World Environment Day 2018 is just days away. The UN flagship day for promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment is on June 5 2018, and this year, the theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.
The theme invites everyone to consider how we can makes changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural environment, our wildlife – and, our own health.
The event this year is hosted by India, who will be leading by example with pan-Indian plastic clean-up drives in public areas, national reserves and forests, and beach clean-up activities. The country will organising celebrations and engaging activities and events that generate strong public interest and participation.
On a global scale, the day will urge governments, businesses, communities, and individuals to explore sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics and urgently reduce their production and excessive use – which has proven to be so damaging to the oceans and to marine life.
World Environment Day (WED) will be celebrated by millions of people worldwide, in over 100 countries. So if want to take part and do your bit, here are just a few of the countless ways you can:
You can pledge to go plastic free for the day and commit to not buying anything made of plastic – and by anything, we mean anything.
It may sound like a tall order given the ubiquitous nature of the stuff, but with a little forethought and planning it’s do-able. Make a start and commit right now to taking your own waste-free lunch to college or work and to leaving the plastic-wrapped, pre-made sandwiches on the shelf. Fill a reusable container and bring your own fork. If you make a one-off investment and buy a refillable drinks bottle, you’ll never have to buy single-use bottles again. If your work or college has a kitchen, bring a mug and make your own hot drinks throughout the day. If you need to go to the grocers, take your own bags and make sure everything you buy comes free of plastic, in either biodegradable or compostable packaging, or, better still, no packaging at all.
These simple switches often have the added benefit of being healthier (no hidden sugar or lists of Franken-ingredients that are impossible to pronounce), and you may save yourself some cash as well. And the great thing is, once you’ve done it for a day, you can do it again, for as many days as you like, because refillable containers are, you know, refillable.
Here’s a trick: work out how much you would normally spend on buying lunch, drinks and pre-packaged food on a typical day, and for each occasion you bring or cook your own, put the exact amount of money saved in a jar. Do this for a month, then count it. You’ll be amazed by just how much money – and plastic waste – you were throwing away. If you need any further incentive, imagine taking this money and simply tossing it into the sea. Watch those notes bobbing up and down on the waves… You get our point 🙂
Remember: if you can’t reuse it, refuse it!
No-one could fail to notice the amount of litter polluting our towns, waterways and beaches. Glance along the gutter of any street and sure enough you’ll see thoughtlessly discarded plastic. Cleaning up the plastic that already pollutes our environment – from the oceans and seas, to the parks and paths where you live – is a vital part of tackling plastic’s adverse impact. If you’re feeling energetic, you could try out the new Scandinavian trend of plogging, or you could take part in a beach clean or litter pick. Just remember to wear protective gloves and place all collected items in a recycling bin.
And what about the plastic even closer to home, the items in your kitchen cupboards and on bathroom shelves? While no-one is expecting you to clean out containers with food or product still inside, or plastic items such as utensils that still have plenty of use left, WED might nevertheless be a good day to consider which items could be replaced with plastic-free alternatives once empty or worn out. While switching every plastic item in your house with a plastic-free alternative is a massive undertaking that realistically isn’t going to happen overnight (and honestly, no-one wants to be throwing away plastic for the sake of it), committing to making small, manageable switches is something we can all be doing. And if the prospect of that still seems a little overwhelming and you’re unsure where to start, check out these amazing zero waste bloggers for tips and inspiration.
There are many ways you can step up the pressure on companies and manufacturers to encourage them to rethink their approach to designing, producing, using and disposing of plastic products. Writing letters or emails is an effective way of communicating with people in power – such as asking a politician to back a piece of legislation, or a company to change the packaging on their wares. You could create a petition and promote it online, or write a write a media article about an issue you feel strongly about or a direct-action campaign you’re involved in. You could start your own plastic-free campaign, seek out like-minded people and join an existing movement, or organise or join a protest.
For a wealth of ideas and tonnes of invaluable ‘how to’ information on how to shout from the rooftops and make your voice heard, read How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time by Will McCallum, Head of Oceans at Greenpeace UK.
To help launch this year’s event, organisers are asking people to join in with a global game of #BeatPlasticPollution Tag to showcase positive behaviour change around how plastic is consumed.
Here’s how to join in:
- Choose which type of single-use plastic you’re ready to give up
- Take a selfie (photo or video) showing yourself with the reusable alternative that you’re ready to embrace
- Share your selfie on social media and “tag” three friends, businesses or high-profile people to challenge them to do the same within 24 hours. Be sure to use the #BeatPlasticPollution hashtag and mention @UNEnvironment
- That’s it!
We can all play our part in reducing plastic pollution. The day is, above all, a day to take action to reduce plastic waste and reduce your plastic footprint, and an opportunity to inspire others – family, friend and colleagues – to do the same. So this World Environment Day, why not be part of something bigger and show that collective actions really can yield BIG results.