Despite what certain leaders of the free world may believe, Global Warming is real and it is happening now. And, whether we like it or not, it is down to us to do something about it. Why? Because we caused it.
Lancaster, as a ‘green’ university, has already implemented eco-friendly measures, from the labelled recycling bins all over campus to double sided printing. But it isn’t enough. And what happens when you leave campus? We need to make crucial changes now to better benefit ourselves and our planet.
Plastic is one of the worst pollutants, as the Earth can’t digest it. Once it has served its purpose it most often ends up in a landfill and there it stays, buried in the ground forever. Every little bit of plastic that has ever been made still exists on the planet today.
The plastic pollution coalition has reached critical point. Sea life is now outnumbered six to one by plastics present in the ocean, and every year one million sea birds are killed due to its presence there. It has been document that every sea turtle species have at one point had plastic in or attached to their bodies.
Still think this doesn’t affect you? Thrown away and filtered into the water, pieces of plastic are digested by small marine life that is then eaten by bigger marine life, the plastic working its way up the food chain. If you eat fish or have recently developed a sushi addiction like I have (thanks Nami Sushi…), think about the harmful chemicals you could be unknowingly consuming.
And even if you don’t eat fish, the human body absorbs the chemicals in plastic (like BPA), causing disruption to the endocrine system and altering the hormones produced. For those with an autoimmune disease this is an especially concerning issue. Plastic also contains DDT and PCB, two toxic chemicals that cause detrimental health conditions including cancer, male infertility, increased risk of miscarriage, harm to the nervous system and liver damage, alongside further immune and reproductive disorders.
But it’s not too late. Here are a few simple habits you can change now to make a big difference and reduce your consumption of single-use plastic.
Don’t get me wrong; plastic cups are the greatest invention since sliced bread when faced with doing the washing up hungover the morning after your flat has hosted pre-drinks. But after that fifth game of beer pong, those cups are gathered up in a black bin bag and thrown outside. 150 single-use plastic cups are thrown away every second in France, so it’s unsurprising the country has recently banned plastic plates, cups and cutlery for alternatives made of biologically-sourced materials.
Instead, when you’re stood at the sink the next morning, think of all those cute little sea turtles you’re potentially saving. If you really can’t face it, get creative. Before recycling your tin cans, wash out any remaining baked beans and use it as your glass for the evening! Reduce, reuse and recycle. And as for plastic cutlery, pop a knife and fork in your bag before you leave home for your lunch break from your all day library study session.
Do you really need a straw to drink your double vodka lemonade, really? You’re an adult, you learned how to drink out of a glass without pouring it down yourself years ago. And if you can’t manage that, well then maybe you shouldn’t be getting that drink for a different reason… So skip the straw, even the little cocktail straws! Trust me, the bartender has thoroughly mixed your porn star martini; you don’t need to swirl it round your glass with your straw too.
TAKEAWAY COFFEE CUPS
Lined with plastic, takeaway coffee cups are not biodegradable because of this. Juice cartons are the same. I’m not suggesting you stop your daily Costa visit after your 9am lecture – though cutting down would certainly help you save some pennies – but be practical and take a drinks flask in with you. Costa Coffee sells a branded refill cup, so they’d be more than happy if you handed your own over and asked for your drink to take away. This will keep your drink hotter for longer too, so you can really enjoy it knowing you’re warm and toasty and the environment is better off too!
Plastic water bottles are largely responsible for the amount of plastic waste, but this is one of the easiest things to give up! We are fortunate enough to live in a country where tap water is clean and safe, meaning drinking water is free. So when you purchase a water bottle, all you’re really paying for is the plastic container that’ll soon be rolling round the bottom of your bag before you throw it away. And ironically, it is this kind of plastic that contains harmful chemicals that can dissolve into your drinking water. Invest in a reusable water bottle – some made of glass and others a thicker, safe plastic – and get your eight glasses a day the healthier way!
While the 5p plastic bag tax has caused a massive decrease in the number of plastic bags used, we can still do more. Instead of cheekily buying another when you’ve forgotten to bring your stash of Sainsbury’s bags to the shops with you, keep a canvas tote bag with you at all times. Easily rolled up to the size of practically nothing, a tote bag can be kept in your bag or car and is convenient when you pop into the shops on your way home and get a bit overexcited, when all you needed was some milk. The dangers of shopping while hungry are real.
If you’re really dedicated to the cause and want to go one step further, ditch your plastic toothbrush and opt for a wooden or bamboo one instead. Your toothbrush should be replaced every three months so it’s definitely about time you invested in a new one, and what better opportunity to make an eco-friendly swap? Composed of natural bristles and gentle on teeth and gums, wooden and bamboo toothbrushes are a hygienic and healthier option to plastic toothbrushes that are made with nylon bristles and attached to the plastic handle with a metal staple. And because of the way it is produced, the plastic in toothbrushes can’t even be recycled.
Continue to reuse and recycle, but now is the time to make a change. Become a conscious consumer and next time you’re out shopping, in line at Costa, or at the bar, think about where the plastic will end up. A landfill? The sea? What effect will this have on the environment and your health? It’s not too late for us to change our planet, to benefit not just ourselves but future generations also.
Check out Plastic Pollution Coalition and Sea Save Foundation to find out more.