I'm quite a few days beyond July, but wanted to wrap up with some thoughts on Plastic Free July and beyond. There's definitely more to it and lots of layers, so wanted to share that with you. Some rambling thoughts, so let's get to it shall we?
Plastic is for sure a massive problem in our world. It pollutes our oceans, water systems, food and is one of the biggest nuisances the world has ever had. BUT - it's just one part of an overall web. Everything is connected in some way or another.
You can't support plastic free living without thinking about sustainability. For example how our food is grown and how we consume, to then thinking about carbon footprint (hello meat and dairy industry), to then ethics. How people in the supply chain are treated and animal welfare, how transparent is the production? Oh so many questions.
As we all become increasingly aware of the various environmental and sustainability issues in the world we live in, we try to learn and do our bit right? The first thing to realise, is that being completely plastic free or zero waste is actually impossible in the current linear economy and way of living. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try - do what you can whenever possible.
For so long, big corporates have got away with keeping their production processes a secret so allowing them to keep standards low and mark ups high. What we don't know won't hurt us right? But what about when it's micro plastics in fish or chemicals in the water we drink? Those are things we know to be true now. Netflix has some pretty special documentaries about the meat and dairy industry and food so definitely worth a watch to swot up.
Luckily as consumers we hold a lot of power in how we buy and how much we put pressure on brands and companies to clean up their act. The more we become aware of our habits, spending and educate ourselves, the more they have to change. Change in society sure takes its time but it can happen. With this in mind, you might have seen lots of brands pop up with a solution - reusables, ethically made fashion, plastic free alternatives. It's pretty amazing that individuals have taken it upon themselves to create a solution to help people buy better and change habits.
So why haven't we changed as quickly as the solutions have become available? Well, here's where things get messy... Societal change is a big shift that needs to take place which involves both individuals and big organisations to be on the same page. On one hand, we should keep piling on the pressure so that big corporations have to change. But the majority of the population are none the wiser about the problems or solutions because these ideas aren't so freely available everywhere. Or publicised.
On the other hand, the big corporations need to fix their consumption and ways of production to stop hurting both people and planet. But guess what? That's the more expensive and cumbersome way. For too long, it's been about having the most speed and cost efficient way to make something. The disregard for Earth's materials and thinking that human kind is more important is part of the reason we are in this mess. So in short, it comes down to money, money, money. Profit is the name of the game at any cost. Quite literally.
By covering up production processes and material sourcing, we've never thought twice about it and neither are these things ever talked about or shared. Until you dig deeper and educate yourself. This is also why the mass majority of people don't question it. Here's where another layer called privilege is added. By me being able to talk about these issues, address them and provide solutions is for sure a privilege. There's been some articles and writing around the zero waste movement being quite a privileged thing and I have to agree to some extent.
The knowledge is freely available if you've gone out to make a change yourself and become part of the bubble. But what about those that are limited to their lifestyle or don't have access to the same things both material and financial? How can we make it so we can spread the awareness? For some, there's certain health conditions that limit the types of food they can eat, disability can limit consumption or mobility, so sometimes it's not an option to go plastic free. Living a low impact lifestyle doesn't have to be expensive, you do what you can that's all. The small changes often make the biggest difference.
I've seen another side to the various movements with a lot of shaming around not doing 'enough' or having flaws in the way you consume or share your views. But the truth is no solution is perfect, no one knows everything there is to know and neither does everyone have the access to things that ensure the perfect zero waste, low impact life. So what I mean to say, is that we should most definitely try, but not feel bad for when we can't get it all right.
Aside from educating ourselves on the problems and their solutions, it's also about a mindset shift. We can take action by buying better, reusing and so on, but you might find that it takes a bit of getting used to. A bit like building a good habit, it's about training yourself and you will forget in the early stages - I know I did! From remembering to take your reusable cup and ordering your first pack of reusable wipes, to taking reusable bags to the food shop. We've been so used to one thing that it takes a bit of work to rewire ourselves! Just taking a second before making a decision can be all it takes.
Phew that was much longer than I had expected! These thoughts are all off the back of my own reading, education and hearing from others. I don't claim it to be perfect or right, but this is my understanding. I'd love to hear if you have any thoughts, comments or questions!