I can’t remember the first moment that I decided that the climate crisis and the destruction of our beautiful planet was real. I can’t remember what it was that really triggered me to wake up and quit ignoring the reality that this beautiful planet of ours was starting to die around us. I don’t remember the first moment that I decided that I truly hated plastic, because it is one of the most polluting substances on the planet.
But all of these moments did arrive, and I found myself in Barnes and Noble one day staring at a collection of books that would help me start making changes to actively do better for the planet and for myself. The well-trained researcher that grad school instilled in me was searching for books that would lead me to not only do better for the environment but to help myself turn away from the consumerist culture that I deeply believe has been one of the main causes of this climate crisis in the first place (yes, ironically enough as I was standing in a Barnes & Noble looking to purchase books and contributing to the consumerist culture, but hey, it was a start).
I wasn’t really sure where to start, but one book definitely caught my eye. I was eager. I’m sure the title was intentionally selected to do such a thing for a person such as myself. So, I was convinced that I absolutely needed this book. I wanted answers. I was convinced that How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time by Will McCallum would greatly open my eyes up to the realities of plastic waste and pollution and would really help guide me to make changes. And, I was not at all disappointed. This book did just that and more.
Now, being the knowledge and research nerd that I am, at this point, I knew a decent amount about how plastic, especially single use plastic, pollutes our world, polluting our oceans, killing ocean life, and polluting the world’s beaches (He notes that there is an estimated 165 million tons of plastics in the ocean already and this number will only keep growing). I had already had an adversity to single use plastic. However, my eyes were quickly opened up to how much plastic actually dominates our everyday.
I quickly became overwhelmed by how surrounded we are by plastic. I became overwhelmed yet again of the reality of single-use and how that is a deep reflection of the crisis that we have given ourselves over to, this crisis of the convenience and instant gratification culture of hyper consumerism. At first, I felt that I was embarking on an impossible journey to attempt to eliminate plastic from my life because of the ghastly amount of plastic that fulfills our everyday needs.
But contrary to how I felt, Will McCallum does an amazing job of giving the everyday person the information and the confidence to start. He provides information on the history of plastic as well as why plastic is so terrible for us and the planet in the first place. He does this without getting too technical with the statistics he provides and still manages to engage his readers. He even goes so far as to provide you with step-by-step actions that you can take to eliminate plastic in your personal life by providing worksheets at the end of chapters to help you get started. He even helps you take it to the next level by providing tools and guidance for become an advocate for ending plastic use, including providing tips and examples of letters you can write, tools you can use to start and run your own campaign, and resources to learn even more information.
And the best part of all of this is that he never makes his reader feel like a failure. Instead, he makes his reader feel empowered and included.
I feel this is essential to building a better world. When it comes to the climate crisis, reducing waste, and reducing material possessions that prevents us from living truly meaningful lives, we have to remember to not judge each other. We have to remember to teach and to learn from each other. So often, I find that people who are convinced that the climate crisis isn’t real or don’t do anything about it is because they feel like their way of living and their entire belief systems are challenged and they feel that their way of living is invalidated. I find that many also feel that it is an impossible task to completely change their way of living, or many find that they, themselves, do not have the power or the tools to make changes. It is essential that when building a better world that we provide the information and the means to be empowered to do better and that everyone is encouraged to join and is reminded that they have the power to do so. And this is exactly what this book does.
McCallum even recognizes this and states “that every victory against plastic begins with a single person or a small group of people deciding that the time to take action is now. It’s hard to imagine your actions making a difference – but when you consider that the average person living in Western Europe or North America uses more than their own body weight in plastic every year, the truth is, they really can. Yes, reducing your plastic footprint by a bottle here, a coffee cup there, may be no more than a drop in the ocean, but the message it sends speaks volumes – and, of course, the ocean is nothing if not countless drops of water” (page 59).
So, I aim to do better and to help empower others to do the same. In the book, in provides 7 chapters on how to give up plastic in different areas of our lives: the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen, on the go, the nursery, and the workplace. I hope to take a deep, hard look at all these areas of my life (except the nursery, as I don’t have children) and journey through my own adventure in giving up plastic. I hope to share all of my thoughts here on digital paper.
This won’t be easy, but I’m looking forward to the adventure. I can’t possibly continue to appreciate and grow to love this world if I don’t continue to do something to make it better.