Since their first campaign in 1971, Friends Of The Earth have dedicated themselves to the protection of our environment. To raise awareness of the scale of plastic pollution, they launched #PlasticFreeFriday encouraging everyone to go 'plastic free' one day a week. For us, during our own Plastic Free January, Friends Of The Earth have been an invaluable companion, sharing hints and tips to help us on our journey. We chatted with Emma Priestland, FOTE Plastic Pollution Campaigner, about the future of plastic pollution and how they reduce single-use plastic in the office.
Words by Emma Priestland and Photography by Friends Of The Earth | @friends_earth
Can you tell us about Friends Of The Earth - what is the organisation's mission?
Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We're talking to around 5,000 local activist groups and over 2 million members and supporters in 75 countries worldwide. All of them doing incredible things for a healthier, fairer world.
Last year Friends Of The Earth launched Plastic Free Fridays. What do you hope to achieve with this campaign?
The #PlasticFreeFriday campaign launched to help people cut down on plastic waste by making simple lifestyle changes. A lot of these changes actually mean you treat yourself to a little more ‘me time’ too, for example taking the time to sit with a coffee in a café rather than grabbing a disposable cup to go or having a proper lunch with your friends instead of a ‘quick’ meal deal. These sorts of changes are the best way to start on your way to a life with less plastic and we are excited to ramp things up in 2019. Keep an eye out for the next stage in our plastic-free adventure that is launching soon.
It is one challenge to go plastic-free at home, but what about at work? How do Friends Of The Earth minimise their plastic waste in the office?
We work hard to minimise our own plastic waste in a number of small ways. We have a really good recycling system where we separate out many different types of materials, and it’s all clearly labelled to make it easy to use. We also work with a special recycling company instead of the normal council waste collection so we can go even further in our waste separation. We get our milk delivered in reusable glass bottles and have a supply of tableware and glasses, so we never need to resort to single-use plastic for events. The best thing we do is to provide an honesty shop of plastic free products for staff, including cleaning detergents, toiletries, snacks and treats that staff can buy and fill up their own containers with. We have a vibrant plastic-free office community who will share tips and tricks so there is always an answer to be found for any plastic problem.
What’s your vision of more people living free from single-use plastic in the future?
Society’s consumption of plastic has to drastically reduce if we are to save the oceans from our mess, but the good news is that we already have many of the solutions to do this. We need to use plastic in only the most important applications, and make sure that it can be collected, reused and recycled at the end of an items life. We have to find ways of delivering food without plastic packaging. For fruit, veg and dry goods like pasta and rice this is easy, there is just no need for plastic packaging. In some cases, we will need to see a bit of ingenuity from manufacturers, but we’re already seeing some really promising packaging alternatives. Our vision for a future free from single-use plastic is a future where people respect and value all items and make sure everything is made to be useful for as long as possible.
For those out there who want to minimise their plastic waste, or go plastic-free, what one thing would you recommend?
Get yourself a selection of glass jars in large sizes! There are more and more shops these days selling dry goods in bulk, and if you have a good range of storage jars you can reduce so much plastic packaging. I’ve found all sorts of nuts, flours, sugar, pasta and rice for sale in bulk and I store them in my large glass jars. A basic kit of a few plastic-free items combined with a good knowledge of smaller shops in your area can really go a long way to reduce plastic. Most local greengrocers or markets sell fruit and veg loose, and butchers will often wrap meat in paper. If you have a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, cutlery, cloth tote bags and take a packed lunch to work, you’re almost there!