by Erlene Woollard
Have you noticed lately what is happening in the world’s oceans? If not, please take the time to do so. A good place to start would be the website of the Plastic Oceans Foundation, a global network of independent not-for-profits and charitable organizations, united in their aims to change the world’s attitude towards plastic within a generation. There are currently four Plastic Oceans Foundation entities: United States, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and Canada (in Vancouver), serving both the ocean and the public.
I went to the Canadian Premiere of their film of “A Plastic Ocean” and found it very disturbing and hard to watch but also enlightening. I was encouraged to see so many concerned and qualified people working on the issues of educating us all and trying to protect the world’s sea life from society’s careless use of single-use plastic.
The suffering this plastic is causing is heart wrenching and so unnecessary. If only we, as part of a caring society, would be more thoughtful and even vigilant in our use and disposal of the plastic that surrounds us in our daily lives. In other words, we urgently need to RETHINK our use of the stuff. The hope is that once people know the consequences of our disposable lifestyles as well as understand the importance of the oceans and their bounty in our lives then we will start to care. From caring comes positive change.
Here are some pertinent facts from the Plastic Ocean’s website.
- Plastic, once made, is always with us in some form. When it is thrown away in one place, it shows up in another, always.
- More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year.
- We have developed a “disposable” lifestyle; estimates are that around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away.
- Plastic is a valuable resource and plastic pollution is an unnecessary and unsustainable waste of that resource.
- Packaging is the largest end use market segment, accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage.
- Approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used annually worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
- A plastic bag has an average “working life” of just 15 minutes.
- Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
Often, when we look at making changes in our lives, the changes seem daunting, unrealistic and very time consuming. Below are some things that can be done almost without thinking. These are things that help make each of us feel like we are part of a positive solution.
- Bananas have their own natural packaging so do you really need to put them into a plastic bag in the store to take home?
- When going shopping, take your own plastic bags from your collection under the sink!! I know this is easy to forget, but you don’t forget your purse or your jacket or your shoes, so……??!
- Shop in stores that have bulk food. Do not just automatically buy things like cucumbers/apples that the store puts into plastic bags (you will find the others are usually fresher anyway).
BECOME A BETTER CONSUMER:
- Refuse to buy things that have excess packaging, and when you can’t avoid doing so then leave the packing behind for the store to deal with (and you can even write letters about this).
- Use up things. Don’t squander resources on items that are hardly used or which you don’t need and then carelessly send to landfills.
- Be willing to buy less and to pay fair prices for the things you do buy.
- Take an extra few minutes to have that coffee in the café to avoid taking it out.
- Take containers to restaurants in case you have any leftovers to take home.
- Try to start remembering to ask for a drink without a straw in a restaurant. They even have stainless steel ones now.
BE BOTHERED AT HOME:
- Hide the ziplock bags and Seran Wrap from yourself as well as other family members and train yourselves to use other methods to store that small bit of leftover onion which will probably end up in the compost anyway.
- Wash those ziplock bags when you do use them and put them out to dry.
- Recycle everything and into the right places.
- Ask yourself “Do I need to use this?“
- When you do use plastic and are tempted to throw out, remind yourself about all the resources that went into making this amazing product and also about the fact that any plastic ever made is still in the world in some form.
- Use your imagination to use things in new ways.
- Make a habit of educating yourself about the needs and also about some of the wonderful innovative inventions happening all over the world to remedy this situation and support these as much as possible.
In order to help consumers become plastic literate and also so that we can make informed decisions about how and when to accept plastic, our intergenerational team in the Suzuki Elders would like to arrange a showing of A Plastic Ocean sometime this coming fall. If this is of interest to you please let us know.
There are many other things we can do and this is only to start you thinking about ways to change your mindset, your habits and home environment and to even begin to change the systems we live in.
One interesting idea is to teach ourselves to let the oceans speak for themselves. Listen to the stories of the sea creatures and the ways they have been made to suffer. Be an open space for learning from them and changing our own stories to save these beautiful creatures and their environment so that our own species can survive.
We need our oceans and the food they produce for so many reasons.