"Can I really make a difference?"
YES! It's easy to think that no one person is going to save the world, because it's partly true. One person's actions are a drop in the ocean. But thankfully, not just one person is working on this problem. The fact that you're reading this testifies to that! In our local communities, in our country, and around the world people are making changes. They may seem small, but they add up in amazing ways. When we use our collective voice, we have the power to change things for the better. Here are some examples of how individual actions have brought change:
1. plastic bans
As more people become aware of the plastic crisis, public outcry has forced governments into action. As a result, bans on single use plastics are cropping up all over the world. Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags in 2002, and the numbers only go up from there. To date, 50 countries have banned or taxed plastic bags in some way. Kenya holds the title of strictest ban, and it seems to be working!
Single use straws are also facing heat. California prohibits restaurants from giving out straws unless the customer has specifically requested it. The EU has also banned plastic straws, as well as plastic cutlery, stir sticks, and styrofoam cups. Actions are pending in New York City, Hawaii, and elsewhere.
While these single use bans are by no means the solution to all our plastic problems, it is the first step. We can't stop here, but we can start here.
2. widespread popularity
As more people join our mission, our voice gets louder! And when our collective voice is louder, people listen. Sure, our friends and our families listen, but so do big players--the media, corporations, governments. Have you noticed how many documentaries are talking about the plastic crisis? Have you seen the extremely popular zero waste Youtubers and bloggers? Being plastic-free is going mainstream, and that's only because we keep talking about it! What we as individuals say and do has an accumulative effect, so let's harness that power wisely!
3. industry change
We're starting to see slow but consistent ripples in the industry. See if these examples happily surprise you: Lego is ditching the single use plastic bags in their boxes. Seventh Generation has released a line of plastic-free cleaning products. Sony Pictures has pledged to eliminate single use plastics, starting with plastic water bottles. These are small, baby steps. But we can use these wins to fuel even more change in the future.
4. mass organizing
There are so many amazing groups out there doing incredible work. There are small, localized groups organizing for change in their communities (like Viroqua Plastic Free) and there are networks of groups working together internationally to end plastic pollution worldwide. People are petitioning their governments, gathering in mass protest, and demanding change. When we pool together our individual efforts, it's no longer just a drop in the ocean. It's a tidal wave.