As every year passes, climate change and its consequences become increasingly evident. Unfortunately, as we watch huge plumes of toxic gases being pumped into the air and see vast garbage patches in the ocean, followed by pictures of dead sea creatures, droughts and flooding, many of us feel completely helpless against the enormity of what is happening around us.
Don’t feel helpless in the face of environmental issues. You have the power to effect change. If each of us makes small changes in our lives, the impact will be huge. Why? Because our combined efforts have direct impact, and as consumers, our dollars are our power. You can therefore influence corporate decisions. One of the most important changes we can make this coming year is to reduce, or even eliminate, our use of single-use plastic.
From their beginning to their end, plastics pollute. Plastic is made from a combination of fossil fuels and chemicals which pollute the environment at every stage of its life cycle. If thrown away correctly, it ends up in the incinerator, releasing harmful pollutants into the air. When not thrown away correctly, plastic ends up in our oceans, on our beaches and scattered throughout our island, destroying wildlife.
Plastic pollutes people too. The chemicals added to plastic or used in their manufacture, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), have been linked to fertility issues including diminishing sperm count, poor sperm quality, miscarriage and erectile dysfunction.
Exposure to these chemicals has also been linked to diabetes, neurological problems, behavioural issues, cancers, birth defects, gastric ulcers, respiratory issues, thyroid problems and cardiovascular disease.
Each time we drink from a plastic lined ‘paper’ coffee cup we are exposed to these chemicals. Each time we drink water from a plastic water bottle, we are exposed to these chemicals. Each time we eat take-out food from a plastic container, we are exposed to these chemicals. As a result, micro-plastics have even been detected in human breast milk.
This year, please make a new year’s resolution that will make a difference to you, the world around you and the generations coming after you. Make 2023 the year you reduce your use of single-use plastic. This is not an easy transition, but Beyond Plastic Bermuda is here to help. Here are some resolution ideas to get you started:
1. When you need or want something, check out our fantastic, local second-hand shops first.
2. For parties and events, buy, or make your own, cloth bunting or other non-plastic decorations instead of balloons.
3. Invest in reusable shopping and produce bags.
4. Choose loose fruit and vegetables from the supermarket or farm stall over ones wrapped in plastic. Ask shops and farmers not to put fruit and vegetables in plastic.
5. Say ‘no’ to plastic cutlery or give it back if a restaurant puts it in the bag without asking.
6. Invest in your own take-out items such as reusable cutlery, cups, water bottles, straws and food containers.
7. Fill up and take a reusable water bottle with you every time you leave the house. Ask restaurants or stores to fill it up for you if a filling station isn’t available.
8. Ditch the cling film and Ziploc bags. Invest in beeswax food wrap and reusable food bags.
9. If you chew gum, try natural or organic ones, otherwise you are just chewing plastic.
10. Instead of plastic Tupperware, buy glass containers or reuse glass jars and biscuit tins.
11. Use matches instead of disposable cigarette lighters.
12. Buy wooden pegs for your washing instead of plastic ones.
13. Check that products such as make-up, toiletries, tea bags, sunscreen, even clothing, doesn’t contain plastic before you buy them, and where possible, choose reusable over disposable.
14. Where something has to be packaged, choose glass, tin or aluminium packaging.
15. Swap chemical cleaning products for vinegar, water and baking soda, and use natural cleaning cloths and scrubbers instead of ones containing plastic.
16. Ask your favourite take-out restaurants about reusable foodware systems.
Remember, as consumers you are very powerful and a little change can make a big difference.
Erich Hetzel is a local environmentalist and member of Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST); Katie Berry is a local environmentalist and a Beyond Plastic champion.
Beyond Plastic Bermuda is a joint campaign by BEST, KBB and environmental advocates to educate and help our island move away from plastic. For more information and ideas, please visit our website, beyondplastic.bm or contact us at email@example.com or 799-5142.