To celebrate the sustainability theme of this year’s International Youth Day (12 August), 17-year-old plastic-conscious blogger Ariana Brunet shares her thoughts on refusing plastic.
My name is Ariana and 2016 is my first year attempting not to buy any plastic at all – a pretty crazy, pretty great challenge that has really changed my life.
In this time I’ve had so many adventures: meeting the amazing network of Zero Wasters around the country, trying delicious new plastic-free recipes, dumpster diving, making my ball dress out of chip and coffee packets, and beginning a blog called Plastic Compassion to share stories of positivity around this issue, a little of which I’d love to share with you today.
My journey started back in October last year, and it all came from a very special woman and a very special bird. Tina Ngata calls herself the ‘Non-Plastic Māori’, and her strength, spirit and aroha is changing the world. A Gisborne local, she took up the plastic-free challenge a few years ago and is now a champion for living without plastic. She has travelled over the world sharing her story and the kaupapa (cause). You can read more on her incredible blog.
I was lucky enough to hear her heartfelt kōrero at a Waste Hui by Para Kore, and it truly moved me. I remember her saying that what really hit home for her was when she saw her beloved favourite bird, the toroa (albatross), eating plastic, and felt a strong responsibility to give up plastic out of love and respect for these creatures and Tangaroa/Papatūānuku (sea/earth). While listening to her speak, I couldn’t help the tears that rolled down my face. It is our responsibility to change what we are doing, to end this suffering, and the deep feeling of compassion for what it must be like for the toroa was something that I had never really felt before.
This experience sparked the idea of plastic and compassion going together. I think these are two very important words in society today, and two that aren’t used in the same sentence enough. Plastic is everywhere, and compassion is needed.
When we look at plastic, we don’t often see the whole story – where it came from, how it was made, which creatures were affected, whether the people along the line were treated fairly.
The answers aren’t too flash. Crude oil (a fossil fuel), is turned into plastic through a highly manufactured fuel-heavy process, the mining of which can cause oil spills while the manufacturing of said plastic pollutes the air.
Nah, it’s just a Coke bottle – we don’t hear the rest of the story.
I guess it’s much more convenient for the producers that way, and easier for us to consume.
The same often goes for the end of life – however many decades it may spend in a landfill or if it may end up in a gyre in the ocean isn’t our first thought when we buy a drink. Never mind the estimated 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds who die from plastic ingestion each year (according to a United Nations Environmental Programme report.)
We don’t usually think about it. And this isn’t a 'shame on us' – it’s completely understandable! All these sobering truths can be overwhelming. It’s much easier to block it all out, especially in a society so full of plastic.
I’m 17. I don’t really know much, but this is my suggestion: that there can be a light in all of this; that this issue brings up what we care about and allows us to stand up for love, compassion and what we want to see in a better world.
To me, taking on the plastic-free challenge has been not only a way to do something meaningful, but a personal celebration of the things I love being triumphant in my life.
Because that’s what this life is about – being champions for what we love.
Refusing plastic is choosing healthy oceans, beautiful beaches, and the good vibes of doing something out of love and kindness.
It’s choosing dolphins, turtles, coral reefs. The majestic toroa no longer choking on plastic, but flying free.
It’s being an adventurous ocean voyager, a teen at a beach party, a family camping by the coast, a child dipping their toes in for the first time. For us Kiwis, it’s knowing that our big blue backyard is healthy, happy and ready to enjoy by future New Zealanders.
And for all of us, it’s that this blue planet we love and share is thriving.
For tips on going plastic-free visit plasticfreejuly.org. Ariana’s blog about conscious consumerism, compassion and plastic, with hand-drawn art, can be found at plasticcompassion.wordpress.com.
For more information about recycling in Auckland visit makethemostofwaste.co.nz.