The roll of the eyes … the look of disgust

Are you a plastic-free type? One of my new buddies that I met while a crew member of Leg 4 of the eXXpedition voyage, Rachel O’Callaghan, just shared the below experience. 

Besides being an incredible human being, Rachel has independently made the choice to reduce her plastic footprint in her own life. She is from the UK and is one of the few people I know that not only lives truly as a plastic-free type but is putting that plastic-free commitment to the test as she travels the world for the next year. 

Though I continuously reduce my plastic footprint in my family’s home and my personal habits, plastic inevitably finds its way into my family’s waste because of packaging, my son’s school projects and toys, food items, household cleaning products … Therefore, it is admirable when people like Rachel are able to adhere to this commitment. It’s not easy being a plastic-free type or anything close to it. I think it is utopian to believe that we could all shift to this commitment level. However, I do think we can all make changes that do get us all to a much reduced plastic footprint level through education and positive communication that inspires change. 

I wanted to share her recent experience at the Miami International Airport, because it is a common one for those making personal behavior changes and raising awareness within their personal daily experiences. I believe these are valuable individual efforts that contribute to the growing global Rethink Plastic movement. However, I think it is important to reflect and learn from the interactions as positive communication is critical to spread what we believe to be important to other spheres of influence.

Rachel’s experience in her words:

“I’ve just had probably *the* worst experience since being plastic free…

I’m in Miami airport. Can’t find a single piece of fruit anywhere (even fruit is wrapped in plastic!) so I opt for a fruit smoothie.

I ask the lady at the counter if she’d mind putting it into my eXXpedition bottle instead of a cup. She gives me a filthy look, and I pay. It gets worse…

She completely ignored what I’d said and went from the till, to make my smoothie and started to pour it in a plastic cup. I stopped her and said, “please use my bottle.” I get another filthy look and she says “what do you want!” She pours it into my bottle, hands it to me and I said to her, “I’m just trying to avoid single use plastics because it’s not great for our environment.” She just shrugs her shoulders and yet another filthy look. So I just walked away and realised what I had to say was so wasted on her.

I’ve had this reaction quite a bit in Miami when I’ve asked to use my own bottle. I hope this is a Miami thing and not an American. Please tell me it is just Miami ”

My takeaway (in blue) on her comments:

“I’ve just had probably *the* worst experience since being plastic free…

I’m in Miami airport. Can’t find a single piece of fruit anywhere (even fruit is in plastic!) so I opt for a fruit smoothie.

It is frustrating to want to minimize waste and plastic use only to be thwarted at each attempt because the products you want are wrapped in excess packaging. There have been several efforts to curb individual plastic use with plastic bag bans and straw bans. As important as these steps are, it does feel like an uphill battle when producers continue to pump out excessive plastic packaging at a greater rate than the rate to reduce plastic waste by individual behavior changes. This is why we need to incentivize producer responsibility with legislative support such as the bills in California

I ask the lady at the counter if she’d mind putting it into my eXXpedition bottle instead of a cup. She gives me a filthy look, and I pay. It gets worse…

She completely ignored what I’d said and went from the till, to make my smoothie and started to pour it in a plastic cup. I stopped her and said, “please use my bottle.” I get another filthy look and she says “what do you want?” She pours it into my bottle, hands it to me and I said to her, “I’m just trying to avoid single use plastics because it’s not great for our environment.” She just shrugs her shoulders and yet another filthy look. So I just walked away and realised what I had to say was so wasted on her.

We have all been in this position where our opinions or actions are not understood or even belittled with words or a look of disgust. It is extremely difficult to not have the knee jerk reaction to return a negative reaction. However, this disagreement is where the opportunity to create change lies. This is where we rely on education and positive conversation to shift society’s perceptions and understanding. This is how we at Plastic Oceans push our mission to support the Rethink Plastic movement.

“From knowing comes caring, from caring comes change” – Craig Leeson, A Plastic Ocean film. We all learn at different times. We each hold the ability to share new information with the people we come in contact with. With each sales clerk, Lyft driver, grocery store employee, bank staff… we can share information and how we communicate the information can inspire change. This is what creates progress. 

The sales clerk may or may not be modifying her lifestyle from this interaction but I do think my friend has planted a seed of new information that may evolve into change later. 

I’ve had this reaction quite a bit in Miami when I’ve asked to use my own bottle. I hope this is a Miami thing and not an American. Please tell me it is just Miami.

Miami is one of only several cities in the US that have implemented plastic bans and raised plastic pollution awareness. This should be noted as positive change and encouraged.

Do I think they could do more? Yes …

But we all can do more, whether you’re a plastic-free type or not. And there are many people and organizations, individuals like Rachel and Plastic Oceans, working to encourage that we continue to do more to reach our goal of living in a world without plastic pollution. Change is a process where every action is meaningful.

PLEASE DONATE TO SUPPORT OUR RETHINK PLASTIC MOVEMENT, WHETER YOU’RE A PLASTIC-FREE TYPE OR NOT. 😉