Empowering environmentalism: 10 Easy switches to cut down on Single Use Plastic

In our culture it isn’t easy to live without single use plastic – that’s the stuff that is used for a matter of minutes and then discarded. Go into any supermarket and notice what most of the packaging is made of, and you’ll find it all over the shop, literally! You’ve all seen the pictures and videos – single use plastic is destroying our oceans, killing wildlife, and causing harm to us too by harbouring carcinogens. I’m not going to focus on the negatives here, but on positive solutions.

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By refusing single use plastic where we can, we are acknowledging that we don’t want to be a part of the damage that it is causing. This will inspire those around us too, and put pressure on companies to use less plastic in their packaging. It’s not about shaming or feeling guilty for the products we buy that are packaged plastic, it’s about being proud of the choices we make that do reduce the amount we use. We’ve a long way to go before plastic free living becomes commonplace, but as a wise man once said:

“Be the change you want to see in the world” (thank you, Ghandi!)

It’s very difficult to live without single use plastic completely, but there are lots of ways to vastly reduce the amount we use. Here are ten really simple switches you can make to achieve this.

1. Ditch the plastic water bottle.

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Lets start with the easiest and most obvious! With campaigns from such trendsetters as Selfridges encouraging us to refill our trusty bottles, (the #OneLess campaign in conjunction with ZSL), plastic bottles are so 2015! Single use plastic water bottles are one of the most common items of marine litter we find on beaches: we are using 38.5million plastic bottles in the UK every day! And yet with the safe drinking water we have in the UK, they are one of the simplest things to live without. Get yourself a reusable bottle, and get into the habit of filling it up before you leave the house, and refilling it when you’re on the go. It can be daunting at first, but I have never been refused a refill in pubs, shops, cafes, even the airport. There are also some great refill schemes around the country, particularly in the South West whereby local businesses advertise with a sticker in their window that they’re happy to give you a free refill. It’s a win win – cheaper for you, safer for the planet. Check out

Refill Bristol and

Clean Cornwall’s Turn on the Tap

2. Take a reusable bag with you wherever you go

I seem to have accumulated enough cloth bags now that there’s fortunately always one lurking in my van or my rucksack (and there would presumably be one in my handbag if I had one). If, like me, you’re best attribute isn’t forward planning, then take that responsibility off your plate and litter your travelling items with reusable bags that you can whip out and impress your mates with when you accidentally find yourself buying scooby snacks out and about! With the 5p plastic bag charge, fortunately the number of plastic bags being used in the UK has reduced by 80%. If you do forget your bag, the waddle out of the shops with your pockets stuffed full of purchases and recently bought items toppling in a delicate balancing act can be classed as a sport – no need to go to the gym that day! But still advisable to take a reusable bag with you if poss.

3. Buy a reusable coffee cup.

This is one of my favourites, because I have convinced myself that it legitimises buying posh coffees from local coffee shops. Almost daily. This has become one of my favourite pastimes, alongside running into the sea like a child, giggling like a maniac. There are some really lovely reusable coffee cups out there for sale, and some ingenuously eco-friendly ones. My favourite coffee cup at the moment is a Klean Kanteen double layered vacuum cup, which claims to keep drinks hot for 4 hours. I can attest to this – sadly I often get dragged into an emergency as soon as I re-enter the hospital building after a lunchbreak, with the aforementioned posh coffee in hand. Said coffee will take a back seat, I’ll return to it 3 hours later to find it still piping hot. No posh coffee goes to waste on my watch!

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Other options are the ecoffee cups which come in some amazing colours and patterns and are made out of bamboo! Check out the Surfers Against Sewage shop for these and some other awesome plastic free bits

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4. Microbeads

Microbeads are the ninjas of the single use plastic world. If you haven’t yet heard of them, they are tiny, sometimes microscopic, bits of plastic that sneak their way into some cosmetics such as scrubs. What’s particularly dangerous about them is that they’re washed down the drain, and eventually into the ocean, where fish ingest them. They’re really tricky little bits of plastic because once they’re in the ocean, they’re impossible to find. So how do you know if the cosmetics you’re using contain microbeads? Get the free Beat The Microbead app: http://www.beatthemicrobead.org – you can scan the barcode on a product and the app will let you know if it contains them or not. Super easy. Then don’t buy it. There are plenty environmentally friendlier alternatives.

