There is a saying: A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.
Unfortunately, at the moment most lawmakers, captains of industry and governments worldwide are not really thinking of planting the seeds for a sustainable society that will continue after they themselves pass on.
Despite warnings of a 5 to 10-year deadline to avoid worldwide climate change disaster, reactions are still too slow. Japan’s Cabinet is making plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the second half of the 21st century, a glacial pace that indicates we all need to pull together and save our home by pushing for more significant changes.
Besides petitions, supporting lawsuits, and pushing officials in your country/region to make changes in laws and crack down on those who don’t follow them, the best way to affect change is to hit businesses where it hurts: profits. By changing your consumption habits and those of your friends and family, we can reduce the market for resource-draining goods and services, helping to lighten our carbon footprints.
Reduce, reuse, recycle!
It is tough (although certainly not impossible) to go single-use plastic-free, but there are other types of plastics that are easier to turn down than others: plastic bags, plastic bottles/cups, straws and cutlery, including chopsticks.
The Problem: According to Simon Denyer of the Washington Post, each average person in Japan uses around 300 or 400 plastic bags a year. That is about one every single day for a year, or 40 billion annually for the entire nation! A study done by the Union of Kansai Governments found that there are three million plastic bags floating in Osaka Bay alone.
If you then think beyond bags to all the onigiri wrappers, plastic bottles, bento boxes, and wet tissues that usually constitute a single meal from a convenience store, the sheer amount of waste for just minutes of use is staggering and indefensible.
The Solution: Get yourself a sturdy metal canteen or reusable mug, dig out a pair of chopsticks and a couple of eco-bags from your cupboards and stuff them in your bag or backpack. With this basic, cheap kit you can easily refuse single-use plastic when on the go, and you may even be surprised by just how often you will find yourself saying “no thanks” to the stuff. I promise that within a month pulling out reusables will become a habit and won’t take up brain space or time.
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