Plastic Free Social Isolation (PFSI) is a term I came up with to describe the initial experience of going plastic free or reducing plastic consumption. Going plastic free is not only a personal challenge, but can have ripple effects on relationships with friends, family, partners and colleagues. My personal experience with PFSI has at times led to many tears of frustration but also many more amazing conversations.
Trying to bring others onto your plastic free journey can be tricky. It is easy to slip into a negative spiral and begin to judge others based on their choices or habits. Here are some examples of PFSI that you may encounter when trying to reduce your plastic consumption:
- With friends: Friends may be less inclined to invite you to events or places where plastic cups, bags, bottles etc. will be used. Being the odd person out in getting takeout sushi can be awkward.
- In the workplace: Offices supplied with K-Cup style single serve coffee, plastic cream or plastic sugar containers might make your morning coffee a challenge. Seeing fellow commuters sip from takeout coffee cups with plastic lids day after day can also be frustrating.
- With family or partners: Those closest to you may find it difficult or are reluctant to change their lifestyle choices and habits, such as plastic bags for grocery shopping, plastic packaged food, or plastic water bottles. This may result in mini-meltdowns and “stern” words.
Going plastic free does not mean you have to live in an isolated plastic free bubble. Though these hurdles may seem like an added challenge at first, raising awareness is a beautiful process that works in small steps rather than leaps. My experience was a bumpy ride, but I have supporters that have joined in: my dad now uses reusable grocery bags, and many of my friends no longer use takeout coffee cups.
Here are three tips to overcome PFSI, and help you make your experience more inclusive:
- Tell YOUR story. What made you want to go plastic free? Why are you giving up on a certain type of plastic? Personal connections can help build understanding, and it may be that others can relate to your experience.
- Instead of talking about what you “cannot” or “will not use” talk about alternatives. Hearing about all the plastic items you are avoiding might lead someone to believe that living plastic free means you can no longer dine out, shop, or have fun. Instead start conversations with the amazing alternatives you have found to everyday plastics.
- Encourage small changes rather than overnight transformation. Pressuring those around you to meet the level you have set for your plastic free challenge may not have a positive outcome. Instead encourage your peers to try a challenge and choose three plastic items to cut-out for one day, one week, or more.
Reducing your plastic consumption is a great challenge. Plastic litter and microbead pollution are a problem for the frogs, fish, sea lions, birds, and other wildlife that depend on a healthy ecosystem. So far, over 1,000 cleanups events have been registered by volunteers, helping to raise awareness of plastic and waterway litter through the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited.
Joining a Shoreline Cleanup event is a great first step to get your peers to learn more about plastic litter. Register yourself, friends, family, partners or colleagues to take part in a cleanup event near you, or organize your own event. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how.
Blog post by Tanya Otero, volunteer engagement coordinator for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at the Vancouver Aquarium. Over a series of blog posts, Tanya will share her journey towards living a plastic free life including tips and ideas on how we can all work towards reducing our plastic consumption.