In some countries, it’s seemingly easy (or rather, easier) to find ways to reduce plastic. The alternative options are abundant- biodegradable packaging, reusable bottles & bamboo toothbrushes can be easily accessed and sold at attractive prices.
But this is NOT the case in Jamaica- not for now at least.
And we don’t HAVE to wait for those bamboo toothbrushes to hit Jamaica to make change. What we have to focus on now is finding out how we can use reusable products (or re-use our existant items) to beat one-time use products.
We also don’t have garbage bins on every street corner- let alone bins dedicated to glass, plastic, etc. This is the reality of many developing countries and we must acknowledge this. So the advice we share with each other must also be aligned with our reality.
And while so many incredible people are organizing beach clean-ups year round (which is fantastic), we also need to raise awareness around the alternative ways to reduce plastic consumption. You may not go 100% plastic-free (period pads, some sea salts and washing powder contain plastic FYI), but if we can SLOW DOWN THE RATE at which we are using plastic, that’s a first step. If we recognize other ways to reduce plastic consumption, that’s another important first step. The problem is that we are being exposed to methods, by media, that are not always compatible or even possible in Jamaica.
This is not JUST about nature and the animals- it is about humans as well. Particularly in Jamaica where there is a habit of burning trash. There are actual humans inhaling smoke and fume- babies and the elderly. If you can’t “relate” to a turtle or can’t care about the fish, try to care about humans who have to tolerate with the toxic, poisonous fumes of plastic burning everyday. Stop throwing trash- and reduce or slow down your consumption of packaging.
Improper waste management and excessive trash also clogs up drains- which can create flooding. Piles of dump also expose humans to lead, mercury and other infectious substances. Because we’ve also polluted our waters so much, the mackerel you are eating (for the non-vegans out there) is one of the most mercury infested fishes ever!
We cannot be perfect, but we each have a responsibility to at least TRY. Jamaica is a rough place for many, but if you are in a position where you can adopt at least one of the below- PLEASE DO SO.
- First and foremost: DO NOT THROW YOUR TRASH IN NATURE- that’s simply disgusting. Not at the beach, not in the river, not in bush- NO WHERE. Dispose of your trash PROPERLY.
- Bring your own reusable bag to buy groceries. This should be a no-brainer when going to the market- and some supermarkets now also sell reusable bags.
- If you don’t have a reusable bag, take a carton. Fold it up and fill it with your groceries at check-out. Yes you may look “different” and people may look at you “weird”- but this is the only way we can change things, once we stop caring about people’s opinions and what they think! Maybe you will set a trend or inspire someone else along the way- who knows!
- If you are buying few pieces of fruits or vegetables (ex: 1 banana) at the supermarket- skip the plastic bag and place the price tag directly onto the item instead.
- Cook your own food instead of buying pre-packaged convenience foods that utilize a lot of plastic (containers or in the lining).
- Reuse your containers in creative ways. Some containers (of whatever material) can be used as pots for plants, as a pencil containers, or as meal prep containers.
- Make alternative cleaning products. Vinegar + water is a great example (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water). Be careful however, some combinations can “explode”: i.e baking soda & vinegar. So do your research into DIY cleaning agents.
- Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap- that come in plastic containers! Liquid hand soap is tragic and not only calls for plastic packaging, but also creates more carbon emissions through its production than a bar of soap.
- Re: bar soap. Use bar soap to wash your dishes. Skip the detergent in plastic bottles.
- Re: re: bar soap! You can also wash your hair with bar soap (depending on your hair type of course). In some cases, you can buy shampoo in a bar form as well.
- Re:re:re: bar soap! Use bar soap to wash your body instead of liquid shower gel!
- Stop using liquid face wash (unless they are all natural). Most face wash products contain plastic beads- that only end up in the oceans. Make your own face wash or use a bar of soap instead!
- Buy foods that are packaged in glass containers- vs plastic. If your budget allows for it.
- Walk around with a fork and a knife wrapped into a cloth. You don’t HAVE to buy the reusable sets- in the meantime, just wrap a fork and knife into a cloth.
- If someone is packing your goods at the supermarket, and they are “separating” each item into its own plastic bag- tell them TO JUST PUT EVERYTHING IN ONE BAG!!! This is very common practice in Jamaica- to wrap different products individually. It’s okay if your toothpaste touches your cabbage, guyz.
- Attend a beach-clean up in your area if you can.
- Make a compost heap to reduce your food waste and put it back into the earth.
- When and if you can, shop with a friend, buy in bulk and split up the items. 1 packaging for 2 people = you automatically cut plastic consumption in half, with that simple act!
