Words by Caroline Bond @kittiekipper

“I got myself into the fight against plastic”.

At first my friends ribbed me for getting so stuck into beach cleaning and litter picking, but it didn’t bother me or make me want to stop, it just made me realise how unaware they were of the problem! 

Picking up litter from the beach has changed so much about my life and my perspective and attitude towards consumerism. I started to realise the considerable similarities between what was going into my beach clean bag and what was going into my shopping basket. I realised I was part of the problem. This realisation really prompted me to change the way I consume, opting for plastic free alternatives when it comes to packaging. Cleaning the beach has changed the way I eat, (plant based now),  the way I dress, (organic/natural secondhand fibres…ethical footwear from natural rubbers), the way I clean my house, give gifts, party and celebrate.

Bringing Change
It’s even effected my mental health. I recently delivered a TEDX Talk, like a TED Talk, independently run but an affiliate of the original, in the seaside city of Brighton. If anyone would have told me I’d be making my public speaking debut in front of around 1600 people at the Brighton dome, I’d have laughed them to the door. I suffered for years with social anxiety and depression, so much so I have had to leave jobs requiring me to talk in front of rooms full of colleagues or even in meetings. It was something that really was holding me back in my life. But once I was asked to deliver a talk that could change people’s perceptions towards plastics, maybe initiate positive change in their lives, I knew I had to take the opportunity. The #2minutebeachclean family had my back and gave me such huge positive support that I finally gave into the fear and did it anyway. It was an incredibly liberating experience to face such a huge fear and to fight for something so close to my heart. It was emotional to say the least. It’s out next year after the TED talk people look it over and make sure it fits their criteria, so I’m looking forward to getting the word out there and spread some education around a bit more. 

Positive Outlook
I pick up litter every time I’m outside. This isn’t only on my dog walks (twice a day with a beach clean bag) but also when I’m walking to work or home from work. Not driving means I use public transport a lot, so I’m out and about on the streets more than someone who drives. Sadly there’s not a day goes by that I leave the house when I don’t pick up anything at all. There’s always something in the gutter or on the floor. Watching people just walk past it lying there can bring you down, but then I just remember that we are all different and as a species we have a lot of bad habits to unlearn. I’d much rather be happy to help than helping but being moody about it. Outlook is really important, focusing on the positives is the only way to get through some of the beach cleans. In winter the swells bring a lot of the plastics out from under the water, the beach looks devastated, but once you start getting that plastic off the shore, you realise how important your cleaning efforts are. 

Pick It Up
In summer it’s usually a case of what people bring to the beach to enjoy that space. Some families just leave their entire plastic wrapped picnic leftovers and walk away, like they vaporised into thin air. This prompted me to paint signs declaring the beach is not a bin, and to use chalk signing,  to remind people to take their litter home with them. It breaks my heart walking the beach on summer mornings to see bags of food, wasted and left on the beaches, pulled apart by foxes and eaten by seagulls who’ve also eaten the packaging to get to the food. We must ALL take responsibility for the waste we generate. The time is now. We are the change.  

Hope For The Future
People are starting to change their habits for the planet and that’s great. It gives me hope. But I believe we can use our power as consumers to pressurise these companies to change the materials their products are made from and what they are packaged in. And I believe by using our voices via social media and by writing emails and by choosing another product over one containing plastic, we can start to dent the plastic contributing to the sea pollution. If companies are still creating a product that doesn’t disappear or degrade, a material that is manufactured as virgin plastic, at the rate it is now, how will we ever survive?

“We have to slow this down while we globally try to find an answer”

Reduce Plastic Consumption
Seriously reducing the plastic you consume will have a positive effect on the environment. There are choices out there from so many different sources so maybe it’s time to get involved and take your steps into becoming more plastic free. It should work like a domino effect, start small. You can start in one room, like the bathroom, ditch the pump soap and get a nice bar of soap instead, swap out your deodorants for ones in tins made from cruelty free products, use loofahs or crocheted yarn face cloths, instead of plastic sponges or nylon flannels. Buy samples from start up companies making shampoo bars to save money in case they don’t suit your hair, use natural nut and herb based scrubs to exfoliate. Why not start with one product even, like your periods going plastic free.  by switching to a menstrual cup, plastic free pads and tampons or reusable pads, you are seriously reducing your waste. There’s so much out there, start when you next run out of a product. Swap it out and start to see the difference in your home. It’s great to make homemade cleaning products and toothpastes and lip balms and there’s so many products there’s room for on the market right now that if you have a plastic free idea, don’t sit on it, nows the time to get it out there!

Everyday Life
Reducing and refusing plastic soon becomes part of your everyday life. My mornings start with a beach clean and dog walk along to Tidemills from Seaford. It’s a strange but beautiful place but there’s always always litter. Then my walk home takes me past the recycling bins on the seafront but mostly I’ll take it home to put in my own recycling bin. Then it’s off to work, I’m a gardener and I love being able to work outside with my hands during the summer. Then I spend winter inside snuggled up weaving work next to my dog on the sofa.