It appears that making changes on a personal level is not quite improving our proximity to the increasingly damaging effects of climate change. Are these small-scale efforts even worth it?
For years, advocacy groups and scientists have stressed the importance of reducing your personal impact on the planet. The scale of the challenges currently facing us is overwhelming enough as it is, but to be told that you alone have a pivotal position in this is intimidating. The quantity of individuals making positive changes is increasing but it seems that our single efforts aren’t enough. So, what’s the problem?
Just 100 companies have been responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988 yet the pressure is on society, which seems mildly insignificant in comparison. These companies require a rapid shift in their priorities and an efficacious education on how they could be the key to tackling climate change. We can’t do it alone, especially when our individual efforts are being so incomparably combatted.
Is it even worth changing how I go about my day-to-day?
Learning that our endeavours are unfairly reversed by large money-hungry corporations makes it hard to see how continuing would still be beneficial. But climate action is required on every scale regardless of how insignificant it may seem. There are a million changes we could make, and going plastic-free might just be the best solution – it will help our oceans, reduce landfill waste and ultimately slow down the effect we are having on the planet.
Plastic Free July (PFJ) is a key initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation. Having envisioned a month-long observance centred around plastic reduction in the 21st Century, PFJ is committed to limiting pollution far beyond these 31 days. Their missions are guided and informed by five fundamental values:
· Honesty and integrity
· Inclusivity of people, ideas, visions and approaches
· A focus on providing solutions
· Authenticity and collaboration
· The belief that small changes add up to a big difference
The foundation has celebrated the cause for 11 years this 2022 and shared its award-winning story in their 2021 Impact Report. Campaigns like PFJ are important now more than ever. Climate change is occurring at paces we’ve never seen before, and our actions will soon become irreversible.
So what can I do?
Reducing your plastic consumption is accessible and adaptable for everyone. PFJ suggest starting out by making small manageable changes where you can witness the impact you are having. This can include investing in good reusable Tupperware and mugs, bringing your own shopping bags to the shops, avoiding plastic straws, and recycling! These are minor changes that don’t take the world to act upon.
Finding alternatives to single-use tampons and pads for those who menstruate has never been easier. Menstrual cups are becoming increasingly popular and the shame around figuring out how to use them is pretty much dismal. Likewise, companies have significantly invested in curating period underwear, washable pads and liners. These lifestyle swaps help reduce the impact that single-use plastic has on our biodiversity and keep you clean in the meanwhile – win-win!
PFJ also host a range of suggestions for the swaps we can make in the workplace, at school, in healthcare, during events, for business and within the community. They also suggest getting involved through your local government – your voice has power, and you should use it! They provide tips on engaging the community in PFJ, running workshops to shed light on a world without plastic waste, enforcing values that can be spread within the government hierarchy and how we can initiate widespread impact by changing local government policies.
How can I find out more about humankind's effects on planet Earth?
If infographics and lengthy texts aren’t your thing, then there are a wealth of documentaries and films. Don’t Look Up (2021), The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and An Inconvenient Truth (2006) are great narratives of peoples’ ignorance to urgent warnings. Their frightfully monetised nature is not entirely positive though, it has left some viewers naïve to the outcomes that may occur. Documentaries such as David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet (2020), and I am Greta (2020), are alternatives that manage to enlighten viewers on how much dedication is required to stop climate change – change occurs through the help of many, not the few.
An honourable mention must be granted to My Octopus Teacher (2020). It’s a wonderful film wherein Craig Foster (producer) documents his relationship and the lifeline of an octopus in South Africa. It triggers this idea of empathy between humans and non-humans, promoting positive relationships between them. We know so little about the natural world but is this namely due to us not taking the time to familiarise ourselves with it? Nature provides an extensive amount for us in terms of living, so why aren’t we reciprocating it? We are still yet to discover how well and how long we would survive without it.
Katie Mortimer 13/05/2022