Updated: Feb 23
One of Anglesey's beautiful beaches
Most of us know about, if not completely understand or can let alone calculate, our carbon footprint; “a measurement of the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the activities of a person, company, organization, etc.:” Cambridge Dictionary. But how many of us have considered our plastic footprint?
Without a doubt, plastic is a wonderful invention and plays an important and vital role in every sector of our lives today. It is used in the manufacture of medical instruments, building materials, including water pipes that save the lives of thousands of communities in drought-stricken countries around the world. It is used in the manufacture of lifesaving equipment. Safety helmets, lifejackets, life buoys and lifeboat ribs are all made of some form of plastic. We keep our food safe from contamination and for longer in plastic containers, and our houses warmer and quieter with uPVC double glazed windows. It is hard-wearing, economical, lightweight, and durable, and can be moulded and produced in all textures, strengths, shapes, and sizes. By itself, as a synthetic material, plastic is not a harm to the environment. Yes, the chemicals needed to produce it can cause harm and are toxic, and it is a sad fact that they do pollute our planet but for now, we cannot live without plastic in our lives. The harm of this lifesaving, durable, handy, easy-to-use, everywhere product, is not limited solely to its manufacture. Plastic becomes a global danger by the simple act of being disposed of carelessly, used without thought or consideration, and when it becomes a single use item.
“Choose wisely, Grasshopper”
Back in the 1970s, a popular television series of the time was ‘Kung Fu’. It saw the main character, a Shaolin Monk named Kwai Chang Caine, having to overcome obstacles and achieve several tasks given to him by his Shaolin Master. Kwai Chang Caine was given the name Grasshopper by his Master, and set one seemingly impossible task, which was to walk the length of a long strip of incredibly thin and light rice paper, without leaving a trace of his footprints. If achieved, this would symbolise that Grasshopper had learned to walk with such lightness of foot through life, that he left no trace of harm behind him. I am hazarding a guess here, in assuming that most of you (like us here at Seapig) are neither Shaolin Monks, nor have achieved walking across wafer-thin rice paper so lightly that we left no trace, but we do however, all leave behind a plastic footprint to some degree; it's unavoidable. We need plastics in our lives. We cannot live without them at this present time. It is crucial though, that each of us leave behind as small a plastic footprint as possible.
If plastic is such a wonderful invention, why the bad name recently? Why is it increasingly getting a bad press? Without writing pages and pages on the subject (and boring the pants off you), it could be said to boil down to two factors: human beings and single-use plastics (SUPs). Today, especially here in the West, society has become largely a throw-away culture. Most plastic is recyclable though. Of those plastics that cannot be recycled at present, polystyrene and plastic wrapping are the two main unrecyclable plastics out there. So, why is there such a problem? Affordability and easy accessibility of single-use plastics is just too hard to resist for most. Then, add in the factor that a large amount of the world’s population (western included here) just will not recycle, and the fact that many people still drop their litter wherever and whenever they want, and you have the massive problem of plastic pollution that we have today. Reusing a plastic item helps to cut the family budget, as well as world pollution, and nowadays, there are a growing number of plastic alternatives out there if we want to avoid buying plastic in the first place.
Single-use plastics aren’t always what we immediately think of. The commonly known ones are the usual suspects: water bottles, milk bottles, fizzy drinks bottles, food and product packaging, bubble-wrap, polystyrene packaging, crisps packets and plastic straws. But consider these others lesser thought of culprits: plastic egg cartons, polystyrene takeaway boxes, cigarette butts (yep, there’s plastic in those butts), wet-wipes, balloons, disposable gloves, sauce sachets, plastic cutlery, cotton buds, first-aid plasters, hair bands, elastic bands, sticky tape, plastic bottle tops, and the list goes on and on and on…
Flip the switch
Thankfully, there are a growing number of plastic alternatives available now. A few may cost a fraction more initially than their throw-away counterparts, but in the long-term they work out much cheaper because they are meant to be reused, whereas single-use plastics, as the name implies, are a one-time/short-term product and, if we think about it, we are literally throwing our money away at the end of the day with SUPs.
The ditch and switch list:
A few of the ‘Goodies’
The Power of the Purse
Every penny counts! To a lot of us, much more than others. But what most of us don’t realise or possibly consider, is how much power our purse or wallet holds. Whoever holds the purse, decides how that ‘power’ is spent, and in what direction, and for what purpose or cause. Suppliers supply to the demand. Manufacturers manufacture for the market. The owner of the purse buys what is needed and wanted. The first two cannot exist without the last. So, if we all used that power to ‘vote’ with our purses every time we shopped, just think what a difference we could make! And no need to spend big here to make big changes. Just a small change in our weekly shop, would make a big change collectively. For example, if from now on, not a single soul bought plastic sticky tape but demanded the non-plastic alternative instead, a few things would happen in quick time, (besides all of us running out of plastic sticky tape that is). The manufacturers and suppliers would have to change tack (pun intended) and their production lines, to start meeting the soaring demand for the plastic-free sticky version. Prices of this eco-friendly tape would drop as demand rose and it became be mass-produced, there would be less plastic pollution in our landfills and oceans but most importantly, we will have caused a stir, and reminded the business and marketing world about the power of the purse held by each and every one of us, and that if we the public wants to change something badly enough, we can, and they have no choice but to follow.
We are in this together…
All of us at Seapig genuinely care for our planet. To us, as most likely to all of you who have taken the time to read this post, we are not only interested in but believe in, sustainability, manufacturing and buying products that are ethically sourced, and keeping our impact on the environment as low as possible. It isn’t easy in today’s world but at least we are trying. More businesses are springing up every day, which share this ethos with us and are delivering a service and goods to meet this ever-growing demand of ethically sourced, sustainable products. We would be delighted if you took a little more time out of your busy day, grabbed a cuppa (or refilled the one you may already have) and have a browse through the Seapig Store website here https://www.seapigstore.com or below. It is full of inspiring products and gifts, made makers and artisans who care for this planet of ours and are conscious of the footprints they leave behind.
Oh, one last thing...
Merry Christmas to you all, from everyone here at Seapig. See you in 2022!
Written for Seapig by Lizzie Hudson
Photographs courtesy of: Lizzie Hudson, Seapig and
Lisa Redfern www.flickr.com