Changing habits has a real impact? Totally!
A cigarette butt in the floor, a candy wrapper dumped on the street, the plastic cutlery that you received with your fast food, in the trash… actions that happen in seconds, but their history doesn’t end there. That quick decision that you took will stay in the environment for hundreds of years. But everything can change if you believe in the power of your actions. In this blog I share with you information and thoughts that lead me to make a change, and I hope to encourage you to do it!
Let’s face it… it is our fault
Plastic pollution is one of the great current environmental challenges, and we started it. Unlike Climate Change, in which with our actions as humanity we have altered the cycles of cooling and warming of the planet, in this case we are not only accelerating the “plastic pollution process”, we created the pollutant. And not only that, we also have taken and also given ourselves the freedom to exponentially increase its production without worrying about what will happen when the product’s useful life ends, assuming that it would be okay to throw it away like any other waste. We did not think that this material would become so present in our lives and that it would be so complex to control all the possible ways it could end up in the environment. But if throughout history we have boasted of being animals with the ability to reason, let’s use this same ability to face these problems together as humanity.
Where is the plastic?
We can assure that plastic has reached all parts of the world. From the most pristine mountain to the deepest point in the ocean, and even the air we breathe and soil that we plant our seeds in. We obviously don’t have to go far to find plastic, as it is very present in our day to day lives. From the time we get up, until we go back to sleep, we interact with this material in all its various shapes, colors and functions. It is in our cell phones, appliances, cars, furniture and more, serving multiple purposes. The problem is in those numerous plastics that are designed to be used once and then thrown away, also known as single-use plastics.
In this same group are the food wraps, straws, shakers, cutlery, plastic bottles and plastic bags. These plastic products are part of the five plastics most found in beach cleanings (https://oceanconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Final-2019-ICC-Report.pdf), (excluding cigarette butts, which are at number 1). Here we have a starting point.
Why should you care?
Although we have some power over this material, it has no place within the natural processes of the planet. When deposited in the environment, it can be a threat for many living beings. It can entangle animals, suffocating them, limiting their movement, leaving wounds, or even causing death. Because of the action of many environmental factors such as solar radiation, pH, the salinity of the sea and the action of living beings, plastics break down into small fibers and plastic particles. It has been shown that these fragments can become a true “cocktail of contaminants” because of their ability to accumulate persistent pollutants in the ocean, besides the byproducts of manufacturing they already have. And the problem doesn’t end here, because these pollutants can bio-accumulate in organisms and biomagnify through the food chain. There is evidence of presence of plastic in organisms of different trophic levels, as in photosynthetic bacterias (https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-019-0410-x), fish (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.110795 ), sea mammals (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.08.065 ), and more.
We should also keep in mind that this plastic can come back to us, either in the water we drink , or in what we eat, through the bioaccumulation mentioned above …
The damage is transverse…we can’t let it keep happening, right?
A concrete example
This is a global problem, but we cannot let its magnitude paralyze us. Because this is the result of thousands of actions that together have led to such contamination. Many of these plastics can be avoided with simple actions that you can incorporate into your life. There are many products that we can reject by replacing them with a reusable option, or simply choosing not to use it.
Here is an example. Everytime I go out, I make sure to take my reusable pack with me: a case and a reusable bottle in my bag. With this avoid using three types of plastic (PET, PS, PE), replacing them with reusable options.
- Plastic bottles (PET) – replace with a reusable bottle
- Plastic cutlery (PS) (spoon, fork and knife) – replace with a metal spoon, knife and chopsticks/fork (I replace the fork with a pair of chopsticks because I like asian food)
- Plastic bags (PE) – replace with reusable bags
- Straws (PS) replace with metal straws
- Styrofoam cups (EPS) – replace with a thermos (the winter version of my reusable bottle)
- Stirrers (PS) – replace a metal spoon, bamboo
Using little space in my bag I can avoid using five of the most found plastics on beaches. I also have a handle for hot drinks, to replace the cardboard handle, because the production of paper and cardboard also has great impacts on the environment. If I can reduce the use of cardboard, I will!
Many drops of water together make an ocean
These actions may seem small, or even useless if someone else will probably use these plastics later, but here is an important point in this: You have the power to vote with your wallet. By rejecting these products and deciding not to be part of their demand (by not buying them), you are sending a message that alone may seem small, but by sharing information and motivating more people to make conscious decisions, change can be achieved. More and more people are taking these measures and are demanding that locals and producers change, and many are already changing!
Furthermore, if we expect a change from society, we must all be part of it. For legislations such as extended producer responsibility or single-use plastics regulation to work, it is important that citizens have an active role in the pushing and supporting these measures. Because this is a challenge we have as humanity, and only together we can make a change.
Yes, It is worth it
Deciding to make these changes goes beyond replacing some products. This is also a transformation on a personal level, because the decision to take these measures comes from love. The love that opens us to want a better world for all the living beings that inhabit the planet since hundreds of years ago, for those who are just starting their journey, and for those to come. Making these changes for the greater good is an expression of the love that we have lately noticed how necessary it is, given the health emergency that we face worldwide.
We may not change the world today, but we will have been a part of the change.