Plastic Free July 2019

What Will You Do? Here are a few ideas!

Climate Crisis

Unless you’ve been living as a hermit in 2019 you must know by now that we are in the middle of a 100% climate crisis! Since winter 2018 the talk about our planet has finally catapulted into the mainstream! School children have become strong activists and have been staging protests, going on strike (School Strikes for Climate) and amazing young people like inspirational 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden has been giving speeches to politicians and world leaders around the world and also delivered an outstanding TED Talk!

The climate crisis is not something we are only learning about now; it was predicted many years ago that this would happen, but in general, people clearly didn’t take it seriously and chose not to listen; to turn a blind eye and carry on as usual (if not worse) – it really was considered that “inconvenient truth” that people just turned away from, brushed under the carpet and carried on regardless! Sadly anyone who was taking it seriously was just looked upon by many as a “tree-hugging, save-the-whale, ban-the bomb hippy” – (I actually always take these kind of remarks as huge compliments, so much so I have t-shirts stating that’s what I am)!

An Inconvenient Truth 

In 2006 Al Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth which inspired filmmaker Kip Anderson to go on and make the ground-breaking documentary  Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret which was released in 2014 and would go on to become one of the most important documentaries of our time, and now widely available on Netflix.

From a relatively young age I had always been a bit of a “tree-hugging hippy” (as my friends put it), so when my friend Richard introduced me to An Inconvenient Truth this became pivotal in me deciding to make changes in my own lifestyle that would allow me to be more mindful of our environment and look at ways I could change to make a difference!

So I had started making these changes in my personal life but was then I was going into work and seeing devastation all around me, and it really started to niggle at me. I felt by me seeing it and saying nothing, I was condoning it!  So after careful consideration I decided to contact our CEO with suggestions for changes we could implement to be more environmentally friendly. Luckily at that time we had an amazing CEO who always listened to his front-line staff; he liked the ideas and wanted to carry things forward; I was appointed as a Green Officer and others were appointed throughout the company.  (Click here to read that blog )

A few years later I changed employer and I made it a point of also trying to bring change there too – we have a moral and ethical obligation to work at every opportunity we have to try to make this world a better place for the planet and all her inhabitants, human & non-human!  It is not about being some kind of hero, it’s about completing a duty we should all be bound to – it really is that simple!

Livestock’s Long Shadow

As I continued and developed in my quest to be more green, I stumbled on something far more interesting than this “Inconvenient truth” Al Gore had delivered to us; something of much greater importance that would go on to change the rest of my life forever and shape me into who I am today!

I learned through my Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh that the single most important thing we could do to fight global warming was go vegan…go vegan?

Wow!!! Really?? How could this be? How could this be the case and I didn’t know this ? Why hadn’t Al Gore shared this with us?  Was it that this truth was just more than inconvenient?

As with most things I learn I always go away and do my own research. It was 2010 so it wasn’t as easy as it is now to find an abundance of material on this subject.

I read the widely cited 2006 report Livestock’s Long Shadow by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) http://www.fao.org/3/a0701e/a0701e.pdf Through that report I was able to find other reports, but it took some digging.

Vegan or Violence, There Is No Third Option

What I learned was devastating – not only was my diet and lifestyle as a vegetarian still impacting on animals (dairy & egg industries), but it was also impacting on our environment and world hunger!  My teacher had touched on the suffering in a glass of milk and a piece of cheese and he also talked about the impact on world hunger – this real

ly was all food for thought for me.

Learning all of this actually had a really negative impact on me. I had always believed that as a vegetarian I was doing the best for the animals I possibly could – but I wasn’t doing so at all. I actually now believe that the dairy industry is the cruellest most barbaric industry on earth – and with my love of Friesian cows this was devastating – how could I have been so ignorant, brainwashed, conditioned and deluded? It truly devastated me. I realised in that moment it was vegan or violence – violence to animals, to the planet, to our fellow humans and also to our own health. There was no third option for us to take, it had to be vegan; vegetarianism was not enough!  Our 2nd blog on Bohemian Hippy in June 2016 was all inspired by what had been learned doing that research https://www.bohemianhippy.com/a-really-inconvenient-truth/

Research – Educate – Change – Use Your Voice

There are so many powerful documentaries out there to help us learn about what is devastating our planet. Many of us have Netflix now and most have access to the internet even via café’s and libraries; we can all spend some time researching and learning and then implementing changes and  making a difference through what we have learned.

Ones to watch are – (Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Online)

A Plastic Ocean

Racing Extinction

A Plastic Planet

Plastic Is Forever

Drowning in Plastic

Climate Change – The Facts

The world seems to be wrapped in plastic; often it feels like have an obsession with it; everywhere we go it’s plastic – even many vegan options in shops are wrapped in endless plastic.