5. Sanitary products.

This is often a tricky subject to broach. Ladies, I know as well as you do that compromising on sanitary care is simply not an option. It’s bad enough feeling that many emotions in the space of 24 hours without having to use some weird plastic free product to stay clean. Well. Let me tell you. I started using a mooncup, and it has changed my life. Literally. We have periods for about 20% of each month, which is a fairly big chunk of time, so finding a product that works for you is really important. I never ever thought that for me, that would be a mooncup – having seen it advertised at Glastonbury festival I thought it was an exclusive club for hippies only. Not only has the mooncup meant I can be proud to have plastic free, and indeed completely waste free, periods, it also lets me surf longer without thinking about my period, travel longer without worrying about where I’m going to be able to get hold of tampons, and, in an ironically hippie way, reconnect with my body and what’s normal for me with no unnatural products causing it harm. It’s a fluster-free period, and for adventuring, long periods of time out at sea, and comfort, for me it’s the only choice. If mooncups really aren’t your gig, there are reusable sanitary towels too. If tampons are your go to and you’d rather not change that thank you very much, then there are plenty out there with cardboard applicators rather than plastic ones. If we think about how many we’ll use in a lifetime, making this simple switch can reduce plastic consumption a whole lot. And whatever you use, please remember not to flush any of it down the toilet. Even tampons can block drains, cause sewage overflows and end up in the ocean. And quite frankly, I get a bit squeamish picking up plastic applicators off the beach which have been flushed somewhere far away. Grim.

6. Fruit and veg

It can be a little bit tricky to find all the fruit and veg you would normally eat unwrapped. But there are ways! I’ve found an amazing farm shop in Halberton (Devon) which has loads of unpackaged fruit and veg including… drum roll… farm grown kale!! Those of you reading this who try and live plastic free will, I’m sure, understand the importance of this: Kale is almost always wrapped in a plastic bag in supermarkets. There are heaps of farms around the country that will deliver you a fresh, local veg box, and you can always ask if they’ll bring their produce to you without plastic wrapping. If your only grocery shopping opportunities come in the form of a supermarket, which is unfortunately often the case, then choose the loose items where you can and don’t take one of those little plastic bags too put them in – it kind of defeats the object! Most supermarkets have some fruit and veg that’s unwrapped.

7. Straws

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What is the point of the plastic straw? Ok, it can be fun sipping your cocktail through a small tube, and I know as well as anyone that drinking prosecco this way gets you nice and giddy. But we have mouths. So for the sake of a few minutes of straw time, we’re releasing an unnecessary item of plastic into the environment that’ll persist for upwards of 200 years, causing harm the whole way. I was recently in Indonesia, and in 20 minutes on one beach I collected over 100 straws. All probably used for a matter of minutes. You can buy reusable straws which are really nice to drink from. In Indonesia I had a lot of fun with my mate challenging each other to remember to ask for no straw when we ordered our drinks, and then observe the bemused looks of the staff when we produced our own. (We had a very fun holiday). If you don’t have a reusable straw, just try and drink your drinks using the versatile and ever useful lips that we were blessed with. Drinking a fresh coconut in this way is particularly pleasant and much more fun!

 

8. Meat and bread

I appreciate how hard it can be to source meat safely without plastic wrapping. I don’t eat much meat, but occasionally I crave it. So when I do, I make a point of taking a clean tupperware to the local butchers and amusing the staff by asking for my meats to be put into this instead of wrapped in plastic. It is less convenient than buying it ready packaged in the supermarket, but I also really value quality meat of high welfare standards too, so for me buying the odd bit of locally reared meat in this way feels right. Similarly with bread, if you have a bakery locally, can you fit going there a couple of times a week into your routine to pick up freshly made bread without the packaging?

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9. Shower gel

There are lots of home recipes out there for making your own shampoo and conditioner, and even toothpaste, so if that’s your thing, give it a google. A bit of advice from personal experience: if you’re planning to make your own conditioner with apple cider vinegar, just read the instructions properly and don’t get too excited like I did and pour the vinegar straight onto your head if you don’t want to smell like a bag of crisps for a week. Shower gel was, for me, the easiest product to switch. There are some lovely soap bars out there, check out Spiezia Organics (ooft they smell good) http://www.madeforlifeorganics.com, or another local producer – there are loads of places making soap bars now with no plastic packaging. They are more natural too and eliminate the chance of accidentally buying a product containing microbeads.

