Native Americans traditionally lived by The “Seventh Generation” Principle. This principle says that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendents seven generations into the future. In the light of the fact that our home, planet earth, is experiencing global warming, it is good to consider this ancient principle in making decisions about the energy we use, water and natural resources, and ensuring those decisions are sustainable for seven generations in the future.
The rate that our modern lifestyles consume the Earth’s resources is not sustainable. How fast our modern ‘use’ of the planet will lead to mass flooding of coastal areas, famine due to food shortages, and the possible threat to the very existence of humans is hotly debated. What is clear is that humans will most certainly be facing this possibility within seven generations unless immediate action is taken to counteract the effect of our modern lifestyles on our planet. In this article I want to focus on our use of single-use plastics and what we can do as an individual to reduce our use of such items. Plastic waste threatens our ecosystems, our habitats and species, and even our own human health.
In traditional yoga the postures are only one part of the recommendations for living a yogic life. Among other things Ahimsa – non harm is advocated. Our use of plastic could be seen as harmful to others since we are adding to the planetary pollution by our use of these, and hence harming the planet for our decedents. Imagine having a conversation with your child, grandchild or great grandchild etc in the future, and them asking you what you did to help save the planet for them? Would you be able to say you did all you honestly could to preserve this planet for them? How did you show a child love? Did you buy them yet another plastic toy to add to their already overflowing collection? Or did you show your love by taking the actions suggested below to reduce your plastic consumption? Remember that everything we do matters. If we live our lives from that idea, we will leave the world a better place.
It can be easy to despair at being able to do anything when single use plastic is so widespread. But there are some things you can do. As a consumer you have the power to put your money into supporting what you believe is right to help preserve the planet for your descendants.
Steps you can take to become plastic-free
Voice your concerns to merchants and manufacturers about excess packaging and use of plastics. Write to them, say you you will no longer buy their products unless the plastic packaging is changed.
Bring your own reusable bags to the supermarket and shops. You can keep them in your car so they’re always handy.
Refuse disposable coffee cups often lined with plastic and carry your own reusable cup
Similarly do not buy water in plastic bottles but use your own reusable bottle for water.
Grow your own food. Shop locally for fruit and veg without the plastic packaging, shop at a farmers market or have a vegetable box delivered. Use zero waste shops where you bring your own containers to be refilled.
Don’t buy “disposable” anything, but if you must, buy paper rather than plastic and plastic rather than Styrofoam, which isn’t recyclable and depletes the ozone layer. There are some wood, bamboo alternatives available too.
Do not buy disposable toothbrush or razor. Bamboo tooth brushes are available, and non disposable metal razors
Use hand soap that comes in bars; plastic bottles of soap are… plastic! Similarly solid shampoo bars are now available.
Use cloth nappies and wipes. The plastic in disposable nappies and wipes takes 500 years to break down in a landfill.
If you do not have access to milk in glass bottles, buy large quantities and reduce your intake of dairy as much as possible, eg. it generates less plastic if you choose a single large yoghurt container over a small six-pack. Avoid “box milk” cartons as these are lined with plastic and are very difficult to recycle.
Wash your dairy containers before putting them in the recycling bin – spoiled food prevents your waste from being recyclable and could potentially spoil everything it comes into contact with.
You can also make your own plant based milks with oats or nuts, to avoid the shop bought cartons are lined with plastic.
Single-portion coffee capsules that are composed of plastic or a combination of plastic and aluminium are not recyclable. Even those composed of pure aluminium come with their own set of environmental problems.
There are a number of reusable pod options. However, the simplest solution is to make your own fresh coffee in a cafeteria or stove top espresso maker.
Many teabags contain plastic – notice if they are still in your compost heap after a few months! Buy loose leaf teas. Alternatively research your teabag brands to see if they contain plastic, here are a couple of articles on plastic in teabags for further information.
In the spirit of the Seven Generation Principle always ask: Will the decisions I make today be beneficial for my descendants?
For more great guidance on how to choose plastic free alternatives see the following leaflet.