Plastic-Free Adventures (and Misadventures) #1: Dumpster Diving!

1:30am, undisclosed location in Central Auckland, home to an open dumpster. I can’t tell you where. Truth is, it’s a trust system between dumpster divers*.

Two excited (and slightly drowsy) scavengers enter the carpark with trepidation. “Let’s try to look normal, like we’re supposed to be here”. Yeah, I think, 1am supermarket runs are completely normal. “Far out, these floodlights are bright!”. “Hehe”. ‘Walk with purpose’,  I keep telling myself.  There seems to still be human movement at the garage in the far corner of the lot. Nevertheless, striding like we’re born this way, we make it over to the dumpster gate. “Man, are we gonna have to jump that?” “Not if we can fit in through this hole.” “Yayyy we’re small enough!”

 “Hey, here’s a torch 🙂 – how about you check out the front, and I’ll head to the rear?”.  Tip toeing in the half-dark, I poke my head over the side. This is when it gets real: it’s a treasure trove! Bunches upon bunches of perfectly ripened bananas, twirled-up bags of sliced loaves, Hulk-sized broccoli and watermelons, even a sealed container of yesterday’s fresh baking. Score! We keep stashing and stashing into banana boxes, probably over $100 worth of food. “Look, a full bottle of wine!” “Someone’s gonna be celebrating tonight” (Or, more accurately, this morning). 

In all the giddy glory of abundance, a crazy reality presented itself to me: this amount of food is thrown away every day. The majority of it edible, much of it fairly good condition. At the same time, people are homeless and begging, and many children without access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

Since the adventure, I’ve been doing some investigating, but can’t seem to find figures on tonnes of food thrown away by NZ supermarkets per week. However, whatever this is is likely to be miniscule compared to the 122,547 tonnes of food thrown away by Kiwi households per year (all of which could have been eaten).

As fun as it was for my Dad** and I, the glory of dumpster diving is really a symptom of a greater issue: a society whose way of living includes throwing away much more than we need to. However, the good news is that being the change is really fun. Buying wisely, looking for fun ways to use things up, and making the most of waste, are becoming easier and easier.

Check out this Love Food, Hate Waste campaign for more ideas: Love Food, Hate Waste 🙂

Very upliftingly, it also appears that supermarket chains such as Countdown donate more than $3.5 million of food per year, including around approximately 509 tonnes of food each to those in need.

And for those who are a little adventurous I reckon the stuff they throw away is still pretty choice!

*If you’d like to know which dumpster we went to,  leave a comment :).

**Who is like a best friend to me. ❤

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Compassionate Consumerism

There are so many beautiful beings behind the things we buy – the farmers growing delicious cacao for chocolate, the plants that purify lush springs where artesian water is sourced, wildlife in rain forests near palm plantations,  crews manning cargo ships travelling all around the world spreading deliveries on lego-like shipping containers.

But are these farmers traded with fairly and compassionately, and these plastic bottles of spring water necessary? Are these wild creatures safe in their dwindling habitat, these shipping containers really worth the baggage inside? In our global age where big companies have big power, there’s good and bad practices, and in some cases its hard to find out what’s going on.

None of us in our hearts would want to see the kind of suffering that some practices can bring, and the movement towards consuming with a kind conscience is growing larger by the day.

Conscious (and compassionate) consumerism is about seeking the truth behind what you buy, and using your buying power for good. Although we might not realise it, shopping is like voting; every thing we buy is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.

Love and money may seem worlds apart, but we can with our dollar actively change the lives of others all over the globe. Like this funky (and slightly cheesy) rhyme; If we want to make a difference with heart, right in our wallets is where we can start.

So why not use this vote of love to make a difference, and use our voices to encourage businesses to do good?

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Three Steps of Being a Conscious, Compassionate Consumer:

  1. Know your stuff

Doing research online and asking companies about their practices is super awesome. However, that can take a lot of time, so I’ve put together some useful sources of info below from organisations I trust like Trade Aid and OXFAM. These are much easier ways to get the facts behind the main things on our shelves!:)

2. Buy things you support

Yay, this is that voting with our dollar stuff – choosing products based on what you value and believe in. There’s no need to be perfect – start with something you agree with that really excites you, like fair trade, or organic, or with no plastic, like I’m trying.:) For tips going plastic free, I recommend Plastic Free July‘s plastic free toolbox.

3. Be loud and proud (like the Lorax :))

 

Spread the word, speak for the trees! Having conversations with people in your life, showing your support on social media, and/or organising initiatives in your community are amazing ways to spread this kaupapa (topic/mission). This not only goes for the companies and products you support, but the ones you don’t; as when we use petitions and media platforms to let these companies know they need to do better they often listen to us and change for the better. What a win!

