I don’t like the way we are led to believe we should be living our lives; always seeking out instant gratification and convenience for ourselves without any thought to the cost to our planet and its other inhabitants. So this year I made the decision to put my ethics and conscience above the easy, convenient options and live a life that doesn’t leave me feeling guilty about the environmental impact of my lifestyle- refusing single use plastic as much as possible, buying new only as a last resort and thinking creatively about reusing items before tossing them away.
Plastic is an amazing material- there’s no denying that. We ingenious humans have managed to come up with a cheap, durable, and endlessly versatile product that has changed the way we live our lives in unimaginable ways over the past century. Only problem is that this plastic is made with precious non-renewable resources that are in increasingly short supply, and is also extremely slow to degrade, which leaves us with a whole mountain of environmental and societal issues to deal with!
Australians are the second highest producers of waste, per person, in the world with each of us sending over 690 kilograms of waste to landfill each year. My family has tried to minimise our waste for a couple of years, after becoming sick of having to borrow neighbours garbage bins to dispose of all the weekly rubbish that we couldn’t fit in our own bin on bin night. We managed to reduce our waste to half of the volume it had been at its worst, and we just sort of left it at that, feeling quite pleased with our efforts and continuing with life as normal.
Over the past year though I’ve become more aware of the huge environmental dilemmas our waste- and in particular plastic waste- is causing, and began to think more about what I put in my bin, and where exactly it goes when I’m done with it. I loved the idea of my garbage going away, as though the moment it left my sight it would somehow magically dematerialise and was thought of no more. Unfortunately the reality is a lot less pleasant than that. The waste I toss away is really just beginning its life journey, often destined to pollute the Earth for hundreds of years to come. I found that once I became fully aware of the blatantly obvious truth about my waste, it wasn’t so easy to just roll my bin to the kerb and forget my garbage forever.
I began to imagine all the plastic waste I had ever thrown away still in existence somewhere, clogging up our planet with crap that I thought nothing of using (most often for a matter of minutes or hours) and tossing away. And I decided I wanted it to stop. So I FINALLY made the decision to dump my supermarket and source my food and grocery items in reusable packaging from my local coop, organic farm and from an ethical butcher, and I’ve become an op shop lover who rarely buys new anything. There are always alternatives being found to unsustainable plastic items in our lives, such as hemp produce bags instead of nasty plastic ones and cooking from scratch rather than purchasing processed foods, and a few small sacrifices have had to be made along the way; saying goodbye to our plastic packaged cheese was tough! But each time I consider a new purchase I ask myself the question, is this item and its packaging worth the burden it will be to our environment? And the answer is most often NO.