Reducing Plastic Waste: The Final Instalment

by | Sep 17, 2021 | Blog, MakeAPledge, Nature and climate, Society

Hello again my wonderful eco-warriors!

This blog post is actually my last in this ‘Make A Pledge’ series. First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to you all for following along with my journey! I have really enjoyed writing  these blogs, and I hope that I have managed to share some useful tips to help you reduce and recycle your own plastic waste. When I reflect back on my original pledge to “promote sustainability, particularly recycling initiatives, around Aarhus University and the city itself” I feel that I’m on my way to achieving it, however, this is definitely not the end of the road!

Have I achieved my pledge?

My Facebook group has turned into a lovely community who care about the environment and sustainability. At the moment the group has 90 members, and we share tips, advice and eco-friendly events with each other. So far we have been on one beach clean together, and I hope to organise another one very soon. I really think that community action is the way forward, and its really nice to be part of a group that is so supportive of climate action. I feel like I have definitely achieved  the part of my pledge to “promote sustainability” in Aarhus, and I’ve really enjoyed taking part in community action.

When it comes to promoting recycling initiatives, it’s been a little more tricky as both Denmark as a whole country and Aarhus University itself are currently updating their recycling systems. They have plans in action, however this process can take time, as the AU Sustainability Team informed me in one of our email exchanges. Until these changes have actually been implemented, it is hard to lobby for further changes and improvements, so at the moment I am (im)patiently waiting to see the final outcome. I can already see some positive changes however, for example it looks like part of Denmark’s new recycling system is going to include very clear and easy to understand labelling on products. This will match with the new labelling on some of the public recycling bins making it really simple to see what goes where. I’m really hoping this will encourage more people to recycle as it is now very obvious which bin to use, whereas on some of the older packaging you wouldn’t always know which symbol you were looking for, and it could be quite confusing (and frustrating)!

At Aarhus University small changes are starting to happen too! I spotted this poster in my classroom the other day, which shows that some of the sustainability plan is already being implemented. However, I’m sad to see that there are still no recycling bins and I’m hoping it’s only a short time before they arrive. Otherwise, I might have to set up that petition after all…

Since creating the page and writing these blogs I have also had some friends and family members reach out to me to tell me that they would be looking into making plastic-free changes in their lives, and asking for further advice or suggestions.

That has been absolutely amazing to hear! To all of you who have been following my journey and trying out my plastic-free tips I just want to say: I’m so grateful for your support and LOVE that you’ve come over to the ‘green’ side 😊  I think it just goes to show how a little effort can go a long way, and sometimes with sustainability it can just be a matter of sharing knowledge and looking for alternatives  – because if we all make small changes together, it can make a big difference!

Green Kayaking

I’ve mentioned the Green Kayak initiative a few times in my last posts, and I’ve finally got around to giving one a go! Greek Kayak own kayaks which they allow you to use for free, in exchange for collecting any trash you find whilst out on the water. I think this is a great initiative, as it’s great for the environment and also a lot of fun
The only ‘downside’ is that most of the Green Kayak locations only have one or two kayaks available, which means you can’t really go in a larger group, as I was hoping to do with some of the members from Facebook!

So instead, I went with my boyfriend to test it out and report back to the rest of the group. We had a super fun time, it was a very clear day and we saw some cool marine life . However, we got pretty ‘unlucky’ with our trash collecting…. There was absolutely no trash to be seen, apart from one old snorkelling mask !

I am not complaining about this at all, because it’s wonderful to see that the ocean around Aarhus is so clean right now – but that could change very quickly if we have a storm and plastic is washed into the bay from other parts of the ocean, so it’s always an ongoing battle! If you have a Green Kayak near you I would definitely recommend checking it out – it is free after all 😉 One really important thing to note about booking: they only allow you to book a month or more in advance, with no ‘last-minute’ booking available – so if you want to use one you do have to plan it beforehand!

Plastic-Free Tips

As this is my last blog, and my pledge has been focused on promoting sustainability and reducing plastic waste through community actions, I want to give you some tips for engaging with others about sustainability and promoting it even further, as well as some tips for yourself as you (hopefully!) continue on your journey to becoming plastic-free.

These are just some of the things I have learned on this amazing journey:

1. Do your research

Does anyone remember my very first blog, and my original plans? I had initially wanted to petition my university to introduce recycling bins – however, when I started looking into this and emailing with the sustainability team I realised that this was not necessary – we were getting the bins, but they had been delayed by Covid. So, if you want to make a change or promote/petition for a cause, don’t make the same mistake as me, and make sure you know all the up-to-date information about the situation,  because my journey was nearly over before it even started.

2. You have to put yourself out there

In the beginning I really didn’t have many members in the Facebook group, and I was feeling a little disheartened. However, I soon realised that I had not really promoted it anywhere, and how could people join a group they didn’t know existed? I then shared the group in Aarhus University’s own Facebook page for sustainability, and in an Aarhus Community Facebook page. This really helped and many new members joined. So, if you’re planning on organising a group, whether online or in real life, make sure people know about you, and really get the word out 😊

3. Have fun and remember no one is perfect!

There have been a few times during this pledge where I have felt guilty for not being completely plastic-free myself (for example buying a plastic bottle of water, because I have forgotten my own reusable bottle). I felt like I was being a bit hypocritical asking people to think about their own plastic use when I couldn’t even get it right all the time! But my friends reminded me that no one is perfect, and that we can’t all live a completely plastic-free life. They are of course so right; the important thing is to be aware of our own consumption habits, and to make changes to significantly reduce plastic use and waste. So, I made sure to put my plastic bottle into the recycling, so now I know it will be reused, rather than end up in landfill or the ocean. There are always something small we can do to make a difference, but being plastic-free is not a cult, and we can’t all get it right all the time. Don’t be too hard on yourself as you learn and grow into a new sustainable lifestyle! As the famous quote from Anne-Marie Bonneau rightly says:

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Remember, sustainability doesn’t happen overnight. I would say I started my plastic-free journey about 3 years ago, when I realised just how many plastic bottles I was buying and bought my first reusable water bottle. Since then it’s been a slow ‘snowball’ effect. I’ve gradually made switches to reusable or non-plastic versions of single use items, before finally realising that I felt so passionately about reducing and recycling plastic waste that I should get involved in some form of activism.

That’s why it’s been such an amazing opportunity to work with European Footprints and take part in the Make a Pledge initiative – they’ve given me the platform and confidence I needed to be proactive, and really helped me find my voice! If you want to get engaged in any type of activism but are a bit unsure where to start I would really recommend that you try to reach out to a relevant larger organisation and see if they have and opportunities for collaboration, or advice to help you get started! 😊

Thank you all once again for reading, and good luck with your sustainability journey, in whatever direction that takes you! Please do feel free to ask me any questions or tell me about your own experiences in the comments section  – I would really love to hear about it.

Lilia

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