So far, my plastic-free journey has been tough, but really eye-opening. I have managed to cut down a good 70% of my waste, just by changing the way I shop and the products I use. Some might find this amazing or “impossible”, but the changes are easy to make once you work out where to find the products you want in a plastic-free setting.
However one thing I have struggled with is receiving things from other people. Now I don’t mean things like presents, as these can be avoided if you tell your family and friends that you are pursuing a waste-free lifestyle (and hopefully they will support you!). Instead I mean when you are out and about, especially in shops and department stores. Several times when I have been into a pharmacy I was given a pack of tissues or sachets of cough drink that I didn’t ask for but they give you for free, but I felt too shy to say no or talk about why I didn’t want them. And now I have a few of them on my shelf that I don’t want to use. Obviously it is a little harder when you are living in a country that you can’t speak the language, but it did make me wonder why I was so scared to say something.
I reckon that is probably stems from being the youngest child in the family hence the shyness, but also goes deeper into my Indian heritage. The fact is, we have a terrible habit of not taking “no” for an answer. You go to visit a relative after dinner, and they’ll force-feed you barfi, even when you tell them that you just ate a three course meal. Elders will often give children or new visitors gifts for coming to the house, and you really cannot refuse. It would be rude and even insulting to do so. And I think this fear has spread to the rest of my life, being anxious about saying no in front of people because I think they will be insulted.
But perhaps there is another reason too. A waste-free life is still an uncommon thing that not many people have heard about. And so to start talking about it can feel strange, or you might feel like people will think you are different for living your life like this. Or you may even feel like you are up on a soapbox, preaching away about choking turtles in the ocean to this poor person in the store who just gave you a pack of tissues.
But the truth is this: yes, you are living a different lifestyle, and it is a good thing! You are making a difference in the world by not choosing plastic products. And what’s more, we need to start talking about this. So many people are unaware of the plastic problem and the amount of waste that is poisoning our waters and atmosphere, or choose to turn a blind eye to it. So it is our job, the environmentally conscious, to let people know what you are doing and what positive effects it is having on your lifestyle and the environment. In fact that was one of the reasons that I started this blog, to let others know that the lifestyle is possible for anyone, and to raise awareness about the effects we are having on the planet.
So start saying something. Start saying “no”. And this doesn’t just apply in the pharmacy, but everywhere! In shops that give you plastic bags, people in the street with flyers, grocery stores that wrap food in plastic; tell them no, you do not want it. Because as soon as people start rejecting plastic and waste, others will start talking and realising the negative effects it has on the Earth. Businesses will learn that plastic is no longer a selling point, and will start to offer alternatives. Only by starting the conversation about rubbish, can we start to show others that there are other, healthier ways to live. And finally, don’t be afraid of being different: you are just part of the change we need to be seeing in our everyday lives.