10. Household cleaning products.

I use Ecover because you can refill the bottles at various places across the country, hence not buying any new plastic bottles. Their products smell lovely and are natural too, so you’re also not washing harmful chemicals down the drain to harm the environment. Ecover are also recycling marine litter into their washing up liquid bottles! Check out their website for more info http://www.ecover.com

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Remember – using less plastic in your life shouldn’t be a chore, nor should there be guilt for the plastic you do use. It’s about the empowerment and pride that comes from choosing to make positive changes in your life that you know safeguard the environment, both locally and at large. And the more important this becomes for individuals, the more pressure there is on companies to make it easier for us to live without single use plastic.

Thank you, and keep up the good stuff! We’re all in this together – collectively we can really make difference.

P.S. – Where you can’t avoid plastic, don’t forget to recycle!

 

Isle of Skye 2017

I’m super stoked to announce Paddle Against Plastic’s next expedition! This year, a little different…

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In July and August 2017, myself Cal Major, and my friend Zoe Satsias and her dog, Skye, will be circumnavigating the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I’ll be stand up paddle boarding its 400 miles of stunning, exposed and untouched coastline; Zoe and Skye will be land-based, running and hiking through varying terrain. We’ll meet up at pre-determined meeting points to camp and catch up. We’re excited, determined and having heard horror stories of the sea conditions, a little bit nervous!

Cal:Zoe:Skye pre expedition

Zoe and I are both vets and passionate conservation advocates, and I am a Surfers Against Sewage regional rep; our passion is driving us to reach out to people in a bid to help protect the natural environment and wildlife we love and care about so desperately. We’ll be focussing, of course, specifically on the marine litter crisis! The belief is that by reconnecting people to nature and highlighting the issues being faced, we can nurture within them a desire to make more informed choices which safeguard the planet and its wildlife from the devastating effects of plastic pollution, whether this is individuals making a difference on a small scale or business owners changing the habits of their enterprise.

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80% of marine litter originates from land based sources.

By highlighting the plastic found at sea and on remote beaches, we’ll demonstrate the union between land and sea and how the products and packaging used on land affect the oceans too. Importantly, we’ll propose simple solutions that we can utilise in every day life to help protect the environment at large and also our own special places and communities. The focus is not on the negativity or doom and gloom of the marine litter crisis, but on the positive solutions that are so easy to implement! It is a call to action.

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Why the Isle of Skye?

The Isle of Skye is a beautiful, wild, remote island, famous for its wildlife, mountainous interior and rugged, dramatic coastline. However, in spite of its remoteness, and as with all of the British coastline, the Isle of Skye is vulnerable to plastic pollution. The expedition will serve to highlight the stark contrast in that even the beaches, waters and wildlife of the most untouched islands in the British Isles are affected by marine litter. We also wanted to create an exciting and unusual challenge! The West coast of Scotland will be a very difficult place to paddle board: Stand up paddle boarding is a slow going method of ocean travel, vulnerable to wind, tides and ocean swell, all of which are familiar companions of the rugged coast of West Scotland. Zoe and Skye’s land expedition will also be exposed to Scotland’s famously changeable weather and hilly terrain.

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We’ll be filming the expedition, and creating a daily diary of our experiences, the marine litter we’re coming across, and the wildlife that we are encountering which is vulnerable to the pollution. We hope to spread the message as far and wide as possible, and empower individuals to make positive choices that will actively protect our environment.

The expedition will start on 24th July: There’ll be lots more to come in the following weeks!

To keep up to date with our progress:

Twitter @PaddleVsPlastic @major_cal

Facebook Paddle Against Plastic UK

Instagram @paddleagainstplastic

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Paddle Against Plastic 2016

Watch the Video here!

 

Many of us have noticed the sheer amount of litter on our beaches, and in our oceans. Plastic on our beaches has increased 180% in the last 20 years, and is causing serious problems for our oceans’ health. It is estimated that over 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and over a million sea birds die every year as a direct result of marine litter.

The majority of marine litter is plastic. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists.

It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t ever go away. It might fragment into smaller pieces, and “degrade” over times, but in the process it leaches dangerous chemicals into our environment.

Since 80% of marine litter originates from land-based sources, the less we use on land, the less ends up in our oceans.

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Photo: Greg Martin

In the UK we use 13 billion plastic bottles every year, and they are one of the most common things found on UK beach cleans. You’ve probably seen them yourself, dotted around the place. If you haven’t, just keep an eye out next time you’re at the beach and I guarantee it won’t be long before you bump into a rogue bottle. Pickng them up and removing them from the environment is a great step to help protect our oceans, and I encourage you to do so! With the advent of, for example, Surfers Against Sewage’s community beach cleans and the #2minutebeachclean, more and more people are understanding the positive impact that they can have by removing a couple of pieces of litter from their beloved beach every time they head down.

