easy steps to living a more conscious, sustainable lifestyle
‘Single-use plastics’ and ‘plastic pollution’ are becoming the buzzwords of today, and rightly so. The statistics are shocking. According to a staggering WEF report, we dump 8 million tonnes of single-use plastic in our oceans daily; an unsurprising figure given that 70% of the plastic we produce ends up in either landfill or the world’s waterways. That’s the equivalent of one rubbish truck of plastic being poured into our oceans every minute.1 If we continue on the current trajectory our oceans could hold more plastic than fish by 2050.
Plastic debris littering our waterways take decades upon decades to break down into microscopic plastic pieces that never truly dissolve, left floating for marine life to consume, having mistaken it for food. Not only does it put a wide array of marine species at risk, but it threatens those that depend on fishing for food security and massively impacts upon tourism.
The same WEF report details the extent to which the plastic industry is directly contributing to climate change and the warming of the planet through its emitting of greenhouse gases. The plastic industry’s current share of global oil consumption currently sits at a significant 6%, a figure which could rise to 20% by 2050. The sector’s emission of greenhouse gases by 2050 could also end up at a massive 15% of the global carbon budget.
Our reliance on easy single-use consumption and our desire for convenience over sustainable living has to change, for the benefit of not only our wildlife, but for us and our planet. We are so used to popping to the shop, grabbing a coke and filling up our plastic shopping bags. Using a straw once before chucking it in the bin is second nature. Disassociation has detached us from where these products most likely end up and what went into their production.
EASY CHANGES WE CAN ALL MAKE:
Listed below are some very simple steps we can all incorporate into our own lives, followed by a few incredible organisations making a direct impact on the level of plastic pollution in our oceans.
Entirely cutting plastic out of our lives is near-enough impossible in our consumption-driven world, and single-use plastic and plastic pollution seem like a ridiculously complicated and daunting issue to tackle. However, there is so much we can do through really relatively little effort…
Living by the Three R’s is good place to start. By REDUCING, REUSING AND RECYCLING, we can decrease not only the waste we produce but our carbon footprint too.
Some easy examples to start incorporating into your everyday life:
- Try to stop buying 5p bags in supermarkets and shops! Carry with you old plastic bags or fabric ones instead.
- Say no to plastic straws and plastic cutlery! Carry your own re-usable alternatives.
- Invest in a re-usable water bottle to cut plastic bottles out of your life and carry a re-usable coffee cup with you.
- Consider the produce/food you buy – is it wrapped in layers of unnecessary, non-recyclable packaging? Then look for less packaging heavy alternatives.
- RECYCLE! If you don’t know what your local collection can and can’t take, it’ll be on your council’s website.
- When recycling, clean out any food and squash any cans/bottles (it improves the efficiency of recycling) 2
- Support grass-roots movements and sign and share petitions calling for change.
There’s so much we can do on an individual level to make a difference. Just think of the impact that could be made if even just 1 in 10 of us started adopting some, or all, of these steps into our daily lives. Practice makes perfect and it’ll soon be second nature.
COMPANIES TO SUPPORT:
- 4Ocean are a US company that make bracelets from 100% recycled material and remove a pound of rubbish from the oceans for every one they sell.
- From their beach and offshore cleanups, they’ve pulled over 270,000 pounds of rubbish from our oceans so far.
Photo from 4Ocean instagram
- Another US company, United by Blue, run by a similar concept to 4Ocean but, instead of bracelets, these guys make sustainable and responsible outdoor apparel and accessories, removing a pound of rubbish from the oceans and waterways for every product sold.
- So far they’ve organised over 200 clean ups, pulling over 1,000,000+ pounds of rubbish from waterways.
- My friend Laurie Clifford introduced me to these guys – they started as a response to sewage pollution that affected UK surfers in the 90s, and have grown into an environmental charity that aims to clean our beaches and oceans and protect our wildlife.
- They’ve deemed ‘plastic the new sewage’ and work to end our throw-away culture and organise beach cleanups along UK coastlines.
- Last year saw them organise 400+ beach cleans with the help of volunteers across the UK.
Photo from SAS website
- Brain child of Boyan Slat, 17 when he conceived the idea, The Ocean Cleanup is in the midst of preparation for what they say will be the world’s largest Ocean Cleanup.
- Their organisation is based around ocean gyres (handy five minute video explaining what they are 3) – within our oceans there exists of 5 gyres, effectively massive whirlpools, that are created by the earth’s rotation and winds.
- All 5 gyres have been found to have patches of large-scale rubbish and plastic pollution areas within, the most notable being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that exists between Hawaii and California.
- The natural rotation of the gyres contributes to the breaking down of the plastic that congregates amongst them over decades if not centuries, making it increasingly easy for marine life to ingest. (NOTE: breaking down doesn’t mean it goes away, it just becomes smaller, making it even more harmful.)
- This is where The Ocean Cleanup come in: after years of planning, they are set to launch what they say will be the world’s largest ocean cleanup in May of this year, using a fleet of systems across the North Pacific Gyre to collect plastic rubbish without the use of emissions.
- Whilst the project has come under scrutiny and criticism by those dubious of its ability to work as well as the organisation claim it will , it’s a clear step in the right direction.
Photo taken from The Ocean Cleanup instagram
These are only a few of the companies and initiatives I’ve come across in recent months. If there are any you’ve found or already support, let me know below or on my Twitter or Instagram as I’d love to back as many as I can!
If you follow my social media accounts you’ve probably seen me banging on about the petition that I set up last month. It’s calling on Starbucks, Subway and McDonald’s to ban plastic cutlery and straws. Why straws and cutlery? Well, we throw away a whopping 500 million straws alone every single day4, and both straws and cutlery are a good representation of our throw-away culture. Straws, for most of us, are totally needless, and can easily find their way up the noses and in the stomachs of marine life.
Ditching straws and carrying our own reusable cutlery with us are tiny steps to make that genuinely make a difference. If you agree, I would be so grateful if you could share my petition, and tag the aforementioned companies as you do so. You can find the link here.
Admittedly these issues seem daunting, but real progress and positive change is at the end of our finger tips. The first step is just opening our eyes and implementing small changes every day.