The conversation around waste, waste management and mitigation solutions for ocean pollution remains a complex one. We have a climate crisis at hand, backed by a plethora of scientific data with visible signs of distress we can no longer ignore. We have only the next decade to make a real difference.
Our oceans are rising, filled with harmful plastic and chemical waste, our once pristine coasts are riddled with litter, our forests are burning and our air is thick with pollution. After being taught as children to put our waste in the bin, without area-specific education on how to recycle, our landfills are filling and closing at alarming rates. Even closer to home is food filled with preservatives and hormones that are harmful to development and reproduction.
We have been placing our shared home under enormous pressure through our collective daily habits for a long time, it is however not all doom and gloom. We have many complex problems, but we also have thousands of simple solutions to starting solving many of them, most which we know benefit our mental and physical health.
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.
It only takes starting one eco-brick at home or at the office to realise not only how toxic our relationship with food and convenience is but how unnecessary snack and personal care packaging can be.
The good news is that many brands are trying to find ways to ditch plastic and poly-coated packaging in favour of alternatives and encouraging the use of reusables which are creative, more and more readily available and welcomed by more stores, cafes and restaurants.
While we realise that eco-conscious brands and products are often still a more costly privilege, there are many small, everyday changes that can be made by just about anyone. A great start is simply reducing our intake of snacks and pre-packaged ready-meals overall. In addition to this, opting for more natural, ethical personal care in larger, recyclable sizes is a great way to reduce our carbon footprint. It benefits our health, wealth and the environment.
Though packaging and single-use plastics are the most frustrating change to make, it acts as an effective catalyst in challenging our personal thought processes around our consumption. It provides the perfect opportunity to break a few habits and simplify our routines as well as making for great organic talking points to spread awareness and share our knowledge with others who may need a little nudge.
Ultimately our collective buying power will reshape what store shelves look like, we’ve already made great strides by opting for alternatives. Reusable cups, picnic cutlery, stylish reusable bags and masks quickly became prevalent in many stores in a very short space of time due to demand, proving the old age business principal of supply and demand to be a superpower when wielded mindfully.
Where to start?
- Find out if there are any local eco-brick initiatives with collection points so you can start stuffing all your clean, non-recyclable items. It’s also important to ask them for their preferred weights and bottle sizes as some bottles may be more suited to specific projects.
- Do a quick google search for recycling depots near your home and office and get a guideline from them on which items they recycle. There are a few great depots such as Oasis that employ differently abled and unskilled people to do the domestic sorting for you once you drop off your goods. This saves you time and space (no separate recycling bins) and offers them financial security and a sense of pride.
- Get thrifty! Cars, appliances and clothing have high carbon-emissions and depreciate and deteriorate rapidly so why not opt for a local trade in and great gently worn seasonal garments and accessories.
Eat in season and shop local.
Eating and shopping local is a pretty significant way to do your part not only for the environment but your community and local network of entrepreneurs. Beyond the sense of community it creates, carbon emissions are significantly reduced and food sources stabilised with preservatives for transit are avoided.
Many consumers are realising how many commercial meat and fish products are harming the environment through unsustainable practices such as overfishing, unethical agricultural practices and the excessive use of hormones and preservatives.
Ultimately we need to strive at reducing our overall intake of beef, lamb, pork and even chicken. When we do opt for meat, we should aim to support local artisans who use traditional, whole animal practices.
A great occasional alternative to meat or chicken is sustainably harvested fish. It has far lower carbon emissions, introduces a healthy source of protein into our diets, is rich in Omega-3, vitamins and minerals.
Make sure to purchase either from a local fisherman who catches within the limits of that area or opt for products in-store marked by a reliable sustainability body. This ensures that we’re supporting our local economy and know where our food is sourced from. In South Africa, look out for the SASSI sticker or if you’re in the states or abroad, your local trusted board such as the MSC.
Where to start?
- Do a quick google search on your local board such as SASSI or MSC to get a quick and easy guide on which species are sustainable in each season. Purchase only the green-listed species from reputable stockists or your favourite local fisherman.
- Get creative with chicken, it is far more carbon-savvy and is perhaps the most versatile meat. Often far healthier than most cuts of red meat.
- Get to know your local, daily bread and produce suppliers and support them rather than large chains as often as possible. Smaller businesses have far smaller carbon footprints; often due to the simplicity of their premises, processes and business models. This goes for clothing, jewellery and services as well, especially for events that call for items you may never use again.
Food security and soil quality is a sore point perhaps especially for developing countries like Africa where poverty and hunger are issues faced daily. Coupled with security is the issue of food waste. While the global hunger crisis won’t be remedied overnight, we as consumers can buy more responsibly, manage our waste better and give as much as 30% of our home waste back to the earth just by composting at home.
Making our own nutrient-rich compost gives our soil all it needs to thrive – free of commercial fertilisers. Excess compost can be shared with a local farm or amongst green-fingered neighbours. It makes for an easy contribution to a legacy of change.
Where to start?
- Realise that your food scraps do not self-compost in your trash or at the landfill. Organic matter trapped between layers of less organic waste is not exposed to enough air to decompose as it should. In turn, it creates harmful build ups of very harmful methane gas which is a huge contributing factor in the climate crisis. If you do not have the time or space to compost, consider collecting your scraps for a weekly drop off at a local farm or compost program.
- Check for home compost bins with your local municipality. Some have a limited amount available for the public at no cost. If your area doesn’t have compost bins, they’re available on many zero-waste and online stores. It also makes for a really fun DIY project if you’d like a tap to drain your compost tea rather than a basic sealed storage tub.
- A quick google search will reveal a very easy do and don’t list for home composting and the best ratios of certain organic matter for optimal composting.
To be a part of our solutions for ocean pollution consciousness, contact our team at #Sea The Bigger Picture.