Would you eat that fish on this post’s picture? Why? Does the plastic trash next to it disgusts you, makes you angry? I won’t eat that fish, firstly because I have been mostly vegan for years now, but the thought of sea life ingesting and dying from plastic pollution is really upsetting, just as much as the thought of people eating highly polluted seafood is too.
You see, the introduction of plastics waste in our oceans is wrecking havoc on Nature in so many ways.
- First, marine life, including sea birds, ingest newly introduced plastic materials and die a slow and painful death from indigestion. They also get entangled in plastic materials and die from being stuck and/or being unable to feed themselves or their offsprings.
- Then, as plastic does not decompose but breaks into smaller pieces until you can’t even see them anymore with the naked eye, marine life starts being poisoned by the chemicals attached to those tiny pieces of plastics, which are like magnets for industrial pollutants.
What comes around goes around
Plankton – the primary food of many creatures in the ocean – ingest these toxic particles. In turn, plankton is eaten by whales, sharks, and also every single species of fish and shells ingested by humans.
What comes around goes around apply in all directions: we are weak minded: ego, greed, attachement, rule our lives > we want convenience and comfort above anything else at any cost > we indulge in what we don’t need and heavily pollute > we know the harm our behaviour engender but we do nothing about it – because we are weak minded at the first place. We experience a lot of trouble changing our habits.
We produce and use single use plastics because it is convenient, not because it’s needed (greed). We eat huge quantities of meat and seafood just because it is tasty (greed), and also because it’s part of our identity/culture (ego, attachement, fear of change etc).
So if we really want to change our behaviour towards Nature and stop taking what is not sustainable to take, we urgently need to work on ourselves, shift our self-centered, short term priorities towards what benefits all of us on the long run. If you know about these issues and are able to apply changes but still struggle to make them in your life, stop a moment to observe the deeper reasons why you give yourself too many passes when you are aware of the dire consequences. I personally find that practicing insight meditation helps me tremendously in reaching congruence of thought and action, but everyone has their own ways of introspection. Do whatever feels right to you to truly be the change you want to see in the world.
Change and create new habits
Just like you set yourself fitness or financial goals, professional or personal development goals, set yourself targets to reduce and boycott single use plastics as much as possible. Do these 5 things for at least 30 days to create new habits. Once they are anchored, you will feel awesome about it – there is no greater feeling that doing good for something bigger than yourself!
For one month, be bothered!:
- Carry one or several reusable bags with you everywhere. [read further tips on a plastic free grocery shopping]
- Refuse any plastic packaged items or single use plastics. That means find a bulk store near you and always get items loose at regular supermarkets, getting ice cream in a cone instead of a cup, bring your own containers when taking-away food etc.
- If you do accumulate “single use” plastics – clean and reuse them. Those zip-lock produce bags can be reused many, many times for your bulk food groceries. Even plastic wrap can be washed and reused many times before tearing.
- Recycle single use plastics properly: segregate soft plastics from the rest of your minimal plastic waste and drop them in the RedCycle bins at Coles or Woolworth for recycling.
- Go beyond your confort zone and bring your plate, glass and cutlery at a party, consistently ask waiters and bartenders for “no straw” etc. – Be confortable to tell people why you doing that. You might feel awkward now, but then you will notice people changing around you and realise YOU were a vector of positive change. Even people who deliberately makes you feel inadequate like you’re too much of an eco-warrior will eventually change. It seems to be a natural human response to be demeaning and on the defensive when feeling guilty or in denial – just let them be, smile and move on.
- Join a community or not for profit program that fights waste. Two days before I took this post’s picture at Manly Cove, the Ausmap (Australian Micro Plastic Assessment Project) crew was helding an informational event at this very location. Ausmap is a “National Citizen Science Project Mapping microplastic pollution on Australian shorelines” aiming to eventually hold plastic polluters accountable by recording the amount, location and origin of micro plastics in Australia. There are a lot of clean up programs out there as well that you can join, but don’t forget that we first need to prevent waste to enter the environment.
Please share any comments and your best eco-warrior awkward moments!