What influences us to make a change?
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet amplified the attention given to the problem of plastic pollution globally. The beautifully shot nature documentary showed the beauty of the oceans, but also graphically illustrated the damage being done thanks to the explosion in single use plastic use over the last fifty years, something we also discuss in one of our previous blogs.
We all know there is a lot more work to do, but this moment of television history has helped to bring what was a minority concern into the mainstream. People would have always cared, but sometimes you need to see something for the reality to be brought home to you. Grabbing a plastic bottle of water, with a plastic straw, in a plastic bag from the local corner shop in East London, can be hard to equate to the pictures of suffocated whales, impaled sea tortoises, and trapped fish that can occur as a result of incorrect disposal of single use plastics.
Environmental damage affects us all, and ultimately it is individuals who can make a difference. Having a high profile person speaking out can also have a big impact, because of the size and diversity of the audience they can reach.
Plastic-free: By Royal Approval!
The Queen is certainly someone who has such power to influence. Perhaps influenced by the positive relationship that she has with David Attenborough, she banned plastic straws (see our metal alternatives here) and bottles from the royal estates back at the start of 2018. This hit the headlines and was shared across social media as many people hadn’t realised the affect that straws had was so wide ranging. In fact, straws make up to 7% of ocean plastic waste. With the Queen being seen as a role model, particularly for the older generation, we think it’s fantastic that by doing this she has gained extra publicity and awareness around the issue.
Her son, Prince Charles, has long been an advocate for environmental issues, and although he is sometimes unpopular for being so much more outspoken than his mother, on this issue we are inclined to agree with him! Speaking in June at the launch of a conference to coincide with World Environment Day, the future King spoke passionately about the need to turn the tide on plastic:
"It is not just those of us who have an affinity with the sea, but all of us who inhabit this planet who must surely share your concerns over how we have reached this crisis point… We simply cannot allow the current rate of degradation of our oceans to continue."
Plastic-Free Princess Eugenie
Now the younger generation are catching on and Princess Eugenie had her plastic free wedding last Friday, which she spoke about in the latest issue of British Vogue. She had already adapted to having a plastic free home, inspired by her work as an ambassador for Project Zero a charity that has been set up to solve problems with the ocean. Partnering with celebrities, scientists, and activists, their target is to have 30% of the world’s oceans protected by 2030, and with all their influential supporters, we hope they manage it!
A wedding without plastic
A completely plastic free and sustainable wedding sounds like a challenge, but it’s a great idea. Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, will have hired wedding planners to help, I’m sure (with 850 guests, I get a headache even trying to think of the logistics of organising that myself), but if your wedding isn't going to be quite as big, you can do it plastic free yourself. Thinking back to my own wedding (a slightly more modest affair), we saved a lot of plastic waste by doing most of the decorations ourselves (also a money saver), and hiring caterers that provided crockery and silverware.
One of the toughest things about reducing plastic waste is that even when you get things that you expect to be plastic free, they are wrapped in bubble wrap or cellophane. We avoided this, as I’ve said, by being very ‘crafty’ and hand making decorations as well as our invitations, place cards, and order of services. We also saved things like glass jars, which we then decorated with stones and wild flowers. We used natural flower petals as confetti, which are fully biodegradable, and we also used natural flowers to decorate the place, including some ivy cut from my wonderful Mother-in-law’s beautiful garden. My sister made us a beautiful cake which she then decorated with flowers and natural raffia straw, which we then put on a natural wood cake stand which we sourced locally. Our friend, Natalie, very kindly made us cake toppers out of clay, which we now will keep forever. You can find shops that custom make them for you on Etsy, like this one. We used hessian as table runners, and lots of drinks wholesalers do sale or return on glassware.
Cutting down on plastic waste and being more sustainable is not always easy but in the end, the only limit is your creativity! We’ll keep trying to come up with tips to help you out as well. Making a difference starts with thinking about it, then you act, then people notice, and it’s a virtuous cycle! When you’re deciding on favours, this can be one of the hardest things to avoid plastic with – chocolates, sweets, drinks – all of these often come individually wrapped or in little plastic bottles. Companies have a real tendency to wrap small individual items in cellophane, and it can be very frustrating to buy something and find out about the packaging later. Our metal straws make a great wedding favour. Your guests can drink through them during the celebrations before taking them home to help reduce their future plastic waste. We have wholesale prices if you want to gift individual straws to your guests, and if you are planning a wedding soon email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear from you!
The more that can be done to raise awareness of the potential damages of single use plastic, and the opportunities to replace these goods with more sustainable, reusable items, the better! You can’t lose if you re-use, and the more people who speak out to educate others, the quicker the message will be spread. Also, like Princess Eugenie, we can all make sure that our events are plastic-free!