Updated: Nov 17, 2020
During our Big Blue Zoom concert earlier this year, guest speaker from Tangaroa Blue, Mathilde Gordon, encouraged everyone participating to make a pledge: to strive to eliminate plastics from some aspect of their lives for the month of September. As well as being a great way to raise awareness around plastic and its environmental consequences, the pledge also highlighted how easy making small but collectively effective changes can be. It also demonstrated how challenging it can be to maintain these changes in light of long-term habits and our tendency to compromise for convenience. In this post, some members of the Dreambox team follow up on the pledge and share thoughts on their experiences. We hope it is encouraging or inspiring to know how some of the team went, so please enjoy our reflections on the joys and challenges of our September Big Blue Plastic Pledges!
For the month of September I chose to pledge to eliminate takeaway cups for the ocean.
As someone who is guilty of enjoying a variety of takeaway beverages, it was high time that I made the transition to using either a keep cup or my flask. I was surprised that it was easy to make this change: I managed to still have the drinks I love and cafe baristas delivered my drinks in my self-brought containers (sometimes with more than I think I would have received in the original takeaway cup).
Overall, the challenge definitely highlighted my awareness of how many other single use plastics I used and has motivated me to continue doing this into the future; I’ll be using the next month to attempt to reduce my usage of plastics bags - by always carrying my extra bags with me and insisting that I don’t need a bag when it’s automatically and quickly offered to me!
- Chloe Chung
For the month of September, I pledge to eliminate my use of plastic takeaway containers for the oceans!
I pledged to eliminate my use of single-use plastic takeaway containers for a month. It seems so simple, surely. I already eschew takeaway coffee cups, since discovering a few years ago that with few exceptions the ‘paper’ cups are chemically bonded to the plastic interiors, and are therefore not recyclable. And the experience of sitting down at a caffe, drinking from a ‘real’ cup – it’s all so much more pleasant anyway. I very rarely accept plastic bags if I go shopping (usually taking a reusable). Surely my pledge is an extension of something I already do?
The first official day of my pledge, I stumbled. A bit run down, I ‘caved’ and went to the takeaway Indian restaurant in the local shopping centre, rather than cook – good healthy vegetarian food. Not only is it packed into a plastic takeaway container, the shop then wraps that container in gladwrap – even more plastic destined to be thrown away. Accompanied by two plastic forks and a plastic spoon, all placed in a small single use plastic bag.
I insisted on refusing both the plastic bag and extra gladwrap (and in fact I quizzed the staff about alternatives) ... they agreed, but that is how their shop sells their food. For me then, it became clear that my pledge, simple at the surface, would require conscious and consistent change of habit: choosing not to eat from that takeaway outlet (undisciplined as I am, I recall eating there a further time during that month but otherwise I did pretty well). It would mean making an effort to cook or find alternatives less convenient. And it heightened the awareness of the extent of plastic waste at every point of daily interaction: unnecessary wrapping of food in shops such as Coles; being offered plastic bags almost everywhere I bought anything; being offered straws when I might buy a drink.
The pledge and subsequent ups and downs keeping it beyond the month and without the awareness of this issue being constantly in mind vis-à-vis involvement with a project focussed on it has seen a for me, surprising relapse into personal apathy and pessimism about individual action in the face of what I describe. Although of course without individual action and collective energy, nothing changes, and any effort is a start. Being asked to pen a contribution to this blog has re-awakened that ‘just do it’ mindset. In fact, it was actually easy in the end to make a few changes to keep my pledge. There’s absolutely no reason for me not to maintain the habit change beyond it. And no reason not to ‘pick it up’ and start trying again right now.
- Brad Gill
For the month of September, I pledged to eliminate plastic bin bags for the ocean.
This is something that I have always struggled with, and continued to struggle with throughout September. Over the years, I have been using green vegetable bags as bin bags in order to reduce the amount of plastic I buy. This has proven efficient, however, it’s not quite the result I’ve wanted to achieve.
During September, I had quite a few vegetable bags remaining in my cupboard. For this reason, I didn’t swap my plastic bin bags for biodegradable bags. This brought to light a few things that are very easy to ignore - laziness! I learnt that in order to end this “must use vegetable bags for bins” cycle, I had to get myself some reusable mesh vegetable bags. Making this change would inevitably mean that my plastic bag stash would run out, and I would have no choice but to buy biodegradable bin bags!
So yes, it was a difficult one, and I failed, but I’ve got a plan. A few small steps could make a change, and perhaps this could encourage others to do the same, and suddenly these small steps become bigger ones!
- Deepka Ratra
For the month of September I chose to pledge to eliminate single use plastic bags for the ocean.
I included plastic food wrapping in this category. So much of the food we get at supermarkets - even fresh produce - now comes wrapped in some form of plastic. Where possible, I have been choosing options that are not wrapped in plastic. For instance, buying fruit and vegetables ‘raw’ instead of pre-packaged, and NOT using the plastic bags provided at the shop. This was the easiest change to make. Slightly harder was the bread - most big supermarkets only have it wrapped in plastic, but if you go to a more local fresh food market you can get bread in paper bags. The same goes for mushrooms - it’s way more fun filling up those little brown paper bags with mushrooms than getting the fat plastic boxes.
This went OK for a while, but I quickly discovered another source of single-use plastic bags - takeaway food! I was caught off-guard a few times when ordering takeaway, and realising I needed a bag to store it, but didn’t have one, thus having to accept the plastic bag. But I found out I could just carry around a plastic bag in my backpack everywhere I go - and when I finally remembered to chuck one in there, my takeaway food problem was alleviated!
As a result of these small changes, I’ve definitely noticed that the amount of plastic I’m having to throw away or try to recycle (a somewhat futile effort, as a small fraction of plastic that we put in the recycling bin actually gets recycled), has drastically decreased. It’s made me realise how easy it is to reduce our use of plastic with just a bit more mindfulness when shopping, or when packing our backpacks. And handling raw fruit and veg is much more satisfying than buying a bag-full!
- Pavle Cajic
- All pictures from Dreambox Collective x Tangaroa Blue's clean up event at Mildura Reserve, Campsie, on 28 June 2020. With thanks to Brad Gill and Toni Berg in the creation of this Dreambox blog post.