 

Good Sources of Info about which Brands are Ethical

Behind the Barcode’s Ethical Fashion and Electronics Guides  – A yearly study on giving grades based on living wages and working conditions to differenScreen Shot 2016-06-13 at 6.03.04 PMt brands as part of a campaign by charity Baptist World Aid Australia to ‘Be Love, End Poverty’. You can download these guides for free here:

http://www.behindthebarcode.org.au/

 

Behind the Brands Food Scorecard – A campaign by non-profit organisation OXFAM about improving the way food companies treat people and the planet. The ‘Big 10’ food companies worldwide are given scores each year on how well they perform in terms of women’s rights, climate, water, worker welfare, land rights, and transparency (honesty) about their practices. This campaign includes an online petitioning platform to encourage these businesses to continually improve what they do:

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Trade Aid’s Website and Information on Being an Agent for Change:

https://www.tradeaid.org.nz/index.php/page/40/label/Agent+for+Change

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More Info on the Environmental and Social Impact of Different Industries:

Fashion Industry

http://ecowatch.com/2015/08/17/fast-fashion-second-dirtiest-industry/

Food Industry

http://www.behindthebrands.org/en-us/campaign-news

 

Greenwashing

is when companies tell you they’re sustainable, but actually don’t have those vibes.

 

Ways to Find the Truth:

The Greenwashing Index is a page you can post examples you find and see what others think (also a great way to kill time online) – http://greenwashingindex.com/

The A-Z of Greenwashing! All the Tips you’ll ever need –http://www.good.net.nz/article/2014/05/a-z-greenwashing

Advice on making a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority:http://www.asa.co.nz/complaints/how-to-make-a-complaint/

How To Love the World by Refusing Plastic

What do you love about the ocean?

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The way the sun and waves dance on the sand; those rippling patterns you can see from metres above, and the crash and boom music of the waves. Seabirds soaring above, the smell of that salt that sticks on your skin. Golden sand, black sand, it’s our homeland.

You can feel it when you close your eyes, when you picture that place you feel happiest; this great love for the world. Being a kiwi, or anyone who’s grown up near the ocean, the love is particularly strong for our big blue.

Last year I started to realise something that kinda blows my mind:

We can show our love for the world through our consumer choices.

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Everything is so connected in this awesome planet; every object we own, every meal we eat, every experience we have can only happen because of our fellow beings. And most importantly, every positive action we take, even if it feels really small, is making a difference for the lives of many others down the line.

Plastic is one of these things that really can make a difference. I love the ocean, and this year am attempting to refuse plastic. I often get asked why this is a worthwhile thing to do, and this blog post is my form of answer to that 🙂

So, why is refusing plastic a worthwhile thing to do, (especially if it can be recycled anyway?)

I’ll keep the facts brief; plastic never really breaks down, and in the process can harm or kill many marine animals, as well as accumulate into garbage islands. Our ocean will have more plastic than fish by 2050, new research says.

Do we want a plastic ocean?

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(Photo credit: Bonnie Monteleone, sourced on savethewater.org

Plastic only ever breaks into smaller pieces, which can absorb toxins and then end up higher up the food chain (i.e. we humans can eat unhealthy kaimoana).

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Check out the amazing Plastic Pollution Coalition for more info about plastic’s impact on beings and our oceans. ❤

Recycling is another interesting one – funnily enough, plastic isn’t ever made into the same thing again, and instead goes down the cycle in value each time. Really, a piece of plastic is lucky to be ‘down-cycled’ more than once.

But it’s more than that. It’s about that good stuff, those positive vibes. It’s about doing what you care about. Making choices based on what you value is such a powerful thing, and every bit of plastic we choose not to buy makes a difference for other beings. 🙂

Changing what we do every day can seem pretty  hard, and also kinda useless at times. However, if we all reduced the plastic we bought, less companies would use it, and that’s real, positive change!

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(For great tips on going plastic free^)

You don’t have to be perfect in your plastic free pursuits (I’m definitely not! 🙂 ) but our efforts are worth it, out of love for those we share this world with. There’s no more beautiful reason than that 🙂

And our loving motivation can switch things for us as well..

Instead of feeling sad at a piece of rubbish on the sidewalk, we might see a chalk drawing, a flower, something impermanent and beautiful, something that makes us smile.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.13.29 PM(Photo from Switching Spaces Facebook page)

Switching Spaces is this idea; leaving artwork and happy things where a piece of plastic used to be. This positivity is so awesome and keeps spreading, like waves lapping from the sea.

