The 7 R’s to Defeat Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is a ticking bomb to our human health and a global environmental crisis, which is also negatively affecting animals and plants. If we, individually and collectively, do not come up with sustainable ecological solutions, the pollution will worsen until it will be fatal-inflicting self destruction. Hopefully, by taking the right actions we can save ourselves, fauna and flora.

In the air and water, we have invisible and visible aspects of plastic pollution. Plastic pieces have been found in marine animals’ stomachs, a direct result of our collective human ecological irresponsibility. However, the pollution is far worse than what we can see with our bare eyes: There are micro plastics and nano plastics in our water bodies as well as in the atmosphere. So, in some areas and to a very large extent, we may find ourselves breathing in or/and drinking water contaminated with micro and nano plastic particles.

We may all agree that plastics-made items are financially cheap and thus affordable to the majority of people. Even though they are very accessible and convenient in our daily usage, they are very environmentally unfriendly. Consequently, we can also agree that plastics have greatly contributed in polluting almost every visible part of our environment.

Members of Alternative Youth Center in Yerevan are cleaning Hrazdan river gorge from plastic and other trash.

What shall we do with these plastics? I suggest we do the following “7 R:s” to innovatively and progressively defeat plastics pollution.

  1. Reuse: do not buy any other plastic items; use again the one you already have. If you have a plastic water bottle, refill it at home and use it throughout the day as you travel or at your workplace. Also, wash and use an empty peanut butter plastic can to store kitchen salt in it.
  2. Reduce: minimize the habit of using plastic items you have. Here, you start discerning an ecological change of attitude towards your high valuing of plastics use into how I can stop using them; a first step of a conversion journey; training yourself to adopt a plastic-free-lifestyle.
  3. Repair: when your plastic made item such as a basin is broken, do not throw it away, have a artisan personnel, or yourself, to repair the broken part so that you can continue using it. 
  4. Recycle: Instead of throwing away plastic items such as bottles, collect them and then hand them over to a nearby recycling factory to make new items such as flower vessels, dustbins, etc.
  5. Replace: seek alternatives of plastics made items. It means that you will advocate and practice the use of timber (wood) products, plants, earthenware, or glass made items that are environmentally friendly. 
  6. Refuse: At this juncture, commit yourself to refuse to use any plastic made items. You become a fierce and relentless advocate and practitioner of non-plastics such as packaging items.
  7. Restore: We must clean the littered plastics all over our environment starting at our house compounds, our work place, roads, towns and cities, etc. Furthermore, we clean our water bodies, especially the seas and oceans where most plastics end up. This way, we are restoring the lost or the dwindling environmental dignity and splendor of creation.
Ubunifu Hub members during the Make SMTHNG Week, November 2022

Notably, all these steps are not separate – they are intertwined. So, we must start by knowing the menace of plastics pollution and then start a journey of personal ecological conversion, a desire and a commitment to change your habit of using plastic made items into a habit of using environmentally friendly alternatives. In the process, we will find out that we are influencing others to change their plastics-based lifestyles to ecologically viable alternatives.

By Benard Njuiri Community Mobilizer, Ubunifu Hub


Reasons for Climate Change: Fossil Fuels

As we all know, climate change is driven by the emission of gasses that provoke the greenhouse effect, leading to the increase of temperatures on our planet and more extreme weather phenomena. These processes are abbreviated in the terms “global warming” and “climate change”. To get a deeper understanding of where our global emissions come from, here are some facts and numbers about the usage of fossil fuels:

Fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – provide 80% of the global energy needs. Since the industrial revolution, humans have burned fossil fuels in an increasing manner for electricity, heating, transportation (cars, trains, etc.), and in many industries (production, manufacturing, etc.). 

This process has been an essential part of modern development worldwide, but the extraction and burning of fossil fuels have a lot of downsides. 

Photo provided by Momentum (Stockholm, Sweden)

With the burning, carbon dioxide (Co2) is produced, which is one of the largest drivers of climate change. The emissions account for over 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions. These emissions are created in all kinds of fields, but these numbers show that we need to leave the era of fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy if we want to fight global warming. 

The extraction of fossil fuels itself is another big problem, as it often causes massive destruction to nature and leaves whole land strips uninhabitable for plants and animals. Furthermore, it is estimated that millions of premature deaths are caused by high levels of local air pollution created by the burning of fossil fuels. 

So how do we get away from the usage of fossil fuels? Using renewable energy (wind, sun, water, biomass, etc.) is our best available option, as it doesn’t pollute, or destroy nature in ways the fossil fuel industry does, and most importantly, it hardly emits any greenhouse gasses. 

Moreover, renewable energies are an energy source we can’t run out of, which is something that can happen to nuclear energy and fossil fuels. Nuclear energy is another low-greenhouse-gas option, but it has the disadvantage of nuclear waste that needs to be stored. 

By Mika von Olberg, a volunteer at Alternative Youth Center in Yerevan.


Why Being Green is not a Sacrifice

Our philosophy at Bolygó is that being green should not be interpreted as a constant act of sacrifice, it should be interpreted more as a process of liberation. Giving a negative connotation to sustainable living, is like trying to advertise a chocolate as it is the worst chocolate you can get. Of course, no one would buy it. So if we want to convince people to change their lifestyles, we need to come up with a positive interpretation, which is actually if we start to think about it, not that hard to do. 

The habits that are the hardest to change are usually the ones that you do because it gives you some kind of a good feeling – you are doing it because it makes you happy. We use cars because driving makes us feel good, we buy new clothes so that we feel happy, we go on fancy vacations to feel relaxed. What we usually don’t realize is that we are making too much effort to feel just a little spark of happiness, without realizing it. What if someone would tell you that you can feel happy without buying a product, without working so much, just to pay for all the unnecessary things that are supposed to give you the feeling of joy? What if someone would tell you that you could skip all those processes, and still be able to feel wholesome? 

Whenever I talk about environmentalism with my friends, I always tell them that my motivation for living a green lifestyle is not climate anxiety – my motivation is that, since I’m an environmentalist, I’m able to experience wholesomeness because of the smallest things, that I don’t have to do anything for, I just pay attention. Seeing the full moon, how it makes the night so bright, seeing bees flying around the wildflowers, seeing the trees and flowers blooming during spring gives me so much happiness every time, without making any effort. With this approach, they can relate to sustainability so much easier than shocking them with numbers and data about climate change.

The key for convincing someone to change their lifestyle and mindset, is showing them alternatives for their old habits and for reaching the same kind of feelings. With this in mind, it’s easy to see that if you can reach the same level of happiness with less effort, it is not a sacrifice, it is a process of liberation. 

By Olga Körner, the Local Coordinator of Bolygó, our makerspace in Budapest, Hungary.