Why Am I Going Plastic-Free?
Where I was before:
I actually never gave the matter much thought, so if you’d questioned me carefully prior to me making a commitment to avoid single-use plastics, this is probably what you would have found out:
Being a long time professional diver, as well as a speaker and self-professed champion for the environment, I was (and still am) outraged and disgusted at the mess we’ve made of the world’s waterways. Mess is somewhat of an understatement – here are some links (if you aren’t already aware of the situation) to familiarise yourself with what we are doing.
I would speak to anyone who asked about the terrible mess, express my disgust, but never actually did anything on a personal level. Which is complete hypocrisy – I knew the only way forward for the world was for everyone who cared to become plastic-free, forcing the shops and factories to follow suite, but couldn’t be bothered taking those steps myself.
Why? Partly because I was suffering from environmental tiredness – knowing you can’t fight all battles on all fronts, so you tend to fight none, and just talk about it a lot. Then there’s all the usual stupid excuses that in the end all just boil down to laziness: nothing I did was going to make any difference; a feeling that the world of mankind was doomed anyway. And the even stupider thing is I was aware of other people making these excuses, and tended to bestow a mental “tsk tsk” on them – but was easily able to ignore my own lack of action completely.
The Story of Lucy and Mathilde
In May 2018, two friends of mine, Lucy and Mathilde, started a kayak trip across the entire Inside Passage in the Americas, from Juneau in Alaska to Vancouver Island – a voyage of over 2000km. They did this with no support, braving bears, flooding tides and the cold, and they did it all plastic-free: nothing they ate or consumed along the way resulted in any waste plastic being thrown away into the environment. And they did it to raise awareness of and money to help fight this global crisis. Lucy and Mathilde are in their 20’s. I’m in my 50’s, and have spent a lifetime watching the plastic mess form, in seas all over the world, in developing and developed countries. Shame on me.
But it wasn’t until Lucy and Mathilde were near the end of their journey, in July 2018, that watching one of their videos I was suddenly overcome with guilt for my own shortcomings. This (above) is the video. I’m not actually sure which part of it convinced me to start becoming plastic-free – it might have been that final, simple statement from Lucy, or it might have been Mathilde’s beautifully crystal clear explanations. In the end, though, I think it might have just been the first time I sat down and really thought about Lucy and Mathilde and what they were doing and what that meant for me, rather than just paying their epic kayak trip lip service.
My Reasons for change:
The reasons for becoming plastic free are quite clear to me, as they were that evening when I sat watching Lucy and Mathilde’s video. Number one is possibly the most obvious, yet I believe the strongest is number five:
- Because I must – On a big picture level, because it is imperative that we change and change quickly otherwise we will literally choke the systems we depend upon for our air, food and water. Already most of the seafood we consume as well as a significant amount of agricultural products contain micro-plastics. On a completely personal level, I can’t go on telling people they have to do something about the plastic debris crisis when I’m doing nothing myself.
- Because I can – it actually isn’t that hard to become essentially plastic-free. In my case, I was already aware of many of the single-use plastics issue and was avoiding buying, most of the time, those that did. All it needed was a commitment to continually and constantly do that, to be a little more conscious of what I was using, and of finding creative ways around the more difficult problems. Plastic-free doesn’t mean free of plastic. It means limiting our ejection of plastics into the environment after a single use. For more information on this, see this blog post.
- Because it is a matter close to my heart – having spent a significant portion of my life underwater, the oceans are something I am very attached to. It behoves me as a gatekeeper of those oceans (even if only in name these days) to make a stand for them. Although this sounds somewhat arbitrary a reason, there is actually a logic to it, which goes something like this: I concern myself with this issue because water-based environments (oceans, rivers, lakes, creeks) are being compromised. While I am sure there are other environmental issues that are just as urgent, this is the one I am most familiar with, affecting those environments I am most familiar with, and because of that familiarity, this is where I can be most effective. We have to pick our battles – I do campaign and talk on other issues, but this is where my effort is best spent – where I can be at my most effective, because I can speak with authority and passion.
- Because corporations won’t change if I don’t – even if everyone complained, without anything being done to impact their bottom lines, the shops and factories are pretty unlikely to make the change themselves. It requires a culture change and the only way to affect that within the current economic environment is by threatening the bottom lines (the profits) of those corporations responsible for the production of single-use plastics. Hence those who are aware of and concerned about the problem need to stop buying products that come packaged in single-use plastics, and to tell the manufacturers why we are doing that.
- Because I can’t find 5 reasons NOT to change – Really, the only reason I can find NOT to change is simply the fact that it is more convenient to continue with single-use plastics – or to put it another way – it is too inconvenient to change: it involves thinking about what I buy, not buying some products because a plastic-free alternative does not exist, and being without some things for the time it will take me to find an outlet and get the product. Adopting this weak excuse of convenience in the face of the above reasons FOR change would suggest that I’m a selfish, callous, uncaring person, which I hope I am not.
This reason, if you think about it a bit, is the biggest, most valid reason. We have no reason not to do this (besides the convenience) and every reason to do it.
Why aren’t you plastic-free?