A guide to reducing your environmental footprint by Lucinda Barrett
DAY 1: Reduce the Use of Disposable Plastic in Your Daily Life
The first step in this process, is to recognize the plastic disposable items that are in our everyday lives — such as straws, plastic water bottles, plastic bags, cutlery, etc. With this mental note in mind, we can make small changes on an individual scale that can go a long way. For example, I personally buy reusable straws, which I bring to restaurants and use instead of using the plastic straws usually provided. The same can be done with bringing Tupperware containers when you go out to eat instead of using styrofoam takeaway containers. You can also encourage local restaurants to join the “straws suck” campaign. The website “Plastic Free Life” offers everything from plastic-free hair ties to wooden reusable utensils.
DAY 2: Get Inspired
Try to receive inspiration from others. Blogs such as “ONYA: Think Reusable” feature stories about people who have successfully purged plastic from their lives, from the standpoint that it is okay not to go completely plastic-free immediately, but instead to gradually make small changes. An especially impressive example is Erin Rhoads, a woman who has not bought anything plastic since July 2013, and her tips and tricks about her eco-friendly lifestyle since then are found on her blog.
DAY 3: Educate Yourself
Turn your Netflix addiction into a way to educate yourself! The film A Plastic Ocean is available on Netflix and tells the story of a documentary filmmaker’s quest to find out how much plastic pollution affects our oceans. The Blue Planet, Mission Blue and Changing Seas are other great options that you can add to your list.
DAY 4: Rid Your Life of Microplastics
Now it’s time to “dive deeper”. Some products that you’re using may have microplastics (or microbeads) in them that can slip through regular filtration devices and that may be ingested by marine life. There is a helpful product list that goes into detail about how many (or how few) microbeads are in some of your favourite personal care products (like toothpaste or face wash). Although it may be hard to ditch some of your favourite exfoliators, these fun and creative solutions will have you feeling better in no time.
DAY 5: Cut Out Those Frozen Meals
Avoid the Freshman 15 and become more environmentally friendly by avoiding frozen dinners. They typically have an excessive amount of plastic packaging. Preparing a meal (or meal planning in advance) is a better option than resorting to the plastic-heavy convenience of a microwave meal.
DAY 6: Buy Efficient Clothes
Most clothing nowadays is made with synthetic fibers, like lycra, spandex, and polyester. Choosing natural fibres (cotton, hemp, wool) is easier than it seems. Reading labels or doing some online shopping (requesting no plastic packaging) can make shopping simple and lessen the amount of plastic used. Buying second-hand clothing is also more sustainable, with the added benefit of being less expensive.
DAY 7: Switching To Reusable Sanitary Products
With the amount of disposable plastic that comes with period-waste and diapers, there are many alternatives that have been adopted! From Diva Cups and cardboard applicators for periods, and from diaper cloths and eco-friendly diapers for baby waste, you can help reduce your plastic use!
DAY 8: Use Items with Easy to Dispose Ingredients
Evaluate very specific aspects of your life and make some changes. Glitter, for example, is made of polyvinyl chloride film (PVC) which is difficult to properly dispose of. Dollar-store quality glitter can be swapped for glitter based with a eucalyptus film, which makes it biodegradable. Tea bags also do not completely break down when they are composted, so loose leaf tea may be a better option for your next brew.
DAY 9: How to Contribute to Saving the Ocean
If you feel ready, attempt to take your actions a step further. There are other ways to help the ocean in particular aside from just cutting back on plastic products. The article 10 Things You Can Do to Save the Ocean suggests that purchasing sustainable seafood, using fewer plastic products and making mindful purchases on vacation (for example, no shark or coral materials used in souvenirs) are simple actions that make a big difference.
Day 10: Reflect on Your Journey
Take some time to reflect on your journey. You have come a long way over the course of ten short days, but it will still be hard to ignore negative environmental news around you. When you view videos that depict baby sea turtles struggling to make their trek to the ocean through piles of waste , or find your social media feeds inundated with the latest report of environmental turmoil, it is easy to feel overwhelmed or as a victim of preachy, depressing news. Instead of taking that view, a different perspective is to use that feeling of helplessness to fuel your drive to change your lifestyle, even if it is a gradual process, to do your part to work towards a healthier ocean and world.
Lucinda Barrett is a first year Criminal Justice and Public Policy student who has a passion for marine life. She has participated in volunteering projects focusing on coral reef and shark conservation, most recently on the tiny island of Gili Air in Lombok, Indonesia. Taking IDEV1000 sparked her interest in international development studies, and she believes that a large part of future-proof development involves the protection of our oceans.