REDUCING MY PLASTIC FOOTPRINT
Plastic is an eye-soaring problem but cleaning it up or littering it in the appropriate bins is not a solution to the damage caused to our own health and the health of our planet.
To directly affect plastic pollution numbers we should consider reducing our plastic footprint.
- But wait, what is “plastic footprint” anyways?
It is a measuring number of how much plastic is being added to the world’s plastic waste. This can include the amount of plastic being consumed as well as the amount of plastic being produced.
It comprises everything from the office to home supplies, food, clothes, cigarettes, any type of indulgence like technology, medicine, online orders… I mean… anything that we lay our eyes upon is covered or contains plastic!!!
- “Oh God, now this will be hard.” - you may think.
Unfortunately, reducing one's own plastic footprint and avoiding such phenomena becomes harder and more difficult than we imagined before we even pledged to do so. However, due to the scale of the problem, immediate action is the right choice at any time!
When we analyze the situation, there are three main areas to work on with ourselves and the community we live in. We work on one, all of them, or some. It doesn’t matter as long as we are doing something about it. So, we can help reduce the plastic footprint by:
- Reducing our personal or our company’s usage of single-use plastics. (This is also financially beneficial.);
- Finding and using sustainable substitutes in the market instead of those providing single-use plastics. (When you litter at least you know it’s organic right?);
- Financially contributing to programs or initiatives that work closely with or manage plastic waste. (This is called off-setting your plastic footprint).
This blog is a guide about becoming mindful consumers. It lays down some simple steps that are effective in reducing our plastic footprint(or any waste in general) based on human experiences and what has been taught and learned throughout time. When experimenting with the steps described below one should always remember that change doesn’t happen within a night, please be patient and take it one step at a time.
Plastic usage is a habit and to break a habit a lot of energy and discipline is needed. Now you are a Mindful consumer and the positive impact you are making should keep you fueled in this journey. So, we shall commence by:
- Always keep a reusable tote bag with you to avoid taking home another batch of plastic bags every time we shop. The current norm is to receive a plastic bag, so we must insist on not taking one (or two or three...). Don’t worry, we will have some intrusive thoughts of being irresponsible at moments, but the truth is: We are not. Let us remind ourselves a few more times about the problem it is causing and we’ll feel the victory of rejection. Also, every time we reject, the Norm starts to shift. We have to reject to the point where the Norm shifts to never receive a plastic bag (cup, bottle, straw etc) again.
- Buy a reusable water bottle/cup. If one in essence investigates the concept of a plastic bottle filled with water, one concludes that it is ridiculous, right? What we’re paying for actually is the plastic bottle itself, because Mother Nature offers drinking water to us FOR FREE. Before we buy, it’s smart to ask ourselves: “Can I survive without it? Is it really necessary for me to consume it right now?” If the answer is NO to the above questions, please note that you don’t need it... with every litter we throw away already, it’s a guarantee that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea!
- Use a reusable bottle/cup to fill up your coffee or other drinks. No rules tell you that your reusable bottle/cup should only be used for drinking water.
- Try to avoid takeouts. So much f^$#^%&$ waste! A take-away order nowadays is equal to 1 kg of plastic packaging and only 200 gr of food! Eating at home is healthier both for the quality of your food and for environmental purposes. If it happens that you can’t eat at home then a better option is to eat at the restaurant with reusable cutlery and plates – so you avoid all that plastic take-away packaging.
- Avoid plastic stirrers, plastic cups and straws in coffee shops/bars. Ask for a reusable spoon or wooden sticks & reusable cups if possible. You don’t need a straw to drink your drink anyways. Persuade your daily favorite coffee shop/bar to switch to reusable or ecological solutions. Repeat to yourself: “If I don’t do it, then who will?”
- Avoid your shampoo bottles, hygiene kits and all that stuff to make you beautiful! Aghhh.. at first it hurts, I know, but think about it in the long run. There are many ways to cut this down. For example, you can substitute your plastic shampoo bottles with soaps. There are so many soap alternatives that come in organic packaging and after you finish the soap there is no litter left behind.
- Buy in bulk. Buying in the bazaar where separate fruits and veggies are sold is always a better choice. You can bring your reusable bags and refuse the plastic bags. No packaged fruits in unnecessary plastic wrappers or polyfoam plates! By buying in bulk in the bazaar, you will reduce your daily plastic footprint by 60%.
- You can always buy in bulk in supermarkets too. If you are buying dairy or other bulk products that are available in the fridge, you can always fill your reusable containers.
- Avoid fast fashion or any fast products by buying in second-hand shops or donating your old clothes to an organization that collects them. We don’t need that many clothes. We are not fashion victims, are we? We think changing clothes is nothing, actually, it’s one of the greatest contributors to the pollution and climate crisis. The clothes we buy with 100% synthetic textiles are the biggest microplastic contaminators of the fresh drinkable and this happens anytime we wash them. This is just one part without considering the whole unethical treatment of workers and their low payments. Well, let this be a ringing and lingering reminder every time you look at yourself in the mirror wearing that fast fashion store dress that will possibly be damaged in a matter of months!
- Remember to always insist. I am not an irresponsible person. I am thinking and contributing to the greater good. Insist & persist.
- Become contagious with your mindset, like a disease. Encourage and talk to your family members, friends and to our favorite shops and sellers. Tell them! Remind everyone as often as we can. Remember it all day long. There is a rule that says until somebody has heard the same thing 7 times in a row, they won’t realize they heard it before. If we have to tell somebody 3 times, (don’t be frustrated) we have 4 more times to go! (Until they get it)
One of the main reasons why we should be mindful when buying stuff is because - WE – as consumers are the ones who shape the market with our demand. If we go on everyday consuming plastic packaging as if nothing is happening, the message we send to the plastic producers and suppliers is that “We are okay with it and we demand it” and “You [plastic producers and suppliers] should keep producing more because we are here to consume it.”
- But ...
If we keep sending these messages to the plastic producers and suppliers, they will never see the need to change and the whole cycle will keep on being reproduced until we blow up the Planet!
... I don’t want to send this message!
We have the right and the duty to be informed about what we buy and consequently make informed choices because every purchase we make is a VOTE for that particular product to be on the shelf the next day and so on.
If we make decisions mindfully and REFUSE products that cause harm, the message we send to distributors and manufacturers is “we are not happy with your products and we do not support them in causing further damage.” By making informed decisions we reject products that compromise our health and our environment. As a result, the chain of the Linear Economy is disrupted and in this way, we have a proactive and conscious role in truly influencing policy change from the bottom-up stream.
Governments should incentivize and invest in alternatives by holding current producers and distributors accountable for their production of pre- and post-consumer plastic waste. And we must be the ones who stay true to our word and deeds!