Many of us are becoming more aware of the huge amount of plastic debris creating such havoc in all parts of the world, from the top of Mt. Everest to the deepest ocean trenches. The problem is pervasive, and at times might seem unsolvable.
Fighting that battle locally is Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island which does a great job of mobilizing shoreline clean up groups. Zero Waste Sooke also champions clean ups. In April, as part of Sooke Region Earth Day Celebration, 103 volunteers cleaned 43.5 kilometres of highway, 4.5 km of beachfront and 31 km of other roadways. More than 134 bags of garbage were collected as well as 25 bags of recycling were filled.
Did you know that Canadians produce the most garbage per capita than any other country in the world? A total of 777 kilograms per person per year (Conference Board of Canada, 2013).
For decades, we have accepted “out of sight, out of mind” as our unofficial waste mantra. We’ve gotten used to throwing things away, without ever asking where “away” is. Full-on consumerism and waste in the name of convenience and time-saving.
The Zero Waste movement is growing, with stores such as Bulk Barn trying to do its part in reducing packaging waste. Some stores are actively embracing waste reduction, like Victoria’s Westcoast Refill, one of Vancouver Island’s first Zero Waste stores as well as the new Zero Waste Emporium (formerly The Burlap Shoe).
Change is happening, for the better. It’s an uphill battle, though.
It’s difficult to expect individuals to take ownership of such pervasive global issues. Solving the global issue of wastefulness certainly requires that corporations take responsibility for the full lifecycle impacts of their products, and municipalities develop efficient, closed-loop waste diversion systems, but if we want things to change, we need to take responsibility for the decisions we make that drive our culture of disposability.
We can’t fool ourselves by thinking that recycling is the answer either, with China’s recent ban on much of the world’s plastic waste. There is a reason that recycle is the last in the R’s, Reduce, Refuse, Reuse and then Recycle.
So why not challenge ourselves this July, and see how much plastic we can do without? Plastic free July is an invitation to be more considerate.
The more conscious we become of what we consume, the more informed our consumer decisions will become. As we change our consumption habits, economies adapt. So try it!
Whether you avoid single-use plastics for a day, a week or more, you’re sure to notice something about your habits. Expanding our awareness is the first step towards positive environmental and social change.
Go to www.plasticfreejuly.org to register for this challenge, and check out their series of inspiring short videos listed in their resource section.
(Thanks for inspiration to the Green Action Centre in Winnipeg).
Wendy O’Connor writes for Zero Waste Sooke.