Reducing plastic use bag by bag, straw by straw


Plastic is everywhere. I see it on the streets and roadsides. It is not only aesthetically disturbing, but might for instance, end up into to the tummies of grazing cattle and thus cause damage to the animals and the farmers’ livelihoods. Here in Namibia agriculture, especially cattle farming, is one of the main incomes together with tourism and mining.  Unfortunately, plastic affects our beautiful waters and beaches too. Over a year ago, I had friends visiting from abroad, and it was such a pride to show them my beautiful new home country, with all the abundant wildlife, camping and the bush I absolutely love! They truly enjoyed it too, until we came to my beautiful local beach…I couldn’t focus on enjoying swimming and beach life as I was collecting trash…mostly plastic straws!

That, and the way we so carelessly use plastic woke me up. I mean, on a regular beach day how many plastic straws do we use, if every drink is provided with one? Or better yet, how many plastic bags do we use per year, if we get 4 every time we go shopping groceries? (One could use this and other examples to calculate with kids on a maths class!) A lot of the plastic which ends up into the nature, is single-use, like those straws or grocery bags. One moment on someone’s drink, a lifetime in the sea. So, I have started to ask myself, is this necessary?

I must be very honest, I haven’t even tried being totally plastic-free, I wish one day I could reach there. Now, I am aiming to reduce my plastic use and reuse or recycle the plastic I do use. My posts are mostly related to education in general, but occasionally I also post about personal development. Aiming for more environmentally conscious life is one of my continuous personal goals.

When it comes to reducing my plastic use, I have some very simple and effortless steps that I take to ensure I am doing my part as well as I can, without complicating my own or my family’s life too much. Later, I can gradually add more phases towards a life with less plastic. If you are willing, I am sure you can try these too!

  1. I try my best not to get plastic bags from the store. I have bought a few grocery bags that I can use repeatedly. I know, sometimes one just forgets them home, and as I am totally one of those scatter-brained people, I try to make sure I keep them with me, placing them around, a few in the car and one in gym bag etc. As a great bonus, (at least in this part of the world) one can buy a reusable bag and support a local charity, as many charities and non-profit organisations have their own bags!shopping bags (2)
  1. I refuse plastic straws in the restaurants. As you read about my swimming experience on my very own beach, I got a good wake-up call with them. Since that moment, I have been seeing the plastic straws in a whole new light. I mean seriously, who needs them anyway? We can easily drink our drinks without them, and if need something to mix, we can use a normal spoon. I live in a beautiful holiday town filled with nice cafes and restaurants, and most of those cafes and restaurants bring a plastic straw with your drink, almost without an exception, unless you refuse. (sometimes they still do, it is so automatic!) In fact, according to a campaign called the last plastic straw, the consumption of plastic straws in US alone reaches 2,5 times around the globe in one single day! Isn’t that crazy? If you care about wildlife, just look for a video from YouTube searching for “sea turtle with straw in nose”. It is heartbreaking how the poor animal suffers.
  1. Reusable take away coffee mug. I quit drinking coffee over a year ago, due to issues I had with my tummy. Before I did though, I got a nice cup for myself. Some cafes nowadays may even give you a discount if you bring your own cup.
  2. Fruits and veggies in their own, reusable bags. This is something I really need to focus on still! Here in Namibia we don’t yet have reusable fruit bags in shops, easily available. Therefore, we need to really see a bit of effort in order to do this. Fortunately, many fruits such as bananas won’t even need a bag!
  3. Water bottles. This is also an ongoing personal struggle. I wish more restaurants and cafes would have a water automat, but most here in my town do not. I have had my fair share of tummy issues, and even though our water is safe to drink, it is not something I am used to as I am not from here. So, sadly I can’t drink tap water unfiltered.  Usually I try to bring my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere, but understandably in restaurants it is not always a good idea.

I think plastic use is often so automatic that none of us even think about it. I have been in situations, where I have handed my shopping bags to the friendly person packing my groceries ( I really appreciate those people in shops), only to notice a minute later that they were all packed in plastic bags AND then into my shopping bags! However, there is light in the tunnel, as is for instance the Namibian Miss Earth, Elize Shakalela promoting Plastic Free Namibia campaign. See her video message for Namibia here.

Trying to live a life reducing your plastic use might not be always easy, and there are downfalls (like forgetting those reusable bags home!), but there is a lot of information available online, and communicating and networking with likeminded people is always a clever idea! I joined a local group in Facebook called Zerowaste Namibia and already have received great ideas with regular support and motivation from them.

How have you reduced your plastic use? Please share your tips by commenting and help us all! Have you talked about the importance of reducing, recycling or reusing plastic with your children or your students? I’d love to hear how have you done this.

I invite all of you to join me and at least reduce your plastic use whenever you can. Leave the straws and the plastic bags, it is actually an effortless way to start!

Now who is with me?