It seems we are all in agreement, Planet Earth could do with some improvements. A quick scan on anyone's social media feed will show that everyone has some opinion on it, global warming, deforestation, genetically modified food, famine, obesity, war, poverty, or even the shooting of a lion called Cecil. At least one of those ingredients is enough to bring out a passionate post from the calmest of souls. Yet what are we doing with this passion and these opinions, sharing a post on Facebook, signing an online petition, or maybe videoing ourselves with a bucket of ice? While all of these things are done with the best of intentions and can create change, they all have one common problem, they rely on someone else doing the work for us.
Don't get me wrong, social media has become a powerful tool for bringing attention to atrocities happening across the world, petitions can create a change in policies and seemingly people dropping a bucket of ice on their head can raise a lot of money for charity. But what happens after we complete that quick, easy, convenient, online action? Most of us go back to living our lives the way we always had. We've done our bit, it's someone else's responsibility to sort that out now. I've donated, signed, shared, I'm contributing to change...That's all well and good except I'm not seeing change. All of those problems listed at the start of this post are still problems. Some are becoming worse. Our post sharing, petition signing attack on the things we disagree with doesn't seem to be working fast enough.
Now imagine a world where people saw a post on Facebook that showed how using plastic bottles is damaging the planet and instead of just liking it, maybe even sharing it, they actually decided then and there to never use a plastic water bottle again. I'm not talking about avoiding them until you forget to bring a refillable bottle, I'm talking NEVER AGAIN. And imagine that every post shared on social media that people liked or shared resulted in the same action, people changing their ways to match their beliefs. We can't rely on someone else to sort out our problems any longer as it's just not working. The attitude that "what's the point in me changing if no-one else will" isn't serving anyone. Even if you are the single sole person standing up for what you believe in isn't it still worth doing?
We need to wake up to the fact, if we aren't part of the solution we are part of the problem. If, for example, we disagree with the deforestation of the rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra that is putting Orangutans and many other animals, including us humans soon enough, on the endangered species list but still consume products that include palm oil sourced from that deforestation then we need to realise we are part of the problem. Just because we aren't the one cutting down the tree doesn't make us guilt free. The person responsible for cutting down the tree probably doesn't think he or she is to blame for the problem either, they are being paid by someone making the decision above them, they are just a logger. The person in the marketing department of the company selling the product probably doesn't think they are to blame either, they just promote the products the company makes. Even the owner of the company probably looks at the sales of the product and thinks that people still clearly want a product made in this way so they should still provide it. We are all partly responsible. If the product was made and we disagreed with it and never purchased it imagine how long that product would remain on sale for.
It really isn't a big shift to change our habits. We don't need to all run off into the wilderness and set up self sufficient communes to make a change. We won't completely change our habits straight away but if we all start to make a conscious decision to not just go into auto pilot and simply ask ourselves "is this action I am about to take in line with the change I want to see?" I believe we could make a big change.
With this in mind I am taking on a series of month long challenges to try to shift my life to be more inline with the changes I want to see in the world. They aren't massive changes, but they are changes. Slowly but surely I aim to make small steps towards this goal and make these changes part of my everyday routine.
One thing I've learnt on this short journey I've been on is that committing to something in your head is one thing, if only you know about it it's easy to go back on it. However, voicing your intention to friends, family and even strangers brings with it peer pressure to see it through...
So here's my commitment: This month I am going to try to make all of my plastic waste for the month fit into a small glass jar. Both "recyclable" and single use plastic. Why a jar? Funnily enough a friend shared a post on Facebook about this lady www.trashisfortossers.com who has fit all of her waste from 2 years into a small jar. I liked the post but then realised I needed to do more than just like the post. While I am not sure I currently have the ability to do exactly what she is doing I felt a good first step would be to try it for a month. I also like the fact that it is a glass jar so that each time I look at it I will be able to see the waste I have created. One big problem I see with our current waste system is we put our trash in a place that is usually hidden out of the way, under the sink, in the corner of the room, etc, then it gets dropped off at the dump that is also hidden away. Everything is kept out of sight, out of mind and leads us to a false sense of security to how much we are actually wasting. This will be a constant reminder.
For sometime I have disagreed and been angered by the damage our plastic obsession causes to our environment and our health yet I often still turn a blind eye and buy products wrapped in it? I can hardly complain about it if I am still reliant on it. It's quite a daunting challenge for me as recycled plastic packaging is unfortunately part of so many products that I use on a regular basis. It will take quite a bit of forward planning with shopping etc too which isn't my strong point.
If you agree with what I've said why not make a stand and commit to being part of the solution in one small way yourself. It doesn't need to be a month long thing, that format just appeals and works for me. It could be a small change or a big one, perhaps one day a week without using your car or a year of eating locally sourced food. Whatever it is post it in the comments below and/or on social media and announce it to the world. Sure, people may think it different to your regular updates and your post may not get as many likes as that nice picture of a sunset you just posted but at least you will be able to say you are being part of the solution and not the problem and you may even inspire someone you know to do the same.