspiring others is to live your ideals. People don’t like being told the way they’re doing something is bad. I spent the better part of my twenties loudly advocating for things I believed in because I was so passionate about it. Even though my intentions were good, I quickly realised it makes others feel undermined and as though you’re lording your new found knowledge and do-goodery over them. So I stopped. I went back to being the change.
Some days that’s me bolting back into the house (even though it will make me 5 minutes late) because I forgot my Ecoffee cup or fabric totes. Other days it’s saying no thank you to the plastic straw and whipping out a reusable straw at a smoothie bar. Ultimately your actions speak louder than words and when you commit to carrying your plastic free intentions with you, those around you will take notice.
If I think about all the anecdotal encounters I’ve had while grocery shopping with my Fresh Bags, I’ve just got to believe, they’re creating subtle shifts. Every time the cashier scans my bananas, she makes a joke to the lady packing my groceries and they laugh together. Are they mocking me? Does it matter? It’s still initiated awareness. They often ask why I use these bags. And so a conversation begins. Those conversations are necessary, even if they feel incremental in shifting awareness. It all begins with awareness.
4. It’s unarguable
A great many of the sustainability issues can become quite contentious topics of conversation when it comes to advocating for reduced environmental impact and trying to inspire change. Plant-based protein, for example, is a huge one. Toxic chemicals in household products and energy consumption is another. People have different takes on things, different preferences and different levels of caring.
But if you’re implementing only one thing in your household, shared living arrangement or even your relationship, going plastic-free just makes good sense. Regardless of the fact that landfills contribute to methane pumping greenhouse gases, even the most cynically minded, can conceptualise the reality that our landfills are reaching capacity. It is said one garbage truck of plastic is dumped every minute. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, suffocating marine life. While the great northern garbage patch isn’t so much one giant Texas-sized island as it is multiple convergence zones of drifting debris, scientists say if you could spread it all out to an ankle-deep soup it would cover an area more than 4 times that of Texas.
Even for those of us already cutting down on meat consumption to reduce methane emissions, you might like to know that because of our heinously disposable society, our seafood is ingesting our particle sized plastics waste. So, ironically, we are directly toxifying ourselves with every bite of sashimi, with an estimated quarter of all fish now containing plastic. The pollution aspect alone is enough of a reason to get the eco sceptics you may be cohabiting with to reduce their plastic consumption. And in my experience, this is one environmental act they gladly get behind.
5. And finally, it has a knock on effect
This is my favourite reason to go plastic free. This knock-on effect isn’t about the subtle observers of your lifestyle changes or the influence your plastic reduction has on those you live with. I’m talking about the wonderful thing that happens as a self-solving solution to the conundrum I began this journey with in the beginning. The longer I intentionally practice plastic-free living, the clearer my ability has become too easily detach from other environmentally detrimental habits. I’ve begun to question every little thing. But not in the ‘oh this is all so overwhelming” sense. But rather in that I quickly identify an aspect as not sustainable and am propelled to find an alternative solution. And there are plenty.
I’ll give you an example. I recently read that putting essential oil on a cotton ball in your vacuum cleaner chamber, does a grand job of deodorising while you suck up dust. Not even a second long had that nifty DIY tip sunk into my brain when it occurred to me that cotton balls were a one trick pony. After some googling, I found a neat pattern to crochet my own, little reusable rounds and just like that, cotton balls are added to my list of things I refuse to use. You’ll find this in a myriad of areas. From shopping locally where ever possible, to buying second hand, and generally needing less. It’s so energising when the penny drops on how much you can make or reuse and how little you really require. And I do believe I have my ongoing commitment to just eliminating plastic to thank for this evolution in consciousness.
If plastic-free living sounds like a lifestyle addition you’re inspired to get behind, take a look at these fantastic reusable products that empower you with ways in which you can easily eliminate it from your life.
I have no doubt it will take your eco-consciousness journey effortlessly to the next level.