How the pandemic is increasing plastics and 5 ways we can reduce plastic in our day-to-day lives.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
(Editor's note: This Action Pack was written during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020.).
What's a better month to talk about freedom from plastic than July, especially during the Plastic Pandemic?
Here’s what we’ll cover step-by-step:
Let's unpack some myths and facts about plastic during COVID and what we can do to eliminate (or at least reduce) our plastic consumption during a time when our personal safety seems to depend on it.
🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.
According to John Hocevar, the director of Greenpeace’s oceans campaign, “The plastic industry has really treated the Covid-19 emergency as an opportunity and is preying on people’s fear to scare them into believing that single-use plastic is the best way to stay safe. And so far, there isn’t any independent scientific research that supports that.”
Here are two articles that dig deeper into COVID 19's plastic impact:
We highly recommend reading both (it won't take you too long) and subscribing to HEATED, a daily newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis. It's written by Emily Atkin, who's been a climate reporter for years. She often features high profile guests like Al Gore.
Let's talk about these implications:
So, why are we rabbiting down this plastic hole if scientific research doesn't back it up? Well, for one, because of all the "studies" that have "proven" that reusable bags will spread coronavirus everywhere and worsen the pandemic. In her HEATED newsletter, Emily Atkin provides an absurd summary of three of these studies:
In conclusion, it's not that our switch to single-use plastic is scientifically unfounded. It just hasn't been found yet.
As we figure out the "right" thing to do, let's just start by reminding ourselves to check where our information comes from and question who makes and influences powerful decisions.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.
🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.
How is plastic made? Thanks to this 6-minute National Geographic video, we now know what a huge role Big Oil plays.
Most synthetic plastic is made from crude oil and natural gas. AKA fossil fuels! Here are the first four steps on how plastic is made, so you can see for yourself who's implicated in our plastic pandemic and who stands to win the most. This is important information, especially if we want to get involved in local policy and environmental advocacy and make real, lasting change.
The National Geographic video also comes with solutions, briefly introducing natural plastics (did you know that's a thing?) and bioplastics. There is hope!
P.S. - You can actually find out what goes into your plastics from their product info. Check out the video to learn more.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.
🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!
You already know this - sometimes it feels like our individual actions don't matter because large institutions like government and corporations make the most sweeping decisions. It's partially true, BUT we need to focus our actions on 1) everyday things we can do AND 2) ways to be accountable.
Lucky for us, Big Oil (who, as we learned, has the most to gain from the overuse of plastic) loves publicity and cares a lot about its image.
The following includes individual, systemic, short-term, and foundational actions you can take to go plastic-free (or at least "plastic responsible").
1. Sign up for Plastic Free July.
In their opt-in form, they give you so many options from the scale of change you're committing to to the duration of your pledge. Regardless of what month you're reading this, the content is super relevant and fun to follow. Pledge here!
2. Reuse your bags when you can.
This might be a controversial one, but we learned previously that the studies that associate coronavirus with reusable bags are not relevant, highly skewed, or both. These circumstances are ever-changing, so make sure you have reliable sources!
3. Read the 5 key points about fossil fuel corporate deception.
According to the HEATED newsletter (which we highly recommend), '59% of likely voters support holding fossil fuel corporations accountable for “misleading the public about the science and impacts of climate change.”' This is fantastic news! Get the overview of this deception here.
4. Join MeterLeader's Fossil Fuel Independence Challenge.
In last week's video, we learned that one source of plastic is natural gas, a fossil fuel. Take control over your own natural gas usage by joining this challenge. You can win prizes, and you'll be supported the whole way with email nudges and worksheets on how you can monitor/reduce your consumption. It's a great way to share your participation with the world. Remember, these companies care about your consumer habits.
5. Talk about it. Keep talking.
We firmly believe we need more serious, intergenerational discourse on plastic and fossil fuels. Figure out what motivates them—whether it's money, convenience, or something else - there's always a clean energy solution. Here's a starter of how you can have that conversation. Figure out a way to include plastic and climate issues in your social media. You can create change while still being on brand for the gram.
It's scary to think that the coronavirus pandemic might undo all the anti-plastic wins we've been celebrating, but it's truly a group effort. Let's rally together, raise awareness about corporate deception, and start thinking about how to change policy and action, not just hearts and minds.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.
Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!
🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?
As we think about long term alternatives to plastics, bioplastics are one of the most popular substitutes. But, are bioplastics the right alternative to our plastic problem?
The article, "What you need to know about plant-based plastics," a short 5-minute read answers the following:
What are bioplastics?
What's the argument for bioplastic?
That sounds great... so what's the problem?
Bioplastics seem like they could be a great step forward as long as it's done carefully and with humans in mind, not corporations. What do you think about the future of plastic?
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.
Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!