Zero Plastic Week has come and gone, and it’s left me feeling mainly inspired but also a bit depressed. Inspired because there is a growing plastic free movement, full of amazing, passionate and dedicated people. Depressed because dramatically reducing plastic consumption really isn’t as hard as you'd think. Why is that depressing? Because we need more people doing it, and stat.
Not just people, but entire cities, provinces, states, countries. And fast. The only way we’re going to stop plastic from entering our waterways and eventually our oceans is by curbing consumption; especially of single-use, throwaway items. My week sans plastic wasn’t perfect. A prescription, a package in the mail and an herb plant container all contributed to me not achieving my ultimate zero new plastic goal. But, it was easy as pie to cut out many items like straws, new plastic containers, wrappers, chip bags (easy but also torturous), and other items that I often think I need but really don’t. I’m not going to lie, I ran out of rice milk and was counting down the days until I could buy another container, but it also made me start to explore other options like making my own to permanently cut my "tetra pak" dependence.
For many people, including myself, going 100% plastic free isn’t currently possible. Society isn’t set up for an easy transition, but many people within the plastic free community are telling their story to inspire us all to do more. And more is always possible. Check out a film initiative by Plastic manners, here.
We can all push for societal change. And bit by bit, change beyond the individual is happening. Just last week Los Angeles became the largest US city to move toward a ban on plastic grocery bags, meaning they won’t be available in various types of stores. Toronto was trying to do the same but has since put the ban on hold due to the city being slapped with lawsuits by opponents. Various other cities around the world have either banned the sale of plastic bags, though enforcement can be challenging, or are in the process of trying to get a ban passed. When googling “ban plastic bags change.org” I found numerous petitions for many cities and states in the US and that’s just by one online petition organization. Plastic bottle bans are also gaining steam with a town in Massachusetts recently passing a ban. Plastic bags and bottles are only the tip of the plastic iceberg, but it’s an entry point.
Companies have catered to what society wants - convenience. But as our natural environments degrade, while plastic lives on, we're going to have to redefine convenience and get creative or even look to the past. Straws have been around for thousands of years, but they weren’t made of plastic. If we all took a page out of our grandparents’ and great grandparents’’ playbook we’d find that reuse was standard practice, producing unnecessary waste was frowned upon, and most things didn't come in, or were made of, plastic.
I want to thank everyone who participated in Zero Plastic Week and I challenge you to try to find an alternative for one plastic item from your usual shopping routine each month. Challenge your friends and family to do the same. Avoiding plastic misery loves company.
One last thing, my focus has been on the impacts of plastic on our oceans but fresh water lovers beware, Canadian lakes are just as plagued by plastic pollution, and in some areas, researchers believe even more so. If you live in Kelowna, watch out for some great summer initiatives to help take pressure off your beautiful lake!
Follow these 9 tips to start kicking your plastic addition!