I have started on a new journey. I have decided to reduce my waste and plastic consumption. It took me a while to get there. I have known Bea Johnson, the zero waste lifestyle guru, for years. I have seen some documentaries about her where she was showing a year of waste for a family of 4, fitting in a little jar. I have seen the movie “Demain” produced by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent which was an eye opener for me. But even though I was impressed by those people, concerned by the future of our planet, I didn’t take any action or made any real changes to my lifestyle other than maybe buying mainly organic products and switch to natural/organic beauty brands but not much more. I am not vegetarian or vegan but I don’t really like meat, especially red meat. It is a start but I was still consuming a lot, using a lot of “single use plastic”, wanted always more and more.
I took some baby steps when I moved to London two years again (I am from Paris originally). I couldn’t find my Evian water anymore in the shop where I was doing my grocery shopping so I said to myself that it was completely stupid anyway as I was living in a country where I was lucky enough to have drinking water from the tap so it was a nonsense to buy water in plastic bottles. It was one little step after all but still no big realization. I was still buying little ones when I was travelling of course, see the logic!
Then, don’t ask me why, I started to be annoyed with my trash bin. Yes! I was wondering how on earth I could fill a 30L trash bin by myself (I am living on my own) every single week and, wait for it, I was travelling for work almost every week at the time, meaning not at home every day, but I still managing to have one full bin every week!!! I noticed the same thing with a friend of mine that I was seeing regularly at the time.
In August last year, I was between two jobs and had a month off that I decided to spend in St Jean de Luz (best place on earth by the way!) which is in South West of France. Let’s say I had time! I don’t recall how exactly I started watching a lot of documentaries and read a lot of things around waste and plastic scourge but this August I decided to start changing my lifestyle. I watched Béa Johnson again:-) and read “La Famille Zéro Déchet” (Zero waste Family) book and it has been an eye opener!! When I went to Carrefour (supermarket) to do grocery shopping with my mother after reading this book, I can tell you, the trip to the supermarket was quite an epic moment. I was basically paralyzed (honestly!). Everywhere I looked, I could see plastic, unnecessary packaging. I couldn’t put anything in our basket. My mother was smiling and making fun of me because I was so confused.
Back home I started looking at what I could do in my daily life to change that.
So this is where you can be a bit overwhelmed at the beginning and start to be a bit obsessed, feel guilty that you have failed. Let me tell you, if you start on this journey, you will not be perfect every single day because it is difficult in the world we are currently living in because nothing is thought for this lifestyle. We are mainly in a linear economy and the circular one is still an exception. But it is not because we can’t be like Béa Johnson overnight that we should do nothing. Every little change is a little victory towards less waste and less plastic in your life and in this world.
I am not part of the Green Party or an activist who is defending animal rights, but I love travelling (I know it is not good for the planet) and I want to protect our environment. I have seen so many beautiful and amazing places taken over by plastic no matter how remote they are. It is shocking. I don’t think there is a need anymore to list the following facts but I do just as a precaution!
• over the last 10 years we’ve produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century
• Nine million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year
• 50% of the plastic we use, we use just once and then through away
• Scientists warn we could see fishless oceans by 2048, that’s just 30 years from now
• It takes 500 to 1000 years for plastic to degrade
• 1 million sea birds and 100 000 marine mammals are killed annually from the plastic in our oceans
• Every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some shape or form
• Only 5% of all plastic produced has been recycled
• A trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year
• Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times
• Every year we produce the same weight in plastic as the weight of the entire humanity
• One of the 4 largest ocean garbage patch is located in the great North Pacific Ocean and is 3 times the size of Spain
• Only 21% of our household waste are recycled and only 7% of the plastic waste
• 200 kg of waste end up in the ocean every second (PNUE)
• The average household in the UK produces more than a tonne of waste every year. Put together, this comes to a total of 31 million tonnes per year, equivalent to the weight of three and a half million double-decker buses, a queue of which would go around the world two and a half times.
• On average, each person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks.
• If you’re an average American, you produce 4.4. pounds of trash (2kg) every single day, significantly more than the global average of 2.6 pounds (1,17 kg). In a nation of nearly 324 million people, that amounts to more than 700,000 tons of garbage produced daily — enough to fill around 60,000 garbage trucks.
• 590 kg per person per year in France
• Not to mention all the natural resources we are using. We are consuming more than what Mother Earth can give us
I don’t have children yet but I have a nephew, a niece on the way, 3 goddaughters and 1 godson plus all the children of my friends (I am the last one without children so far let’s consider that as a gesture for the sake of the planet / for the environment!. They are still little but I am really worried about the future for them. There is no planet B. That’s why we have to wake up and act now.
My friends are saying “oh she has become green” (with a bit of a sarcastic tone from some of them let’s be honest!). I don’t see things like that. For me it is not a trend, it is because we don’t have a choice anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect. Remember I was buying water plastic bottles all the time not so long ago and I can’t tell you how many pairs of shoes I have, it is embarrassing, but now I am trying to stop, or least slow down this trend, for real! I still have a lot of areas where I have to improve as this lifestyle is impacting all the aspects of my life. I am not a minimalist and am still consuming way too much but I am trying to do it more consciously. I really do think that as a consumer the way you are spending your money has an impact, and if lots of people start refusing to buy single use plastic products or products with too much packaging, the multinational companies won’t have a choice but to change and provide more sustainable options.
I believe that if I can do it, a lot of others can do it too.
The very first thing you can do is learn to say NO. No to straws, plastic bags, free items, things you don’t need which will add to the clutter in your house or end up straight in the landfills. Use what you have before buying new products. Do a little inventory of what you have. When I started I did that in my bathroom. It was crazy all the products I had and didn’t use, and all in plastic bottles. I am sure it is the same for you. Enjoy what you already have! If you really need or want to buy something, make a conscious choice and preferably buy a sustainable option if you can which will last longer or have less of an impact.
Then, one step further, is to acquire a reusable water bottle that you can refill with tap water and carry it with you (saving money quickly when you see the price of a plastic water bottle). For the aficionados of coffee/tea or any beverage on the go, buy a reusable cup (none of the paper cups can be recycled). Last easy and inexpensive step, – have a reusable bag with you to put your shopping in alleviating the need for plastic bags. Waste is one thing, plastic is quite another. You can recycle it but it is best completely avoided.
Now, I am really happy to see that I am starting to inspire some of my friends who are changing few things in their lifes too, towards a more sustainable lifestyle!
Hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to comment, I am really happy to talk/debate! I am really passionate about the subject! I will prepare other articles about what I am doing in my day to day life to reduce my waste and have a more sustainable lifestyle. More to come!