37: What difference can one person make? Count it up…

This is the plastic question I get asked the most. ‘I’m only one person. What difference does it make if I stop using a bit of plastic?’ The truth is one person can make a huge difference. Try counting it up….

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Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

Let’s take a look at just some of the ideas that have been posted on this blog so far and what happened when I personally made those changes:
1. Switching from liquid soap to bars of soap saved 2 plastic bottles a month (one in the bathroom, and one in the kitchen). That’s 24 bottles a year.
2. Switching from shower gel to bars of soap saved 1 plastic bottle a month. That’s 12 bottles a year.
3. Switching from laundry liquid to washing powder in a cardboard box saved one large plastic bottle a month. That’s 12 bottles a year.
4. Buying less fruit and veg in plastic bags and choosing loose options in the supermarket plus buying more fresh produce in markets saved at least 5 plastic bags a week. That’s at least 260 plastic bags a year.
5. Switching from liquid fabric softener to using white vinegar (in a glass bottle) saved one large plastic bottle a month. That’s 12 bottles a year.
6. Not buying bottled water any more, investing in a water filter jug at home and taking reusable bottles out with me saved at least 2 large plastic bottles a week. That’s at least 104 plastic bottles a year.
7. Saying ‘no’ to plastic carrier bags every time I do any kind of shopping and keeping a cloth bag with me or bags for life in the car saved at least 4 plastic carrier bags a week. That’s at least 208 plastic bags a year

24 + 12 + 12 + 260 + 12 + 104 + 208 = 632…at least!

These are just 7 of the changes I’ve made (I’ve made more) and all of them are simple, and none of them have cost me more than what I was previously spending. In fact, some of them have saved me money. But it means I have stopped at least 632 pieces of plastic from polluting the planet. Even if some of these could have been recycled (and not all of them can be) it is only possible to recycle plastic a handful of times. After that, it’s buried in the ground or ends up in the oceans. We’ve all seen on recent documentaries, just what this can cause.

If I’ve inspired just one person to make the simple changes above, then together we’ve stopped 1,264 more pieces of plastic getting out into the world. If I’ve inspired three people, then between us we’ve stopped 2,528 in one year.

Try the suggestions above for one month and then see how much emptier your plastic recycling bin is. Multiply that by 12 months to see the difference you can make in a year. Then encourage one friend and multiply that by 2….and one more friend…

Of course, the mountain of plastic continues to grow, and probably will do for some time. Do you want to be responsible for slowing that down, or for adding yet another plastic bottle to the top? And don’t wait for the corporations, the manufacturers, the supermarkets to make the change for us. They’re too slow. In any case, they will only sell us what we want to buy. That’s commerce. If we don’t buy it, they can’t sell it and, more importantly, can’t make money from it.

Still think one person can’t make a difference? So did the other 7 billion people who put their empty plastic water bottle on the mountain.

Do the maths.

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Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

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29: Watch your language!

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Since setting myself this challenge of finding 365 different ways to reduce our use of plastic, the world appears to have gone plastic crazy. It’s like when you get a new car and you suddenly start seeing them everywhere. There are no more of them than before, but your brain has started looking for them…and there they all are.

I look around the house, I go shopping, I go and meet a friend, and everywhere I look I see plastic. Why didn’t I see it all before? Simply because I wasn’t looking in the same way. Also, it’s because I wasn’t consciously naming it. I would go shopping and say ‘I need some shampoo.’ I didn’t say, ‘I need a plastic bottle with some shampoo in it.’ And that’s when I realised that I was making a difference in my behaviour because I had started to make it CONSCIOUS.

Try it for one day. Name everything you see made of plastic – at home, at work, at the shops, on a night out – out loud to yourself (or in your own head, if you think people might point and laugh!). You will be shocked at how many times you say the word ‘PLASTIC.’ Then think about the things you can replace with something that isn’t plastic and you’ll be away. It will start to become conscious and (hopefully) you’ll feeel that you have to do something about it.

And while we’re on the subject of words, let’s stop using a big one incorrectly. And that word is…DISPOSABLE! Most things we call ‘disposable’ simply aren’t: Disposable fork, disposable lighter, disposable nappies, disposable coffee cup…most of these things are not! All we do is dispose of them out of our sight and shift the problem somewhere else. In fact, plastic will never dispose at all, it will just move around the planet or get buried to reappear some other time. Unless you can put it in your compost heap, or use it again, it’s not disposable. So let’s stop calling it that.

Language is a hugely powerful thing. Think about what you call things. Is that what they truly are? Make it conscious and you’ve started making a big difference to your life, to others and to the planet.

And so endeth a bit of philosophy for today. This blog is getting deep!

 

21: File it under ‘less plastic.’

For those who work in offices, or in home offices like me, you’ve probably noticed just how much plastic you’re surrounded by every day. If you haven’t noticed…why not?

Much of the plastic in offices is more than single use, so don’t chuck away things that are going to be perfectly useful for a long period of time. But when those things do need replacing, consider buying non-plastic versions next time. In fact, don’t just consider it – do it!

Here’s one to start with: Despite what we were promised in the 1970s by Tomorrow’s World (for those who are old enough to remember it!), the rise of the computer has not resulted in a paper-free office. Most of us probably have tons of paper tucked away in box files and ring binders. Paper and cardboard filing solutions are usually much cheaper than plastic ones and do exactly the same job. They might not last quite as long as plastic ones (which, unfortunately for the planet, last for ever!), but they will last for many years if you don’t make a habit of chucking them at your colleagues.

So, the next time you’re at the stationers looking for filing solutions, choose the environmentally-friendly ones and file that under ‘A Little Less Plastic!’

3: The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword – but don’t forget your pencil!

How many pens, biros, markers, felt pens have you got on your desk, round the house, in your bag or briefcase, in your pocket? If you’re anything like me, you’ve got lots. How many of them are made of plastic? Don’t tell me – pretty much all of them. But do you need to write everything down in such a way that it is permanent or indelible?

Some things you might never want rubbed out, like official forms or a love letter to a significant other (for the romantics amongst us). But some things are written down today and gone tomorrow – shopping lists, reminder notes, phone messages for work colleagues – that are just going to end up in the bin. So, why not keep a pencil on your desk, by the phone, by the pad where you write your lists or anywhere that you need to jot things down?

Try removing one plastic pen from your desk, your home, your bag, your pocket and replace it with a pencil. Sure, keep a pen too for those scribblings that need to be kept forever, but you can probably write down half of everything you write with a trusty, old pencil – a bit of lead, graphite, whatever, surrounded by wood and biodegradable.

A pencil will last much longer than a biro, cost the same (or less), and you’ll have plenty of notice before it runs out. You can even write upside down with it. Plus, if you make a mistake, you can simply rub it out. Oh, and you’ll need a pencil sharpener – make sure it’s not plastic!

If you’re a parent with a creative child, why not swap some of their plastic-covered felt pens for colourful pencils or crayons? They won’t dry out if they leave the top off – and they’re much easier to clean off when your little darling scribbles all over the walls (that goes for office workers too!). If your baby produces a true piece of art with their pencils that you want to keep forever, you can buy spray fixatives from art shops to keep their masterpiece looking like new until you’re ready to embarrass them as teenagers.

But if you truly love pen and ink as much as I do (I really do!), then you might think about investing in a fountain pen (preferably not a plastic one) where you can refill the ink. If it’s a really special one, the chances are you’ll never want to throw it away.

Just think: If each person in the UK bought one less biro this year, that would be more than 66 million fewer plastic pens in the ocean in 2018. Quite a thought.

Happy scribbling!