For Kate Nelson, going plastic-free has been a way of life for the past decade. After learning the negative impact that plastic had on our oceans and marine life in 2009, Kate decided to take action and ditch disposable plastics for good – creating her ocean advocacy alias, Plastic Free Mermaid. Her new book offers practical and inspiring tips and tricks to help you cook, clean, shop, wear and live plastic-free. Here, we share an extract from I Quit Plastics on how to stay inspired to live more sustainably, lead by example and live by your values.
HOW TO KEEP GOING
Quitting plastics is a journey. Words of inspiration have helped to keep me going at every stage, and I hope words will help keep you going too. I’ve returned time and again to the following philosophies. They’ve been lights to navigate by, and I’ve repeated them to myself hundreds of times.
WE’RE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR OURSELVES
You are a sovereign being. You are responsible only for what you do. You are not responsible for others. You can be in charge of your own impact on the world. Tackling the waste you create matters and is manageable. It won’t happen overnight, so bring patience and compassion for yourself. Practise compassion for those around you who have not vowed to quit plastics; they may not be ready to take this on yet. You’re not responsible for them. This can be super hard to accept once you’re filled with the passion for a cleaner planet and the urgency with which we need change. I totally get it. I’ve been there. It can feel almost like a personal attack when someone we love or live with refuses to wipe out all of the plastics in their life too.
Practise compassion for those around you who have not vowed to quit plastics; they may not be ready to take this on yet. You’re not responsible for them. This can be super hard to accept once you’re filled with the passion for a cleaner planet and the urgency with which we need change.
Take deep breaths and remember that we’re all on our own journey and others may need more time to let go. Don’t nit-pick and debate. Explain your reasoning and share what you know but be sensitive and do not aggravate your relationships over this. The best way to handle these situations is simply to show a beautiful example of this lifestyle. They will eventually come around.
But if they don’t, then your values may be misaligned. I would advise against pointing fingers at anyone else (mega corporations doing the wrong thing or complete sell-out politicians excepted). Definitely not until you have few, if any, changes to make to your own tiny footprint.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
I used to be the activist who drew attention to the fact that our oceans are full of plastic and dolphins are dying. The message had a repelling effect: instead of drawing people in and inspiring them to change, it freaked them out and they were gone. I noticed that whenever my girlfriends and I approached people for our Save the Mermaids education non-profit, we were able to break the ice by teasing that we were mermaids or explaining an allergy to plastic. So, I changed. Once people are chuckling and telling me that I’m not in fact a mythical being, I know I’m in. I explain that the oceans are filling with plastic and I’ve been sent by the merpeople to figure out why humans are so obsessed with the stuff. This also makes it fun for me to talk about the same depressing stuff again and again.
Another highly effective angle is purely to lead by example – with grace, positive vibes and solutions in tow. If you show up to the local cafe with your own cup, make casual convo in the check-out line about the discount you get for bringing your own cup. This is wholly different to shaming others for not bringing a cup, which can come through in your body language without you even uttering a word. That negativity won’t encourage folks to jump on board. They’ll only feel bad about themselves and, in order to rid themselves of the negative emotions, they’ll avoid the entire situation. Fail.
Another highly effective angle is purely to lead by example – with grace, positive vibes and solutions in tow.
If you go to a party, try bringing your own cup. It’s likely you’ll be the only one doing this. This makes you interesting. People may comment on your cup. There you go: now you can talk dolphins and turtles or whatever inspired you to dump plastics for good. The more we show how easy, beautiful and fulfilling the plastic-free lifestyle is, the more appealing it becomes to others. This lifestyle is creative and enriching, not a horrible chore.
THIS IS NOT A SACRIFICE
We’re rewarded with presents, encouraged to buy gifts for our loved ones’ significant events, and this conditions us to think we are satisfied and fulfilled when we buy things. On the contrary, shopping does more to stimulate feelings of need than satisfy them. We find ourselves wanting new and wanting more. The process of cutting out plastics fosters our awareness and paves the way to living a more connected and authentically fulfilled life – with less stuff.