Although going vegan is the single most important thing we can do to help with climate change, this isn’t where we stop in order to make a difference.  Yes we can look at obvious things like transport, recycling, reusing, being energy efficient, composting etc., but we must also look at the items we use most of all in our daily lives. Although we all have recycling bins now – how much stuff do we still send to landfill? This is where we can make so many little changes which will make a huge difference to our problem!

One of the biggest problems in landfills is something we all use at least twice a day – toothbrushes and toothpaste!

Eco Friendly Teeth Cleaning

Plastic Toothbrushes

We all have to brush our teeth, and most of us do it at least twice a day. Dentists recommend we change our toothbrush quarterly, so it could be estimated that on average we may use around 300-350 toothbrushes each in a lifetime. Approximately 3.6 billion toothbrushes are used each year, and sadly around 80% of them end up in our oceans. Once we have finished with our old faithful brush, we toss it in the bin and open another plastic packaged toothbrush and start the process all over again for the next 3 months, never giving another thought to the one we have just thrown into the trash! So it may then come as a shock to know that a toothbrush can sit for 1000 years and not rot away! That is truly devastating to ou

Bamboo toothbrushes

r planet. Yes we want clean teeth and fresh breath, but it should not cost the earth – literally!

So what can we do? Well, we can invest in bamboo toothbrushes instead of the plastic ones – they are the same style, they do the same job, they feel the same – the only (amazing) difference is they are sustainable and biodegradable!  Now surely that is a no brainer!

So what we put on those bamboo toothbrushes is just as important!

Toothpaste tubes are also made to last forever and about 1 billion are sent to landfill every year!

Toothpaste packaging is a huge problem, but actually the contents are not much better! Toothpaste contains chemical, parabens and triclosan – once we have cleaned our teeth we then spit the tube contents from our mouth down the drain, causing even more damage to the environment and wildlife – think about the volume of teeth being cleaned in the UK alone!

Colgate is the first to have a recyclable toothpaste tube design be approved by Association of Plastic Recyclers…but still think of the contents.

So the vegan toothpaste pill by Bite is a very interesting idea – we just pop a pill, bite down, use a wet (bamboo) toothbrush, clean and away we go – ne waste, no fuss just pearly whites that don’t cost the earth!

However, for me, the alternative has been to make my own vegan toothpaste – it’s cheap, it’s virtually waste free, and I can control the flavour I want! 

There is a programme where many non-recyclable items can be recycled, but surely it’s better to go for one of the above options instead? https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB/brigades/colgate

Make That Change

The everyday pen is another big problem that probably not many people give a lot of thought to in terms of how damaging they are to the planet…but they are so bad for the planet – just like toothbrushes, they end up in our oceans and are causing major problems to marine life. Try pens made from recycled products – have a look at stationers –  Remarkable – who are actually pretty remarkable, they are an eco-UK stationery brand, recycling waste materials into useful everyday products.

Read this interesting article for more info – https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB/brigades/the-writing-instruments-brigade-r

We can easily make swaps on many of the daily products we use, to more environmentally friendly one

Current ProductReplacement Product
Plastic ToothbrushBamboo Toothbrush
Tubes of toothpasteBite pills or homemade toothpaste
Bottles of ShampooShampoo solid bars
Bottles of hair conditionerHair conditioner solid bars
Bottles of liquid Soap/Body washBars of soap
Bottles/cans of deodorantSolid deodorant bars (I use Lush)
Cans of air freshenerHome made in refillable tin spray mist bottle
Cotton ear budsBamboo ear buds
Bath salts/productsBuy in bulk and fill glass jars
Regular toilet rollsRecyclable/bamboo
Regular kitchen rollRecyclable/reusable kitchen roll that can be washed
Plastic carrier bagsCotton tote bags
Plastic bottles of water/drinksFilter own water/opt for glass bottles
Bin bagsDon’t use or use biodegradable
Cling filmBiodegradable reusable vegan food wraps (be careful as many use bees wax – make sure vegan)
Plastic bottles/containers etc.Glass, bamboo, aluminium
Regular wipesPlant-based biodegradable vegan wipes (or better still just use washable cloths)
Dog poop bagsBiodegradable poop bags (please please do this)
Sanitary productsMenstrual cup/reusable pads (check Totm.com)
Disposable NappiesReusable nappies

On The Move

We can also be prepared for when we are out & about by carrying many of our own products with us – like our reusable material bags, reusable drinking cups, reusable water bottles, bamboo/metal straws, bamboo/metal cutlery – just think about being prepared before we leave home and we can make a huge difference – and save money!

