Planet earth is greatly suffering because of the crazy amounts of single-use plastic we are using every day. We are all responsible for using plastics, therefore everybody should pay attention to what you can do to keep this place liveable.
In case you don’t know how bad the situation is, please go and see a documentary film called A Plastic Ocean. The documentary has some shocking footage and stories and quite frankly the overall situation we face today is just shocking. For example millions of animals are dying because of the plastic particles they have been eating. This includes, fish, birds, mammals and pretty much all types of creatures that live in and around water. As scuba divers we have had the opportunity to see the state our oceans are in and we are at a point where we must all act because we have gone too far! Even small improvements are better than no action at all.
Shocking news. In 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.
Are you ready to do some changes in your own behavior? http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/events/planet-or-plastic-take-the-pledge.aspx
We will share some ideas how to reduce the use of plastic. We acknowledge that we have still much to improve ourselves, as we are not even close to the zero waste heroes, but our tips are easy to follow for everyone and helped us get started too.
Plastic bottles are a huge pollutant. Many counties we have been traveling to are lacking proper recycling systems for plastics or simply lack the awareness surrounding the problem. E.g. in many countries in Asia, it is unfortunately not uncommon to see people, hotels and hostels dumping their rubbish just behind their properties for someone to hopefully come and collect it.
We never leave the house without reusable bottles. Instead of always buying a new plastic bottle (which is often if you are in a hot climate countries and you have an active lifestyle), travel with your reusable bottle and ask hotels and restaurants to fill your bottles. Most often they will do it for free too saving you money.
What if you are in a place where you cannot drink the tap water or somewhere where filling bottles on your own can be tricky. You can still refill your own bottle from a bigger water container or water cooler instead of buying small single use bottles. Even if this won’t take your plastic consumption to zero, It will help reduce the amount of plastics around and the large containers are most often recycled and refilled.
For example, if you are heading to Bali or surrounding islands, download this app to your smartphone: http://www.refillbali.com/. It includes locations for water bottle filling and mostly lists free spots! Just take your own bottle with you and refill instead of buying a new bottle!
Straws: This topic drives us crazy. Only in USA the daily consumption of plastic straws is 500 million pieces. Yes, that is daily. That is a crazy amount. Do we really need straws? Not really to be honest. Don’t be afraid to mention “I prefer not to have a plastic straw please” when ordering in the restaurant. This is also a good way to make other people think whether straws are needed or not. When you talk about this, you also educate other people! “Be the change you want to see!”
Those who really need straws (e.g. limited use of your arms) might be able to look for alternatives such as washable bamboo or metal straws that usually come with a small brush you can use for cleaning the straw. Paper straws also exist, yet that is still waste, but is much better than plastic!
Single use plastic bags: This is such a tragedy. USA and Australia for example have been some of the worst places we’ve experienced regarding single use plastic bags. Go and buy groceries in either country and they will try to pack your stuff into those super thin plastic bags, that can’t even hold your shopping without breaking. Therefore they add more and more bags on top of each other and put only few products to one bag. What a waste. The solution is simple if you have your canvas (or other reusable) bags with you and stop taking those horrible (and quite useless) plastic bags. Some places in Asia these small bags are even more common with street food and drinks. You might see someone buy a soft drink from a convenience store and in a glass bottle. The drink is then poured into a plastic bag and a straw is added. Isn’t this insane? It isn’t even practical.
Prepackaged groceries: Do you really have to pack your fruits into plastic bags? Do you need any bag at all? Even if it is some sort of bio bag it is still waste. Right? We’ve been buying our fruit and veg without any bags for some while and have had no issues with it. Just load them into your basket or trolley and pay for them at the cashier. IF you have some more delicate fruits and veg that need a bag or container, bring a reusable bag such as this one: ONYA Reusable Produce Bags
Cosmetics: The problem is not only the plastic containers for most cosmetics, but also the cosmetics that actually have micro plastics inside of them. First of all, even with common sense it does not sound smart to put plastics on your skin. Second, it ends up in waterways and eventually to our oceans and they are so small that they are very difficult to remove once in the waterways. Body scrubs and glitter products are generally speaking one of the worst products in terms of micro plastics, but this video will show some more.
About the plastic containers in cosmetics. There are plenty of options where the the products are not packed at all or are packed in glass containers. For example it is very easy to buy normal body soaps, shampoo and conditioner bars as well as facial bars that do not have any packaging waste at all. These products are often even better than the mass produced ones in a bottle!
Another little thing that you can check is that if you buy cosmetics that are packed in plastics, see if it is virgin plastic or recycled plastic. Recycled plastic is obviously better and of course, do not forget to recycle the plastic containers, so it does not end up to landfill. Alternatively, you can reuse the empty plastic container by going to a zero waste store where you can use your own bottle and refill it.
A quick note on other issues with cosmetics: Maybe this gets a bit sidetracked now, but this topic needs to be posted out! Sun lotions are totally destroying coral reefs due to the chemicals (such as oxybentzone) in it. Be conscious and look for the coral reef friendly sun lotions. Yes those definitely exist! Personally we have been quite satisfied with brand called Le Tan coconut sunscreen lotion, but there are plenty of options in the market. Just keep your eyes open. Obviously the challenge, is that even these coral reef friendly sunscreens are packed to plastic bottles.
- Bring a reusable cup with you for your coffee or tea. Did you know that your take away coffee cup is not recyclable? Sure it looks like a paper cup, but it has plastic cover inside of it and it cannot be recycled. This is a huge problem. Just say no to the take away cups and take your own cup with you. We totally love the Keep Cup glass cork edition https://au.keepcup.com/keepcup-series/changemakers-brew-cork-series.html
- Bring a canvas or other reusable bag with you daily for all of your shopping. If you frequently buy take out lunches, don’t take the plastic cutlery. Instead, bring some from home or get a set of travel cutlery such as these ones from Kathmandu.
- Join a local public space or beach cleanup. There are many cleanups arranged in every local community. If you live near the sea, check out your local Sea Shepherd organization for details or ask your local community about park and street cleanups (e.g. Love Our Streets in Melbourne). If nothing is available, host a cleanup of your own and invite the local community to join.