It’s that time of year again where most of us are thinking about shaking off the past 12 months and setting ourselves up for a great one to follow. I am most certainly guilty of an unashamed enthusiasm in January for any new regime and feeling positive that “this is going to be the year where I actually stick to the healthy eating and fitness regime, get more sleep, read more, do a digital detox etc. etc.” You know the drill.
So as the 1st of January came upon me, I sat down to write my goals in my new journal and started to think about what might make this a really different year for me. Having unexpectedly lost someone very close to me at the end of last month I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to close the door on the year completely – or have it a little ajar to keep the memory of them alive for me. That then got me thinking that perhaps the “new broom sweeps clean” mentality may not necessarily always be the best one. Perhaps it is about holding on to what’s good from our pasts, letting go of what’s held us back and making space for learning how to improve what we need to, not what we feel we have to.
I started to think about a conversation I’d had with a friend at the weekend. When I asked her whether she had any resolutions for 2018 she said “to drink less water” – I thought she was crazy until she added on “from plastic bottles”. I immediately wanted to steal it. I’m sure many of you have been watching David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II – as well as continuing to show us the beauty of the natural world it comes with an urgent message which we can no longer afford to ignore – the cost of global warming and pollution. The programme raises a critical awareness of the immediate threats facing our oceans and underscores how much humans and the planet stand to lose if we fail to recognise and acknowledge the negative impact we are having on them. It’s not a new message for us – but it’s such an important one.
Moving on to the plastic plague that is upon us, Greenpeace recently revealed that Coca-Cola unbelievably increased its production of throwaway plastic bottles last year by well over a billion. (As if you needed another good reason to stop buying fizzy drinks!). Extreme environmentalists are urging companies to stop selling drinks in plastic bottles altogether whereas the more pragmatic are suggesting we make it easier for customers to use fewer plastic bottles. A firm favourite of the Change Gear team is forward thinking Pret a Manger. Pret have been fighting the “waste” battle for many years. 30 years ago, they started donating their unsold food to the homeless and today their initiatives include offering customers a 25p discount on hot drinks if they bring in a reusable cup. At the end of last year Pret introduced a trial in their three Veggie Pret shops selling reusable glass bottles alongside plastic bottles with filtered water stations enabling customers to refill their glass bottles.
Elsewhere, London’s Borough Market is to introduce free drinking water fountains as part of a new pledge to phase out sales of all single-use plastic bottles over the next six months. Selfridges stopped the sale of single-use plastic water bottles back in 2015.
The issue is gaining traction in the political sphere, with Defra Secretary Michael Gove confirming he will work with businesses to see how a drinks container deposit return scheme could work in England. Similar schemes have proved highly successful in Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, where recycling rates of containers are now above 90%.
My friend’s resolution was whirring round in my head. When I got home I emptied my recycle bin to take a good hard look at what was in there – I was horrified by the amount of plastic bottles and food tubs I found. I knew this was going to be my more important mantra for the year ahead – Use less plastic. So how do you turn the mantra into action. As usual making things a habit so that they stick (thank you Gretchen Rubin for your insights here) is a must. Here are a few simple things I will be doing:
- Carrying a reusable water bottle wherever I go
- Taking my own coffee cup
- Bringing reusable shopping bags to the supermarket
- Carrying a fold up reusable shopping bag or two in my handbag at all times
- Getting rid of all reusable cutlery and straws from my kitchen
- Buying my fruit and veg from our local shop to avoid supermarket plastic trays
And of course, encouraging my friends and family to do the same.
I would love to hear from any of you out there reading this blog on your thoughts on the subject or to hear what you are personally doing to take action to help save our planet. Let’s share this message urgently.
In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and renewable 2018.