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However. In the UK we are blessed with safe, clean, abundant drinking water. So why do we need to buy all of these plastic bottles in the first place? Using a refillable alternative will reduce the cost to the individual, and help to safeguard our oceans and our planet from the stress imposed upon it from the production and disposal of plastic bottles. Recycling is a great step. However, the amount of oil required to produce a plastic bottle in the first place would fill about 25% of its final volume, and to make a 1 litre plastic bottle uses 7 litres of water.

This August, I am going to Stand Up Paddleboard 260 miles around the entire Cornish coast and into North Devon, from Wembury to Croyde. That’s the equivalent of 10 marathons. It isn’t going to be easy, and I have never embarked upon a challenge like this before, but I hope to demonstrate just how easy it is to use less plastic in our lives, and as a result to reduce the amount ending up in our oceans. Training is well underway, and I will freely admit to loving the opportunity to eat more carbs then you can shake a stick at. The six pack is coming on well, although is currently looking more like a three pack after a 6 hour one-sided paddle against onshore winds last weekend!

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Photo: Jack Stevenson

In exchange for my challenge, I am challenging you to go without buying a plastic water bottle this summer, and to use a refillable one instead!

You can get hold of refillable water bottles all over the place. I am a fan of Stainless Steel bottles, the water tastes better – you don’t get that horrible plastic taste if it’s sat in your car (or van) for too long, and it’s healthier for you not to be drinking from plastic vessels too!

You can pick up Stainless Steel water bottles online at the Surfers Against Sewage shop, and support a great cause in the process. Use the discount code againstplastic at the checkout for 10% off Klean Kanteen bottles.

Visit the SAS shop for reusable water bottles!

If you and/or your SUP club would like to come and join for some of the paddle, please get in touch! You can email me at paddleagainstplastic@gmail.com

You can follow my progress on

Facebook – Paddle Against Plastic 2016

Twitter – @PaddleVsPlastic

Instagram @paddleagainstplastic – use the hashtag #paddleagainstplastic and post your pics with reusable water bottles – best pic wins a prize!

We’ll be having Beach Cleans and fun events along the way and would love for you to join – please see below for dates. More information can be found on the Paddle Against Plastic 2016 Facebook page.

Come and visit us at the Surfers Against Sewage tent at Boardmasters (provided I’ve made it round Land’s End!)

If you would like to donate to Surfers Against Sewage to help continue their work in protecting our oceans and beaches, please visit my JustGiving page

Schedule:

Sat 30th July – Wembury Beach clean and send off event with Rock Pooling

Sun 31st July – Whitsand Bay beach clean event

Wednesday 3rd August – Falmouth beach clean event

Sunday 7th August – Sennen Beach clean event

Tuesday 9th August – St Ives Beach clean event

Wednesday 10th until Sunday 14th August – Boardmasters SAS tent

Wednesday 17th August – Widemouth Beach clean event

Saturday 20th August – Croyde event and party

Welcome to Paddle Against Plastic!

This August I will be paddle boarding 260 miles around the Cornish Coast and beyond, from Wembury to Croyde, in order to raise awareness of the marine litter crisis. I’ll be focussing on single use plastics and their detrimental effect on the ocean, in particular plastic bottles, and proposing simple solutions that individuals can effect!

thumbnail_SASchq_037.jpgIn conjunction with Surfers Against Sewage, we’ll be running beach cleans and events along the way, and inviting you to get involved.

Every year thousands of tonnes of single use plastic items find their way into our oceans where they pollute the water, damaging the health of the oceans which are vital to sustaining our life on the planet, and harm unsuspecting wildlife.

Use the hashtag #paddleagainstplastic, follow me on Twitter @major_cal or @paddlevsplastic or on Facebook Cal Major or Paddle Against Plastic 2016, and show us what you’re doing to help alleviate the problem.

IMG_0340.jpgI’m inviting fellow paddlers, whether on a paddle board, surf board, kayak or whatever craft you choose, to join in for legs of the paddle along the way!

If you would like to donate to Surfers Against Sewage, to help continue their dedicated and incredible work in continuing to protect our oceans, beaches and surfing sites, you can use the link below to my JustGiving page.

Thank you for visiting PaddleAgainstPlastic.com

http://www.justgiving.com/Cal-Major