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How to easily reduce our plastic consumption and why we should care

By Abbie Caldas

While we strive to be more conscious of how our actions impact the environment, sometimes it takes a globally recognised day to draw extra attention to an issue. This year, the theme for World Environment Day and World Oceans Day is “Beat Plastic Pollution.”

You may have seen the viral videos of the plastic river in Guatemala or the scuba diver in Bali surrounded by more bottles than fish. If not, then check them out.

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These alarming realities are just part of the statistic that 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean each year.

And no, it’s not just ocean animals that suffer: 90% of bottled water is found to contain plastic particles.

Sadly, the UN projects that plastic production will nearly double in the next 10 - 15 years.

Plastic pollution is a defining environmental challenge for our time.

So what can we do about it?

With such obvious negative impacts on the environment and our own health, we must move beyond simply awareness-raising and into action. We need to completely rethink the way plastic shows up in our lives.

The exciting message which follows the scary reality is that a global momentum is growing: innovators, activists and leaders are inspired to do more than just clean up and recycle existing plastics. We can address the problem at its source.

All we need to do is focus our action upstream and change the way we consume.

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By now, we’re aware of the positive impact of using reusable bags, water bottles, and coffee cups. If you’re not doing that already, it’s a simple and effective way to lighten your contribution to the problem. Still, there’s much more we can do step up our contribution to the solution.

Here are some individual actions you can take today:

1. Start with a simple home audit of your waste and recycling. Literally, just take a look (or track if you’re into more concrete measurement) what’s in your bin. It will easily reveal where the bulk of it comes from, and it’s probably how your products are packaged.

2. Next, explore what doesn’t actually need to the packaging. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you can cut out - from dried food to cleaning products, you just bring your jar and fill it up at the dispenser.

3. Then, find out where your nearest “Zero Waste” or “Unpackaged” shop is. There is, of course, the farmers’ market too!

But why?

  • It can be really satisfying to be more aware of your consumption.

It’s like having a meaningful conversation with the farmer that grew your veggies. Buying food directly from a dispenser frees you from the distractions of attractive packaging and marketing tactics. You’re more conscious as you know exactly what and how much you buy. You’re also less likely to get processed food.

  • It can save you money.

Yes, you heard right. Did you know you’re charged twice (first when you buy over packaged products and then through tax for disposing of the packaging)? Shopping Zero Waste takes back our power as consumers. We have control over the amounts as we measure them out and only buy what we need. If we support more of this way of shopping, manufacturers and retailers will get the message and try to do better.

  • It’s a simple and effective way to be part of the solution.

We know the devastating effects. We know governments, manufacturers, and big-chain retailers need to do more. But the individual has incredible power in our daily or weekly decisions and actions. A tiny bit of extra effort to re-route to a store that enables you to lighten your plastic footprint goes a long way in the bigger scheme of environmental action.

You can find out more about World Ocean's Day by following the conversation using #WorldOceansDay and on the dedicated website, where you can also find resources on how to reduce plastic pollution.

How are you reducing your plastic consumption? We'd love to hear about it. Comment below or join our community to engage in our own conversation around this.