June 5th is World Environment Day, the date that the United Nations designated to raise awareness of the environment and focus political attention and action worldwide.
World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another resolution, adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of United Nations Environment Programme.
Communities around the world get together for street rallies, parades and concerts, with activities such as tree planting and rubbish clearing also featured. This year, the focus was on beating plastic pollution and this seems particularly pertinent in the light of the Blue Planet impact and the increasing popularity of Plastic Free Coastlines, Plastic Free Communities, schemes such as the #2minute beach clean and other movements.
Can you be plastic free?
Conversations, both socially and in business, frequently include the problem of plastics and how difficult it is to live a totally plastic free life. I am sure it is possible but only if you want to avoid all modern technology, grow your own food and make all your own clothing from natural fabrics, avoiding any plastic fastenings. It’s possible, but not easy.
At the other extreme, there are many people for whom the whole plastic free debate passes by unnoticed. No matter what is said to them or what examples are raised, they will continue to consume single use plastic without a second thought, and recycling is a dirty word.
Some time ago, when I was getting very worked up about the amount of plastic in my life, a very good friend, and ardent environmentalist, wisely advised me that I should focus on what I COULD do to help protect the environment and natural resources, and not what I COULDN’T.
Almost immediately, I felt less like the rabbit in headlights, panicking about every bit of plastic that comes through my life, and more empowered to make the changes I could and mitigate the impacts of those I couldn’t.
My guilty secret
I wear daily disposable contact lenses. Tiny bits of plastic, in plastic pouches that are used for a few hours every day and then thrown away. I have tried using monthly ones, but my eyes are too old, dry and scratchy for this to be viable. I do wear glasses, but I spend a lot of time outside and walking in the rain is lovely, but with glasses you can’t see where you’re going! Plus, I am rather vain and believe I look better without glasses!
To mitigate this, I have limited the number of days per month I wear contact lenses, using glasses for the rest of the time. I am hoping that one day, there will be an alternative to plastic lenses or more accurately ‘oxygen-permeable plastic polymers containing silicone and fluorine’.
Focus on the positive
So, this Environment Day, I celebrated the things I can do – avoid unnecessary plastic, recycle or reuse and help educate others who want to do their bit but aren’t sure where to start. If everyone who is passionate about the environment and wants to make a difference, can share their passion and knowledge with one other person, then bit by bit we will have an influence on our wider community and society.
In the same way as smoking was once accepted everywhere and is now confined to fewer people and places, so perhaps single use plastics will become the exception rather than the norm.
So, if environmental issues are getting you down, focus on the good bits – smell the beautiful flowers, watch a bee as it goes about its work, marvel at the birds in the sky or take a walk on the beach and feel the sand between your toes. If we focus on the positive, we will target our energies and efforts on protecting what we can and not become paralysed by all the things we can’t.