An Inspiration to Simplify our Lifestyles and Minimise our Eco-Footprint

29 May 2017
An Inspiration to Simplify our Lifestyles and Minimise our Eco-Footprint

Bea Johnson

Recycling has become somewhat of a buzzword in a world where the concept of waste has – sadly – slipped the consciousness of the average Joe. While I am sure there are many people who wonder what happens to the plastic bags that leave the shopping malls and super- markets in their millions each day, I doubt whether this has actually surfaced as a problem of any vast proportion. The dire warning that by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish, and the reality that more and more sea life is being poisoned, strangled or trapped in plastic, is not something that people are aware of to any great degree, nor the sheer volume in tons of plastic that is manufactured in which to package our purchases. I recently saw a picture on Facebook of an island somewhere in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, completely uninhabited by humans, but whose beaches are strewn with swathes of washed up waste.

 Recently Plettenberg Bay was treated to a visit and talk by Zero Waste Guru Bea Johnson. Bea is a Grand prize winner of The Green Awards, a guest speaker on TED and has written a book entitled Zero Waste Home, The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying your Life by Reducing your Waste. She had with her a glass jar, perhaps with a one-litre capacity containing her family’s disposable, landfill-destined waste collected over a year.

  This seems radical. Perhaps she is from another planet?  No, she is a normal, average person one would find on any day in any part of the world. But in her quest to save the planet she is anything but “average”. She has made it her life’s mission to preach the gospel of Zero Waste to people all over the world. Her book outlines how you can reduce your kitchen equipment as well as every corner of your house to the minimum and still live well. She inspired the audience to examine our lifestyles and our hunger for “things”. Showing a slide of one of her sons smiling as he rode the thermals in a hang-glider, she told the audience that her family can afford to do these amazing things because of the savings they achieve. They do not acquiesce to the consumer drive we all know so well – the little imp that sits on our shoulder and tells us we need this and that, and that and that, while we simply cannot do without this.

  I felt strongly that the enthusiastic audience represented “the converted”. Not necessarily to Zero Waste lifestyles, but I would guess that most of us separate our trash and try our best to minimize landfill waste. However, while this is essential, it is not enough.  I still go to the supermarket and become literally depressed when I see shoppers walking out with two or three plastic bags, and sometimes a whole trolley full. The sight of a dedicated reusable shopping bag is rare. People are busy, engaged with their jobs and the business of making a living. Who has the time to think about these things?

  I asked myself what can be done – by me or anyone with a desire to ease the burden of landfill waste? I decided to start by making a commitment to buy one good, strong shopping bag a month and donate this to someone whom I will try to convert to the habit of refusing shopping bags. One success a month equates to twelve converted shoppers.  Imagine if only ten people adopted my idea – that would equal 120 people a year who refuse plastic shopping bags.  The whole audience of 200 would result in 2400 people. Switch to a re-usable shopping bag and you will save 500-700 plastic bags from landfills and oceans over a year –that’s 1,200,000 to 1,680,000 plastic bag savings annually!

  There was much talk about a bulk food store for Plett.  Keeping my fingers crossed!

Article by: Laurine le Roux


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