INFLUENCE: PLASTIC IS NOT FANTASTIC
“People need to understand that we have a global crisis on our hands”, says Dianna Cohen, co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Single-use and disposable plastics are seriously impacting our oceans, our environment, animals and us; but everyone can make a difference with their daily choices. The plastic pollution crisis was created by humans in just the last half-century. Humans can and must correct it.”
The simple fact is that our planet cannot digest plastic. It’s the most durable material ever made, designed to last forever, yet 33 per cent of it is used once and then discarded. It’s polluting our planet, killing our wildlife, affecting our health, poisoning our food chain, and costing billions to lessen these effects along the way. “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you”, said the esteemed British activist Dr. Jane Goodall. “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
As we spend more and more of our time consumed with social media, it makes sense that those who want to make a difference are campaigning tirelessly through via their digital personae – so in the new age of activism, platforms like Instagram are the new frontline. It’s little surprise that #zerowaste has been tagged to just over a million images, and #conservation and #sustainability both to over 1.7 million. In fact, Instagram and its influencers have a such standing these days that Singapore’s Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources recently paid 28 micro-influencers for a three-month marketing campaign.
Of all that threatens the environment, plastic is of paramount concern. Figures suggest that, by the end of the decade, more than half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold annually, a demand equivalent to almost 20,000 plastic bottles every second.
To consume water straight from the taps would be a logical solution – but it isn’t always possible. Offering part of the solution, Boxed Water is another example of a company using the influence of Instagram to put out their message. With roughly three-quarters of each box made of fully recyclable paper – which is free of BPAs and phthalates, and sourced from well-managed forests – they also ship the boxes flat to regional filling locations, significantly reducing their carbon footprint compared to the manufacturing and shipping of plastic bottles. What’s more, their #BetterPlanet campaign sees the brand plant two trees for every Instagram post that features their boxed water, with 612,567 trees already planted in partnership with the National Forest Foundation.
The power of Instagram influence has been duly noted by the Michigan-based brand (who call themselves a “part sustainable water company, part philanthropic project”) – and a quick scoot around the platform shows us that influencers are thoroughly in tune with this critical subject. Nuria Val (219k) regularly posts about the overuse of plastic, and has collaborated with food-centric designer Pepi de Boissieu on an awareness project called “Heal the world”: “it’s a fact that, by 2050, our oceans will have more plastic than fish”, Val states. “It is amazing that, even when we know all this, we still accept tonnes of plastic in our shopping options. When we shop for food, for instance, we need to turn down the products that come over-packaged, with layers and layers of plastic.”
Anita Vandyke – aka @rocket_science (17.9k) – is a prominent eco-influencer, and is working her way to a zero-waste lifestyle. She recently warned her followers of the dangers of single-use plastics: “Did you know it takes seven to nine litres of water to make one litre of bottled water? That is the amount of water required to make a plastic water bottle, which is often discarded to landfill after a single use.” Shia Su, @_wastelandrebel_ (68.7k) has sent out a similarly stark message: “making plastic water bottles used in the US alone takes enough oil and energy to fuel ONE MILLION cars; 90 per cent of PET bottles never get recycled, but end up on landfills.”
Naturally, hotels are one of the worst offenders of plastic overuse: from single-use coffee cups to straws and water bottles, throwaway culture is in their nature. Seeking to right these wrongs, Ben Pundole’s @stayplasticfree is a campaign that started in collaboration with EDITION Hotels, using the latter brand as an inspiration and an industry standard for others to follow. The stats of single-use plastics at the London EDITION in 2017 alone are alarming: 67,000 staff plastic bottles; 120,000 plastic turndown bottles; 30,000 sports bottles for the gym; 500,000 straws (1,369 per day). In 2018, they intend to be 100 per cent single-use plastic free – an impressive commitment that will see them switching to plastic alternatives across the board.
Using EDITION as a blueprint for change, their Stay Plastic Free initiative could have significant impact across the industry – and with 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the sea, and the threat that, by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans, it’s critical that other brands take note. Given the disturbing statistics from just one hotel, if the entire industry were to follow suit, it could stand to make a profound difference.
From supermodel Anja Rubik (958k) to Georgia May Jagger (870k), and on to bona-fide superstars like Leonardo DiCaprio (22.9m), the call for minimising the impact of single-use plastics is prominent across social media, with campaigns such as Pundole’s and Project 0 (a movement that’s unafraid of using celebrity influence to aid its work) utilising platforms like Instagram to get their messages across to a wider audience.
Aside from the obvious menace of single-use plastics, there are a growing number of influencers promoting a lifestyle that is entirely zero waste; Lauren Singer, aka @trashisfortossers (230k), who claims that the amount of trash she’s produced in five years fits into one 16-ounce mason jar. “Many people don’t see, or believe that their actions have an impact on the system”, she explains of our responsibility to the environment. “I feel the complete opposite of that. I feel like every single person’s actions are what create the system. If you don’t do everything in your power to create the world you want to live in, that world will never exist.”
Popularising the zero-waste movement through her Trash is for Tossers blog, Singer has also gone on to found an organic laundry detergent, The Simply Co., and has opened up Package Free Shop in the heart of Brooklyn – a design-conscious store dedicated to helping others achieve the zero waste lifestyle. “I created Package Free Shop because I believe that, as consumers, we all should have convenient access to products that help us reduce our environmental impact”, she says. “I also started it to empower amazing, mission-driven entrepreneurs who are dedicating their lives to tackling plastic pollution and waste, and to help them grow their businesses in a way that is sustainable.”
Alongside Singer, an army of zero-waste influencers are leading the way for a brighter future – folk like @going.zero.waste (47.7k); @zerowasteguy (22.6k); @zerowastechef (40.1k); and @dans_le_sac (20.4k), a stylish brand producing eco-friendly products that help you to achieve your plastic-free lifestyle.
With hotels and the travel industry as a whole having to get smarter about waste, it’s high time to be inspired by the lives of Instagram’s eco-influencers: whether that’s following EDITION’s lead and joining the Stay Plastic Free fold, or going the whole hog and attempting a zero waste approach, acting sooner rather than later has never been more vital. It is estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic will end up in the world’s oceans in 2018 alone, one garbage truck full every minute. Ditching single-use plastic is not a trend: it is a necessity.