It's Plastic-Free July: How Can Businesses And Individuals Help The Planet?

While legislative intervention is vital to reversing the climate crisis, individuals can also look to themselves to help save the planet
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Turtle eating plastic bag

The oceans are polluted with plastic (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

This month it's Plastic Free July. And while many of us are focusing on reducing our single use plastic, I believe we all need to do more and take more responsibility.

We can each make changes and have a real positive impact, as both individuals and businesses.

When I first started my business Heavenly Organics Skin Care, I wanted to source glass containers for my body scrubs. During my research however I was informed by one packaging company that the production of glass created more carbon emissions than PET(plastic), so at that point I chose plastic.

Thinking long term

I soon realized that we need to think long term and beyond the initial environmental impact of production. Whilst some plastic can be recycled, it's only recyclable for a maximum of seven times. When it can no longer be recycled, the plastic still exists and its disposal can be hugely damaging to the environment. 

Glass can be reused indefinitely and so I decided to switch to more sustainable packaging. We're proud to have now been using glass and aluminium jars and bottles for several years.

Businesses and the planet

An increasing number of our customers return their empty jars and bottles to us.We offer 50p credit per item returned but most of our customers are just happy to do their bit for the environment and love that we accept them back to reuse them. It is a cost to us but one we are willing to absorb in order to promote waste reduction.

We also offer refills of many of our products, which are dispatched in compostable bags. For those products that we can't offer online refills for, such as facial oils, we accept bottle returns on. Several of the zero waste shops who stock our products sell our bottled refills, so customers can take their own containers to the stores and fill them with our oils. Reusing something is always better than recycling it.

But we go further than just using glass and aluminium containers, by only using recycled cardboard boxes and paper. Even our labels are made from recycled paper. We use paper tape for packing and whilst this is substantially more expensive than regular plastic packing tape, the planet is more important than profit. 

I urge all businesses to look at how they can make similar positive changes to help heal our planet. I have never been motivated by financial gain but ultimately my business is thriving as a result of being environmentally conscious.

If we can do it, we believe other businesses can too.

Plastic

It's time to move away from single-use plastics (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

The bigger picture

We also encourage people to think about the bigger picture and consider other factors which dramatically contribute to environmental devastation.

We believe that as well as switching to environmentally friendly products and packaging, going vegan is one of the most powerful steps that an individual can take in the fight against climate change.

According to a recent study by a team of scientists led by Joseph Poore at the University of Oxford, avoiding meat and dairy is single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth.

Fishing

Fishing is also terribly destructive to both animals and the planet. A comprehensive study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that abandoned fishing gear is one of the biggest plastic polluters in the oceans, with most of the 79,000 metric tons of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comprised of abandoned fishing gear.

According to the study, fishing nets account for 46 percent of the trash - with the remainder composed of other fishing gear such as ropes, oyster spacers, eel traps, crates, and baskets.

Eating fish also means you're consuming microplastics, as well as poisonous chemicals such as mercury.

Planetary and human health

There's so much to consider and do in order to reverse climate change and maintain good health.

I shudder when I look at ingredients found in the vast majority of high street skincare products. Many of these ingredients, I strongly believe, should be illegal and are polluting our bodies and our ecosystem. When applied to your skin, ingredients from skincare seep into your bloodstream and literally become part of you. These damaging chemicals enter our waters and soil too.

Some say it's too much so why should they bother doing anything about it at all? But I strongly believe that everyone can make a difference. As the African saying goes 'If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito'.

Individual responsibility

While government legislation is vital to reverse this climate emergency, we do not need to and should not wait to be told what we need to do.

We all need to act now by taking individual responsibility for our actions.

Each of us has the power to effect positive change. Being vegan has never been easier and it's only getting easier with every waking day.

We do not need to consume animals or animal by-products and when the evidence is clear that it's healthier to eat a wholefoods plant-based diet, making everyone a winner, why wouldn't you?