‘I went plastic free for a month and you should too’: Meet the Edi student who didn’t use plastic for the whole of March
She sees herself as an environmentalist Neo from The Matrix
Let's be honest – most of us do fuck all about our plastic usage. We know it's terrible for the environment, yet the most we do to cut down is use one fewer plastic bag than normal when we go to Tesco.
Yet scientists are predicting that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050, so if we care about the planet we live on at all, we should probably take the issue of plastic usage a bit more seriously.
One student who's leading the way on this front is second year English Literature and French student, Holly Thomas, who went plastic free in March to show just how manageable it is. She spoke to The Tab about her experience and why the rest of us should follow her lead.
What made you want to do it in the first place?
Besides filling my time as a humanities student, it probably stemmed from me continuing to share videos and petitions on Facebook for things like asking supermarkets to ban plastic packaging. Ultimately, although they were good inspiration for my challenge, they really didn’t seem to be affecting anything.
A few years ago I decided to give up meat for a month, and as they say it only takes 21 days to force a habit, I automatically continued with it and now it’s part of my lifestyle.
So, I wanted to do the same with plastic. I kept thinking I wanted to reduce plastic waste but definitely wasn’t doing enough about it, so by setting a defined goal while I was at uni and had autonomy over what I was buying, it seemed a manageable challenge.
What inspired you to do the challenge?
Aside from Joey Tribbiani carrying a metal fork on him at all times, I don’t think there is necessarily one person or thing that inspired me. I do believe, in this circumstance, the power of social media can really influence people and things popping up on your Facebook that you might have expressed interest in slowly accumulate to colour your mind-set.
Educating people does take time, but that’s why things like sharing online petitions, although not obviously achieving anything immediately, is important, as it’s a way to simply advertise our impact on the environment. So, get out there and add some environmentalist hippies on Facebook, y’all.
Practically, was it difficult?
When you forget to get a basket in Tesco and you’re balancing a whole stack of veg up to your chin, then it’s practically difficult. But besides getting weird looks in the aisles (Lidl is a much more accepting space), it really is not any more difficult than buying everything in plastic. In fact, it saves more space in your rucksack plus fewer trips taking your trash out.
For some things it is a bit impossible to convert, like decent moisturiser or mascara, with these you have to bite the dust and just accept that at least it’s a plastic turnover of a few months as opposed to everyday groceries.
It becomes slightly trickier, or more time consuming, when you want to do something a little bit fancy (making homemade fajitas presented itself as too much of a challenge for a sub-average chef) so you just have to be more creative and leave more time. Besides complex Mexican carbohydrates, you do also probably end up doing more meal prep and baking.
So, for snacks I ended up making a lot of flapjacks, just because buying a pack of biscuits is impossible, and in general you have to plan out your meals a little more.
Price-wise, it’s really not an excuse as it’s not that much of a difference. You can find reasonably priced groceries, plus places like Lidl can be great for non-packaged stuff, so it’s just a little extra spending if you want cheese/meat/fish – a.k.a. you learn to be a little more vegan as a student.
Did it make a big difference to your day-to-day life?
Besides having to cut out my main food group of confectionery (Creme Eggs have been my saviour), it only makes a small difference of having to find new stores in your local area that you adapt to within the first few days.
Once you figure out where to get all your non-plastic alternatives, which are often closer than your nearest big supermarket, it just means hitting up a few shops as opposed to one big chain.
I do think you have to maybe accept a little less variety in your life, or at least when sussing it out as a student without a huge budget, but considering how much choice we have in supermarkets it’s really not that much of a sacrifice. It’s all about being less demanding of the planet (for example avocados are actually often not in plastic, but everyone knows the air miles on those in-demand babies, so gotta be mindful about what we demand).
How did you feel at the end of it?
Oh so smug. Very holier-than-thou. Cleansed, you might say. But in all seriousness, you do feel pretty chuffed with yourself and it is really satisfying to see the reduction in waste you’re putting into your bin.
Also, as frustrating as it then becomes to see everyone absent-mindedly throwing away tons of plastic, it makes you even more motivated to keep doing your bit to try to counteract it, if only fractionally.
Perhaps like Neo from the Matrix, once you are out of the (plastic) brainwashing, you can truly see the hideous reality of society. I'm an environmentalist Keanu Reeves, one might say.
Would you recommend it to others, and if so, why?
Without a doubt, it is such a good way to change your mindset concerning plastic. It is tricky convincing people though because it can go either way. I find that either people are already aware of their impact and just need a push to challenge themselves or the finite goal of a month to stick to, or people just do not want to hear it.
As patronising as it sounds, a lot of people do like to stay completely ignorant because it’s easier, which is really infuriating and so lecturing them is basically futile until they feel motivated to change on their own.
Not to be stereotypical, (and I’ll definitely get some hate for saying this) but you do find it’s non meat-eaters that are more willing to join the non-plastic movement as they are typically more concerned about their impact on the environment having already cut out the biggest element of their life that contributes to its damaging.
But I won’t go too far down that tangent, except to say that the no plastic month is definitely doable if you eat meat!
Are you planning on campaigning for less plastic usage in the future?
Yes, sir! After the really positive response to my Facebook status with a few people saying they’d also like to try a non-plastic month, I’m feeling motivated to explore how else I could influence or inspire people. #beyourowninspiration.
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