- Take a reusable hot beverage container with you to the coffee and tea shops. Ask them to fill your beverage in there- be bold and ask! The worst is that they will say no, but if we all start asking, we can create change!
- If you are ok drinking tap water (or if you have a filter at home)- please do so and avoid plastic bottles or RE-USE THEM AT LEAST! Try to re-use them AT LEAST 3 TIMES- it’s better than nothing!
- Stop sending letters and send e-mails INSTEAD! We are in the year 2018 now, use e-mail or other electronic forms of communication.
- In the same spirit, switch to e-billing if you can. Collectively, we can cut down on paper use and consequently, green house emissions.
- If you have plastic containers, RE-USE THEM. Pack your lunches in them, fill them with various items, use them to store and organize. Get creative with how you can re-use plastic containers until we can make biodegradable packaging more affordable and accessible. Do what your grandmother used to do: fill the cookie box with needles & threads! 😀 RE-USE CONTAINERS WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
- Support businesses that use eco-friendly packaging (if your budget allows for it)
- Give up chewing gum. Most gum is made of a form of rubber. Plus it’s not good for you anyway. And you can save some $$$ along the way.
- EAT FRUIT INSTEAD OF BUYING BOTTLED JUICES!!! First of all, eating fruit is way better than drinking juice. Juice has tons of sugar- with the fiber stripped out of it. When it comes to sugar, fiber is CRITICAL to slow down the absorption of sugar in your bloodstream. SO EAT THE FRUIT, WHOLE, INSTEAD!
- Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.
- Watch YouTube documentaries about how plastic impacts our world, our environment and our health. Knowledge is the first step to understand the consequences of our actions and how everything is connected.
- Stop using straws when you can. Or carry your own re-usable straw (if you can- knowing that these aren’t so readily available in Jamaica….) And if you’re REALLY stuck with a plastic straw- know that you can RE-USE IT! Just rinse it out and use it until it breaks apart. At least you are slowing down the process of plastic disposal.
- At an ice-cream parlour, eat ice-cream out of a cone- not a cup 😀 That should be an easy one lol.
- Make your OWN BREAD if you can- instead of buying bread that’s wrapped in plastic. Make your own cakes & cookies. Make your own EVERYTHING WHEN POSSIBLE! That’s one plastic wrapped item you eliminate!
- Cut down on personal-care products (often packaged in plastic) by using NATURE INSTEAD! If aloe grows in your yard- rub it on your skin as a face mask or moisturizer instead of buying it! If there are too many mango trees growing and you just can’t eat them all, rub the pulp on your skin. It makes your skin extra soft and glowing (all the Vitamin C in mangoes!)
- Shop at the market instead of the supermarket whenever you can. The market ALWAYS implies that there are fewer items packaged in plastic.
- Use castor oil and other oils as hair masks (depending on your hair type of course). Even if it is sold in plastic bottles, most mainstream hair products (and personal care products) can contain micro-elements of plastic in them (that get washed away with water). Natural beauty products are plastic-free, and good for you 🙂
- If your friend throws plastic out on the street or in nature, TELL THEM IT’S NOT COOL. You don’t have to be preachy and annoying- but have the guts to say it! Sometimes it takes one person- and we often learn best from our friends. Our friendships shape us!
- When traveling, bring your own water bottle! Drink out the water before going through security check- and refill at airports. It will also save you the $ from overpriced airport water 🙂
- Grow your own food if you can! This automatically means you are more self-sufficient and reduce your dependence on packaged foods.
- If you are comfortable with the idea of using a silicon menstrual cup for your periods- use that instead of pads or tampons (which contain plastic FYI)
- If you are at home and ordering food via delivery services, tell them you don’t need plastic cutlery! Make it a habit!
- Buy toilet paper wrapped in paper- not plastic.
- Use a soft fine towel to remove make up instead of cotton pads. You cut down on plastic packaging that way.
- Never throw a single jar away! Any food item you use in a jar- wash it out, dry it up and reuse it to pickle things, to stack rice or grains in, to use as spice containers. Etc etc. Your glass jar replaces plastic containers in this way.
- For stationary and office supplies: use paper folders instead of plastic folders. Whatever is available in paper- opt for it over plastic.
- When possible, choose plastic-free clothing. Many materials contain plastic, for instance: polyester & lycra. Instead, choose cotton, linen, hemp- and wool if you’re living up in the mountains or traveling to cold places.
- We don’t have so many recycling depots across the island- but if you can get to one, take your trash there. Nuh Dutty Up have set up a few depots, as has Wisynco.
Featured image utilized art from The Plastic Ocean Project. The piece in itself is evidently inspired by The Great Wave of Kanagawa- Katsushika Hokusai.