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Earth Day: Planet vs plastics

What has using less plastic got to do with wellbeing? This Earth Day's theme - planet vs plastics - has me thinking about the psychology of consuming & convenience, the concept of

throwing "away" and our connection to our planet, our home. I'll also suggest some small but important ways you can support team Planet and reduce your plastic use.


Reciprocity

My personal nature connection practice includes reciprocity; the exchange of care between myself and the rest of the natural world. I benefit greatly from my time in the woods, local parks, the lakes and sea I swim in and my garden which is a sanctuary for my family and clients. As a therapist, and as a human, I know how important relationships are and a connection to nature is just that; it's a relationship. Whether we're talking about what we eat, what we wear, where we work, rest and play... we're always, on some level, talking about how we are in relationship to nature.

So, considering how you use plastic is a way of being mindful within that relationship and holding yourself compassionately accountable for your impact on our planet.


"We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." - Anne Marie Bonneau

Note the use of the word compassion there - this is not about guilt tripping, shaming or ranting as none of those things inspire positive action. Neither is this a request for perfection or unrealistically high standards. Let's be open, informed and curious about what we, as individuals and communities, can change for the better.


Understanding the problem - and owning your part in it.

Plastic, especially single use stuff like packaging, cups, drinking straws etc, has been highlighted as one of the worst offenders in terms of environmental damage. From the toxic chemicals used in production to the damage litter causes in our green and blue spaces, it's impossible to deny the problem. I think most of us feel upset, angry or sad when we see packaging on roadsides, scattered on the beach, wrapped around branches or worse, the necks of birds or other wildlife.


The Earth Day website explains how plastic pollutes our playgrounds, nature reserves, seas and even our bodies:

Plastics extend beyond an imminent environmental issue; they present a grave threat to human health as alarming as climate change. As plastics break down into microplastics, they release toxic chemicals into our food and water sources and circulate through the air we breathe.


Reading some of the facts is nauseating and can quickly feel overwhelming. That's where we need to pause, breathe and focus in on what we can directly control and indirectly influence.


What you can control (to at least some degree): what you buy, what you reuse, where you shop, products you use, what you eat, how you vote etc

What you can influence: the choices of friends & family, behaviours of companies through your actions & communications,

You are not powerless and your choices - especially over a period of time - do make a difference.


Consuming

Let's take the example of going to get a takeout coffee and bar of chocolate. A nice little treat.

But it contains 2 single use plastic items: the cup (including the lid) and the chocolate wrapper. You own both of these for less than 30 minutes before they're put in the bin. Throwing things away is so incredibly common that we don't really think about it, until someone asks us....where is this "away"? It's out of sight out of mind but the reality is that much of our waste is buried in landfill where it can take hundreds of years to break down, poisoning the earth as it does so. The reality is, our consumption has consequences.


Remember, the aim of this awareness is not to induce shame or be 'told off' (I throw 'away' plastic items myself) but just like in a therapy session it is to face the truth of the situation with curiosity, courage and compassion, so that we can make positive change.


For a detailed guide on how to do this I fully recommend the beautifully illustrated book Hope Is a Verb by Emily Ehlers. I'll share some tips, resources and product recommendations below.


Keep connecting & caring

Making environmentally friendly choices starts with caring about the planet - but we can't care about what we're not connected to. Nature connection, perhaps through forest bathing, mindfulness, gardening, conservation or leisure is a crucial part of looking after the environment. So keep reminding yourself that you are part of nature and finding ways to stay connected to the rest of the living world.


5 Easy ways to reduce your plastic use

  1. Embrace refills - see if there's a zero waste/refill store near you and consider getting your cleaning products and dry food items like pasta, rice or cereals from there. You take a container you already own and put the products in there, the price is done by weight and usually works out cheaper than from the supermarket. If you're in Salford, where I live, you can go to Oats & Honey (and get a coffee whilst you're there!).

  2. Reusable drink containers - I don't leave home these days without my water bottle (it keeps the water cold too) and coffee cup. Lots of coffee shops offer a discount for using a reusable cup too - win win for you and the environment!


3. Eco friendly companies like Smol and Naked Sprout deliver household items like loo roll, laundry capsules, toothpaste and more to your door - convenient, no compromise on quality and plastic free.


4. Plastic packing is almost impossible to completely avoid but you can take soft plastics to many supermarkets to be recycled. Look out for collection points near you.


5. Almost any plastic item can be reused or recycled - companies like Terracycle provide services for collecting plastics and turning them into new things like playground flooring. There are collection points you can access - for things such as contact lens packaging - or you can send things off from home.


Don't forget that many small actions over time make a big difference, so keep making mindful, nature friendly choices and maybe encourage your family and friends to do the same.




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