Obviously there are many more things we can do, but these are little things we do tend to use every day, and they may possibly be things we do not think about too much in relation to how they impact the environment.  They are little things, but as we know, all the little things add up (look at teeth cleaning just for one example). They are also all things that we can swap for a better environmentally friendly version very easily.

These plastics that we throw away every day end up in landfill but often end up in the oceans and there’s already a big enough problem in our oceans without us adding to it when we can so easily avoid a lot of it with some simple swaps.

The Oceans Have Enough To Deal With

The oceans have the huge problem of the fishing industry to deal with. It is one of the oldest and biggest industries in the world and sadly the one with the highest death toll! It is also responsible for putting the biggest percentage of plastic in our oceans!  

It employs over 200 million people and kills between 1 trillion – 2.8 trillion fish every year – yes TRILLION! Can we even comprehend that figure? (Counting Animals )

A huge percentage of those fish have stomachs filled with plastic. Almost every net, rope and line is made from plastic and over 1 million ton of fishing gear is lost or dumped at sea each year.

Fisherman Nick Motto was interviewed in BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic. He was asked about old traditional hemp rope or plastic rope – he showed lobster fishing as an example which involves rope. He showed hemp rope breaking and compared with the plastic rope taking the strain – he explained how plastic rope could carry the weight of a family car. Motto justifies the use of this plastic for profit – he  said –  “I have hundreds of thousands of dollars wrapped up in commercial fishing , myself, my wife, my kids, my 3 crew men and their families rely on me being able to make a living on the water” – REALLY? Did he honestly say that in an interview for a documentary about plastic destroying our planet and killing our animals?

Apart from the animals caught and killed for food, over 300,000 marine animals are killed each year after becoming entangled in fishing gear.

If I Wasn’t Already Vegan…

Plastic eaten by a fish

We now also know that harmful bacteria often grow on the plastics that invade our oceans. The growing bacteria can disguise the look of the plastic and marine life can mistake it for food, so they eat it, and that in turn is infecting the fish and sea life that people eat. You really would hope that facts of this nature may make people rethink what they put inside their bodies!. If I wasn’t already vegan – this kind of information would definitely be a game changer for me! Apart from the obvious points about the animals themselves, the planet and world hunger – eating animals can be dangerous and a very scary prospect these days – we don’t know where they’ve been, what diseases they are riddled with, what they’ve eaten, what’s inside them or what drugs they’ve been given! The very notion that I would eat another being is incomprehensible in itself, but the knowing they have had their own digestive system really is the most off-putting thing I can think of and completely turns my stomach!

Microplastics

Another enormous threat are trillions of micro plastics – they are tiny pieces of plastics, some as small as particles of dust – they are floating in our oceans and are even transported to the Northern most town in the world near the North Pole; one of the most remote and untouched locations in the world, and our plastic problem has even reached there! Miles from any human habitation near the Arctic Circle – bottles of tomato sauce, shampoo bottles and other big recognisable plastics appear! Imagine being at the A

rctic and seeing a 57 Variety Heinz Tomato Sauce bottle? What is going on with our world?

Due to the temperature there the plastics becomes very brittle and they break into these micro plastics. Plastic microfibres are so dangerous because we can’t even see them and so we are totally unaware of

their presence – but be assured, they are there! Something else many would be surprised to know is that they are actually being washed out our clothes; with every wash we do literally millions of tiny plastic microfibers are shed from our clothing and pass through our washing machines,

and eventually making their way into our oceans!  Microfibres also leak out of more unexpected products like soaps, body washes, toothpastes, face & body scrubs etc. The Arctic now has the highest number of micro plastics in the world and these dangerous substances are making their way into our “food chain”! (well so called food chain- only if you’re non-vegan that is). When these materials make their way into our oceans, sea creatures eat them; the plastic either kills them before they are killed for food, OR, they are killed with such plastic in them, and that’s when they can make their way back to us – in theory then, people who eat fish/seafood, could be eating plastic microfibers from their own clothing! How ironic is that? What goes around…literally comes back around!

Plastic Free For July

By 2050 it is predicted that we will see a 500% increase in plastic production if new plastics continue to be produced as they currently are. The focus is still on producing new plastic rather than recycling – we need to change that!

Sign up here for the challenge Plastic Free For July

Every time you use a product, no matter what it is, ask yourself the impact it will have on the environment – if you’re not sure, find out! Research, educate, learn, change, take action!

Does Anybody Out There Even Care? Wake up world! We can do this but we must do it together!