Refusing plastic is choosing healthy oceans, beautiful beaches, and the good vibes of doing something out of love & kindness.

It’s choosing dolphins, turtles, coral reefs. The majestic toroa (albatross) no longer choking on plastic, but flying free.

It’s being an adventurous ocean voyager, a teen at a beach party, a family camping by the coast, a child dipping their toes in for the first time. For you it may be the taste of fresh kaimoana, or the joy of spending lazy afternoons in the sun. For me, it’s dancing down the inner city pavement, feeling inspired by the sidewalk, smiling at that bit of ocean you can see from Hobson St.

For us Kiwis, it’s knowing that our big blue backyard is healthy, happy and ready to enjoy by future New Zealander’s. It’s a future we can be proud of, and look forward to.

For all of us, it’s that this blue planet we love and share is thriving. ❤

It’s love.

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(Own drawing of Toroa (albatross))

 

 

 

Welcome to Plastic Compassion :)

Hi there anyone reading!

I hope you are feeling good today 🙂

I want to say a huge big happy welcome to you and thank you so much for reading my first blog post. This blog is starting as a way to share ideas and convey experiences as I begin a plastic-free year, and who knows what it may end up becoming :). 

First off, I want to explain why this blog is called ‘Plastic Compassion’. Unlike your first impression may have suggested, I am not a pro-plastic lobbyer or being paid under-the-counter by some large plastics manufacturer. In fact, I’m quite the opposite :). But my position on plastic isn’t the reason for this title.

The reason is that I think these are two very important words in society today, and two that aren’t used in the same sentence enough. Plastic = everywhere, and compassion is needed.

When we look at plastic, we don’t often see the whole story – where it came from, how it was made, which creatures were affected, whether the people along the line were treated fair.

The answers aren’t too flash; crude oil (a fossil fuel), is turned into plastic through a highly manufactured fuel-heavy process, the mining of which may cause oil spills while the manufacturing of said plastic may pollute the air.

Nah, it’s just a Coke bottle – we don’t hear the rest of the story.

I guess it’s much easier that way.

The same often goes for the end of life – however many decades it may spend in a landfill or if it may end up in a gyre in the ocean isn’t our first thought when we buy a drink. Never mind the estimated 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds who die from plastic ingestion each year (according to a United Nations Environmental Programme report, found here: http://www.unep.org/regionalseas/marinelitter/publications/docs/trash_that_kills.pdf).

We don’t usually think about it. And this isn’t a “shame on us” – it’s completely understandable! All these sobering truths can be overwhelming. It’s much easier to block it all out, especially in a society so full of plastic!

I’m 16, I don’t really know much, but I have a suggestion. I guess what I want to say is that it doesn’t have to be depressing. That I believe there’s a light in all of this. And that light is compassion 🙂

When we look at plastic, and we start to see more of the story, we can begin to feel compassion for all the creatures and people involved in it – and I believe that’s a beautiful thing.

Plastic Compassion

This is the main, simple wish of this blog. That more people can look at plastic and feel compassion.

From this place of loving compassion, we can create the kind of powerful change that the world truly needs. Every one of us has power through shining our own light, and like candles this light can only grow brighter when it is shared.

Personal change takes time, and societal change even longer! But it all starts with feeling what you feel, and doing what you can.

And I feel that change for good around plastic starts with awesome people like you feeling compassion about plastic today. 🙂

So let’s do!

Special Note – My meaning behind the drawing (and of course every picture has a different special meaning to each person) :

Around the plastic bottle flows orange and yellow light, the positive energy that compassion brings. Along this grows lotuses, which are a symbol of wisdom. Mountains and trees show the health of our land, while the sunset represents to me how precious our time here is, every day we are alive, as the sun sets and rises.

Below the plastic is our ocean, where plastic too often ends up. However, if we make our consumer decisions based on loving kindness, hopefully the oceans and marine life that live in it will be thriving for generations to come. Especially in our hands is the fate of coral, which may bleach and die as temperatures rise, and precious sea turtles, who are among the most affected by plastic ocean debris. Whales are very special and I think of them as guardians of the ocean – which we can be too when we make wise decisions and thus, powerful change.

The fairtrade symbols above each side of the whale tail represent feeling compassion for the growers, workers and people behind every product we buy.

The scene is full of yellow light, because to me a life, a world, with more compassion and less plastic, is a beautiful, positive, energising one 🙂

And the people holding hands that flow from a peace sign symbolises how we are stronger together – and how when we live guided by compassion and wisdom, we can find greater peace ❤