New segment on the blog
If you have been following my stories on Instagram you will know that I signed up for plastic free July: no single-use plastics for one month.
And no, I haven’t done it perfectly, but it has made me look at shopping and eating out through new eyes. I believe that becoming more aware of the amount of waste we produce, and consciously making better decisions on a daily basis, has the ability to bring about real change.
I want to start living a greener and more environmentally conscious life. I’d love to help you do the same. On that note, I’m very excited to introduce to you one of my childhood friends, Raine Adams. Raine is a qualified CA(SA), having studied at UCT. She works in the financial services industry but with a focus on sustainability issues. Raine loves travel, nature and wildlife and is passionate about environmental conservation. She has recently become a mom, which has been her biggest adventure so far. Raine is a firm believer that many people making small changes does make a difference. She seemed like the perfect person to partner with on a new segment of the blog sharing ideas for how we can all be more environmentally conscious in our every day lives. We want this to be as interactive as possible, so if you have questions on how to be kinder to the planet – something you always wondered but haven’t had the time to look into yourself – let us know and we’ll try to answer it in one of our posts.
The best intentions don’t necessarily equate to the best choices; often simply due to a lack of education. For this reason, everything we share will be thoroughly researched and evidence based.
The plastic crisis
First under the microscope is the plastic crisis. If you have any doubts that this is in fact a crisis, consider:
- Of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic humans have produced since 1950, only 30% of it is still in use. Of the plastic no-longer in use, most has been disposed of in landfills and the environment (79%) or incinerated (12%). Only a small portion (9%) has been recycled.
- Half of the plastic produced since 1950 has been produced in the last 13 years!
- If we continue to produce plastic at this pace, the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh the number of fish by 2050.
What’s in a bag?
One of the steps I took this month was to purchase some reusable cotton bags for grocery shopping and not to accept any plastic bags. It seems that this should be better for the environment, right? Interestingly, it’s not as simple as you might think.
The important thing to note is that not all bags are created equal. You should not only consider what the bag is made of, you should also look at how that material is farmed or produced, and the effect that process has on the environment as well. The table below might change the way you look at shopping bags entirely, considering the number of re-uses necessary for alternative shopping bags to have the same cumulative impact on the environment as a classic plastic bag.
Plastic has, quite rightfully, been completely demonized. But the solution is not as simple as switching to paper bags, for example. Paper bags are biodegradable and plastics are not, so it may seem like a no brainer; however, paper is extremely environmentally intensive on the manufacturing side – something which we often don’t think about.
The manufacture of paper requires a considerable amount of water, fuel and forestry. Planting more trees to make bags seems like a pretty green way to go right? They consume carbon dioxide and help to combat climate change after all. Thing is, same tree forestry could come at the cost of clearing naturally occurring and more bio-diverse forests. Replacing single-use plastic bags with single-use paper bags is no quick fix. The real problem is “single-use”.
The take home
The take home message is this; don’t go home and get rid whatever bags you have. Instead, re-use any and all bags as much as possible. When they fall to pieces and you do have to purchase a new bag, then one made of recycled plastic that you can get a few uses out of is probably the choice which has the least environmental impact.
Another top tip from personal experience, don’t keep your reusable shopping bags in the boot of your car! Because, if you are like me, you will likely find yourself standing at the till while your shopping bags still are nestled safely in the boot! Leave them on your passenger seat so you’re less likely to forget. Or better yet, keep two rolled up in your handbag. (Along with your “keep cup” for that take-away coffee you know you’re going to treat yourself to.)
Happy shopping, gotta run,