My Green Awakening
I, like much of the world, am in the midst of what could be termed a 'green awakening'. Almost everyday we scroll across a new stat about our impact on the planet, to shock us for just long enough to double-tap, because what else can you do but think: well, what the hell am I able to do about it? Turns out quite a lot, actually.
Plastic is so hot right now, so much so that the Collins Dictionary 2018 word of the year was ‘single-use’, incredible PR for the plastic-free cause. We have all seen pictures of a dead bird’s stomach filled with plastic, or the cute seahorse holding a q-tip; emotionally powerful images that convince us that we need to do more to keep plastic out of the oceans. Giants like McDonald's have discontinued plastic straws, replacing them with paper ones instead - a win for the environment, a loss for milkshake drinkers (if you know, you know). The muffled sound of a Chilly’s bottle being removed from a bag, the metal lid clanging on and off can be heard on commuter trains throughout London, whilst at London Charing Cross station alone the water fountain has replaced the need for 103,847* plastic water bottles. Pretty impressive stuff.
So we’re all finally getting it that single-use plastic is bad and the ocean is saved, right? Wrong. Even disregarding the devastating amounts of plastic that are in there already, the ocean has bigger fish to fry. Or rather it doesn’t, which is kinda the problem. Overfishing is depleting fish populations at a rate that they can’t replenish through natural reproduction, including many of the ocean’s top predators, which impacts the entire chain below them. Only 4% of the world’s oceans are protected, a minuscule number when the commonly shared goal is to have 30% protected by 2030. All of this, coupled with the growing plastic problem, means that it has been estimated that by 2050 there will be more waste plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight). Not chic.
And then there’s clothes. Beautiful, lovely clothes. Ever since Kate Sanders outed Lizzie McGuire as being an outfit repeater I had compulsively and needlessly replenished my wardrobe, paying no mind to how my clothes are being made or where they go when I throw them away. But if there’s one thing I’ve come to understand, it’s that there is no away. Globally, there are 92 million tonnes of textile waste every year - a perfectly avoidable crisis. Not to mention the issues within the fast fashion supply chain in the first place, including but not limited to working conditions and water pollution.
Don’t even get me started on menstrual products.
But let's take another look at this glass here. Although it contains water that is riddled with microplastics - because even for analogies there is no escape - it is actually half full. Big players with influence are joining in the conversations. Just this week you may have seen the Loop scheme announced including some of the biggest brands such as Tesco, Unilever and Pepsi, offering an accessible and affordable way to shop waste-free. Reusable alternatives to water bottles, cups and plastic bags are more accessible than ever. And technology is providing more and more solutions to some of the overwhelming problems we face - from giving the Instagram-generation access to platforms like Depop to sell on pre-loved clothing, thus diverting it away from landfill, to transforming industries and their reliance on the planet’s natural and limited resources in the first place.
My eyes have been opened and my curiosity has been piqued. I am officially on a mission to reduce the impact that my existence has on the planet, one re-usable cup of oat milk latte at a time. So when it does all seem a little daunting, consider this advice that I have myself taken on-board: whatever circle of influence you find yourself in - among family and friends, speaking to thousands of Instagram followers, or as the executive board of a business - use that influence to keep the conversation going. Here I am, raising questions that I don't have the answers to, but hoping that I have planted a seed in your mind that will grow into your own green awakening.
Further reading, watching & listening for the curious: