In the last six months, I have seen more of my friends sharing news articles on social media around Plastic and the damage it is doing to the environment. This is great to see as it is becoming more and more apparent that people are recognising the devastating effects plastic has on our world. For some folks, what they read is perhaps no surprise; for others, it is shocking. Often, I suspect folks aren’t sure how to respond when faced with the facts, particularly when we look around and see that plastic is quite literally all around us.
Today I want to invite you to engage in one response. I want to invite you to think about giving up buying plastic, even for a short while. Now I am sure many folks think this is too far. Living without plastic – too zealous, too “hardcore”. We talk a lot about everything being “O.K. in moderation”, a concept I largely agree with, moderation rarely leads to gluttony after all. Moderation should ensure a sustainable lifestyle. Yet, when I look at the world I live in I do not see moderation. We have not used plastic in moderation. It is used to excess. A retreat then, even for a short while like a week or so, away from plastic is not extreme. It is beginning to perhaps re-balance towards this middle ground; this moderation. It may help us discover what really needs to be plastic and what actually could come from some other material or indeed what actually can be gotten rid of all together.
So why might it be good for you to go on a plastic detox?
- I guarantee you will see your supermarket differently. Once you have decided to give up shopping using plastic you will discover how many things come in a single layer of plastic – often single use plastic (the type you throw away after one use). This might cause you to feel a sense of despair or might lead you to action, perhaps challenging your local supermarket to reduce their plastic. One thing is for sure your supermarket will never look the same again.
- You will discover new areas or places where you live. After the supermarket experience, you will suddenly realise that shopping there, whilst convenient up until now, may not be the best place for the non-plastic period. Sticking with your major supermarket choice alone may not guarantee the wide variety of plastic-free food you might wish to enjoy in a varied diet. This often forces you outside your natural habits and routines to discover your local market/ butcher/ greengrocer/ co-operative. This often leads you to learn about other options which I believe is always a good thing. Local options tends to be better when it comes to plastic free and so often you discover more of your neighbourhood by default.
- You will speak to new people. Going plastic free often leads to conversation with people. Now these conversations may not necessarily be long ones. It might be a quick conversation with someone on the till as you are piling up all your loose veg for the first time rather than in the plastic bags. It might be the cheesemonger as you ask if your cheese can be put in your lunchbox rather than wrapped in plastic. I can almost guarantee though that you will suddenly find yourself talking with people you perhaps usually don’t have conversations with about what you are doing for a short while, at least in my experience.Why is this a good thing? Well, conversations lead to discussion and sharing. All the issues in the world need talking about in order to begin to change and challenge them. You will be, without even actively trying to, part of that change as soon as you start buying your food or goods differently.
- You will find out that small changes are possible long term. If this is a short detox it is unlikely to be a long-term change in all areas of life that you will want to keep up forever. However, you will discover within this week or so things that are manageable swaps without too much hassle. It might be swapping a plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one. Taking a re-usable coffee cup out with you or a knife and fork wherever you go. It might be that doing a veg shop at the market is cheaper and plastic free. It might be you resolve to say no to straws when you buy a drink out. Who knows? But one thing is for sure you will find at least one easy swap that you are likely to want to keep which, when you think about it, is surely a step along the road to moderation.
- You will throw away less stuff – I guarantee your black bin bag will be less full (and possibly your blue recycling one too). Very little plastic can actually be recycled (as I have talked about in earlier posts). In reality, as soon as we are buying stuff in plastic we are adding to landfill. Even recyclable plastic can only be recycled so many times. Many of us rarely know what can or can’t be recycled and so perhaps optimistically or naively place it in our recycling bin hoping this is the right thing to do. Without buying plastic wrapped product I can guarantee you will have less rubbish altogether and that can only be a good thing.
Overall, I think many folks might actually gain a lot from doing a short plastic detox. It can help us realise how much of the plastic stuff we use but also how much we can choose to not use in the future. Simple swaps make big differences. If you are one of the folks reading and despairing – give it a go, even for a week, and discover what a plastic-limiting life could be like for you!