Breaking a habit is hard. No one becomes an environmentalist overnight. Where would you even start? “It’s easy to get gloomy,” says Kolbrún Haraldsdóttir, an educator and co-organiser of the campaign “Plastlaus September” (Plastic Free September, in English). But despair isn’t going to change much. Which is why Kolbrún and Natalie Ouellette, marketing and PR specialist, emphasise staying positive. “They say it takes 30 days to break a habit,” Kolbrún points out and September might just be the right time frame to get started.
Three years ago, Plastic Free September came to Iceland. According to Kolbrún and Natalie, the goal of the month-long initiative is to raise awareness about the amount of single-use plastic people use in their daily lives and to present them with alternatives.
“I’ve tried to explore ways of working with some kind of environmental cause in my professional life and I hadn’t really found that outlet,” Natalie recalls. “So, when I noticed a picture of Kolla in Plastlaus September—she was the kindergarten teacher for one of my kids—I kind of cornered her one day and said: “Hey! Plastlaus September. How can I join?” And I was welcomed with open arms by the other members.”
The idea goes back to the Australian initiative, Plastic Free July, which started in 2011. But seeing as most Icelanders are on holiday in July, the local organizers figured that September was perhaps a better time to encourage Icelanders to rethink their plastic usage.
Breaking The Habit
Even though we know that plastic is bad for us, it’s still the predominant form of packaging. It’s light, it’s clean, it’s familiar. But it’s harming the environment because it will not decompose at a reasonable rate. So, how do we start quitting this comfy, yet literally toxic relationship? According to Kolbrún and Natalie it’s important to celebrate small victories like, “Hey, I made my last three shopping trips with my own bags!” and not shaming anyone who may fall back on old habits once in a while.
“I think a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of making changes, a lot of times people think it’s so big,” Natalie says. “I think people don’t often give themselves the benefit of the doubt. Every small change can really make a difference and everyone is capable of making this small change.”
“In the beginning it was just a few friends that had potluck dinners together,” Kolbrún says when talking about the origin of the campaign. “And they would be annoyed, like ‘Why isn’t anyone doing something about this plastic pollution problem?’ and then they thought to themselves, ‘We should just do it’”.
Learn more about “Plastlaus September” and get pointers and support for ditching single-use plastics on the initiative’s Facebook group, Instagram and Snapchat. Their website also presents information and ways of reducing plastic and is available in Icelandic, English and soon Polish as well.
Take part in the symposium on September 30th at 17:00. The event will also be live on Facebook.
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