Last night I watched the documentary Plastic Planet on FMTV. It was a real eye-opener! It’s incredible to think that plastic was only first invented in 1907 and in just over 100 years it has become a huge part of our lives and society, even something we would now struggle to live without. Of course I’m sure we could probably live without it, but it’s not like we could just cut it out and stop using anything with plastic. New materials or natural materials would need to replace plastic. Simply look around your house and even your car to see just how much we rely on plastic!
Right now I’m typing on a laptop with plastic casing and walking on a treadmill that is made out of plastic. I have a plastic pen and calculator next to me. The blinds and voile on my window are made from plastic. No doubt the photo frames on my wall have a plastic coating and my iPhone has a plastic case. The list goes on. That is simply the items within arm’s reach of me that I can see are made with plastic. In the documentary I mentioned above there are a few families who empty their homes of plastic – they bring everything made from plastic outside and realise just how much they have. Unless your clothes are made from natural fibres, then they are plastic too! It’s everywhere.
Whilst we certainly have come to depend on plastic and suddenly stopping it’s production in its entirety isn’t possible in this day and age, there are some measures we can begin to take to stop it’s damaging effects on the environment. One of these is to reduce the amount of single use plastics that we are using and throwing away. I believe the onus is largely on the manufacturers and people in power to seek environmentally friendly alternatives and I hope they are doing so, but we can take a stand as individuals by reducing the amount of single plastic we buy and use.
How reducing plastic benefits us
While we all know it's a great way to reduce waste, cutting back on plastic isn't just something that we can do for the environment. The act of cutting back on plastic benefits us in so many different ways, even personally. Here’s how:
Photo by Jonathan Chng
It benefits our diet
What comes in plastic containers? Convenience food. To cut back on these convenience food that come with so much plastic packaging, such as packets of crisps, microwave meals, bottles of pop and so on, we will see an upshot in the amount of healthy food we can cook at home instead.
Water bottles are a very good example, because we believe that we're taking the healthier option, which naturally, we are. But if we buy a bottle of water every single day, it's not doing the planet any favours at all with all that one-use plastic waste. So instead of this, we could purchase a water container, like a Reefdog water bottle and just refill that with water. Water becomes one of those things that we can forget to drink an adequate amount of, and so, with a large water bottle, not only are you cutting down on your plastic, you are getting closer to your recommended amount of water every day. There are even apps available that tell you where you can fill up your water for free, with registered businesses happy for you to do so.
Plus, as we move on to the next point, just think of all the money you’ll save on all those bottles of water!
It saves us more money
As we cut down on the abundance of plastic, this means we have to develop ways to be more self-sufficient, especially when it comes to the foods we carry around with us. As our shopping excursions are reduced, we'll see the benefit in our savings. Because when you think about bringing your own lunch into work or cutting down on takeaways which can use a huge amount of plastic packaging, we're going to save so much more money that we can invest it into other more positive aspects of our lives.
When we see such a significant amount of savings by cutting down on that daily shop bought lunch, it adds up quickly. And even that morning coffee on the way into the office can be easily substituted for a reusable coffee cup, where we can make our own coffee at home, which will save even more money! You could buy a whole tub of coffee for the price of just one cup from a shop! Nowadays, because life is so expensive, it is these little costs that add up over the weeks, months, and years.
It can kick our social conscience into gear
If you've got friends that are constantly going on protests, and fighting the good fight, but you have no idea why, something as little as reducing our plastic consumption can infiltrate into other areas of our lives. When we think about cutting down on plastic, we then begin to think about our paper consumption, our carbon footprint, how the food choices we make affect others and so on.
Maybe you can't picture yourself as some sort of eco-warrior, but if we all get a better idea of how we are impacting the planet individually we can begin to care for things that wouldn't have factored in our lives before. While there are more people now going vegan for the purposes of cutting down on their carbon footprints, as well as other reasons, this is only one piece of the puzzle.
If you want to take a more active approach to look after the world you live in, you've got to begin with the small things. If you know people who seem like they couldn't care less, then getting them to think about their own plastic consumption, as well as other lifestyle habits, might make all the difference. Blue Planet 2 was, for many people, a catalyst to truly cut down on their plastic consumption, because they finally saw how it impacts our oceans. So if we all get a better understanding of how our plastic use impacts other creatures in the world, it becomes a positive force for change.
We are stuck with certain habits in life, and it can take a while to undo them. Using a huge amount of plastic is one of those things that, thankfully, many shops are now hot on minimising. But we can't just rely on food suppliers to minimise the amount of plastic so we benefit- we've got to take the initiative. And luckily, it begins with the simpler things. But if you have people in your life that have no idea why they should even bother minimising their plastic, highlight the fact that it's going to benefit them. If they do eat fish then tell them that due to plastic pollution in the oceans, even the fish they eat are now poisoned with plastic which in turn poisons them! The problem is much bigger than just unsightly litter. And if we communicate this to the people who don't care, and make it about themselves, this is setting the wheels in motion.
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