In her acclaimed TED talk, How to Find Joy in Climate Action, climate leader Ayana Elizabeth Johnson suggests drawing a Venn diagram to map these questions: What are you good at? What is the work that needs doing? And what brings you joy? Where your answers intersect is where you should put your climate action effort.
Sound advice, we say. However, with 12 million tonnes of plastic poured into the sea each year and a deadly ticking clock counting swiftly down, it’s crucial that where you put your climate action effort makes the biggest impact. While individual actions such as committing to stop using plastic straws and single-use carrier bags are important, these actions alone are not enough.
Plastic straws are only a tiny fraction of the problem – less than 1 per cent. The risk is that banning straws may confer “moral license” – allowing companies and their customers to feel they have done their part. – Jim Leape, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions.
When it comes to meaningful change, more people means more power, and luckily, working together is somewhat of a superpower for humanity. It’s enabled us to do remarkable things, from building civilisations to exploring space. And it’s our best tool for solving the plastic pollution crisis. All over the globe, there are countless organisations that mobilise collective action and effect change. From alliances of European NGOs to plastic-free communities, meet the organisations and initiatives you can support to be part of the solution to plastic pollution.
A Plastic Planet
A Plastic Planet is a grassroots organisation with a single goal: to turn off the plastic tap. A Plastic Planet is an organisation that is highly vocal in the media, working with retailers, Governments and legislators to reduce the production and the use of plastic to package food and drink. In 2018, it launched the world’s first Plastic Free trust mark, with Iceland as the first retailer to adopt the mark, and later launched the Industry Commitment Mark for businesses demonstrating their intention to reduce plastic across their operations.
Surfers Against Sewage
Surfers Against Sewage is an environmental charity dedicated to the protection of the ocean, waves, beach and wildlife. They prioritise fighting the plastic pollution that blights our beaches and coastlines and organise more beach cleans than any other charity in the UK! But that’s not all, the charity also runs a number of campaigns to tackle single-use plastics from beaches and green spaces. From its Plastic Free Schools campaign to its Plastic Free Communities initiative (we’ve started one ourselves!), there’s something for everyone to get involved with and become a plastic-free activist!
Described as one of the most visible environmental organisations in the world, Greenpeace may not need any introductions, but did you know that across the UK, there are groups of Greenpeace volunteers working locally to combat the global plastic problem? Joining a Greenpeace group is a great opportunity to get together with like-minded people to defend the planet, but there are many other ways you can contribute. From signing petitions and making a donation to joining its Political Lobbying Network, Greenpeace offers a whole range of opportunities to make an impact.
Parley for the Oceans is a global collaboration network that aims to raise awareness of the fragility of the oceans and inspire and empower brands, governments, and innovators to create new ways of preserving them. In 2015, Parley unveiled its first collaboration with Adidas: a collection of running shoes that converts plastic waste from our shorelines and converts them into beautiful, high-performance products. This is just one of the many projects undertaken by Parley, supported by over 526,000 volunteers across 30 countries through the Parley Global Cleanup Network.
Materiom is here to empower everyone, everywhere, to participate in the next generation of materials. It provides an open-source database of recipes for materials made from natural ingredients, empowering scientists, material developers and scientists to accelerate material development and support the development of biomaterial supply chains. Want to see exactly what it takes to make avocado bioplastic? Check out the full library of recipes here.
Government policy that propels a change in how we make, use and dispose of plastic in our ocean is vital – and no one believes this more than social enterprise Common Seas. Tackling the plastic pollution crisis by driving new policy and investing in the circular economy, the non-profit has recently released its latest Government programme, Plastic Drawdown. Plastic Drawdown is a rapid, affordable and user-friendly tool that helps decision-makers create ambitious policies to tackle plastic pollution. To date, Plastic Drawdown has been used to support policymakers in Indonesia, Greece, the UK and the Maldives. Want to help governments act on plastic pollution? You can support the work of Common Seas by making a donation.
UOcean is a movement that believes in a people-based approach to conservation. Through its volunteering programmes and network of volunteers, schools, businesses and chapters, its goal is to remove 1 billion kilos of marine pollution from the ocean by 2030. Learn more about joining a UOcean clean-up here.
Rethink Plastic Alliance
Bringing together policy and technical expertise from various relevant fields, Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs with one common aim: a free future from plastic pollution. With thousands of active groups and supporters in every EU Member state, Rethink Plastic works to fight out the technical policy details to deliver policy solutions for a future that is free from plastic pollution. From signing petitions and manifestos to supporting campaigns on social media, there are many ways you can take action to support Rethink Plastic’s cause.
Kids Against Plastic
Kids Against Plastic started out as a litter-picking organisation in 2016, but has since evolved into a charity that gives young people and schools all the tools and resources they need to fight against plastic pollution. The charity works with businesses, individuals, schools and cafes to minimise the use of the Big 4: drinking straws, takeaway cups, plastic water bottles & plastic shopping bags, and swap in reusable items while encouraging crowd/social science through their litter logging app. So far, more than 100,000 pieces of plastic litter are picked up every year using their app!
Ever find it a challenge to find truly plastic-free products? Well, look no further! Non-Plastic Beach is committed to turning the tide on plastic waste by providing effective, affordable and sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic. Each product in their range is effective, affordable, and, most importantly, sustainable, making it easy to help you eliminate disposable plastic one easy swap at a time.
Touted as one of the most innovative not-for-profit organisations of 2022 by Fast Company, Only One’s platform makes it simple to take impactful action and remove plastic and carbon pollution. For as little as £7.50 per month, you can grow your own ocean forests and reefs and support plastic-removing projects. Ready to join the digital action platform for people who love the ocean and want to save the planet? Sign up here.
Footprint develops and manufactures alternative solutions to short-term and single-use plastic. Its products are designed with the entire product lifecycle in mind and are made from 100% bio-based, compostable and recyclable fibres. Its non-profit branch, Footprint Foundation, is committed to educating businesses and consumers on plastic pollution. Offering a huge range of webinars and downloadable resources, the foundation’s bank of tools aims to inspire long-lasting change and provide insights into plastic’s serious impact on our planet and bodies.
Hope for a Plastic-Free Future
Plastic pollution is a global crisis. Yes, making small changes in your daily life is vital, but by supporting these organisations, you can make a meaningful difference and impact on a larger scale.
Are you an organisation on a mission to end plastic pollution? Whether you need an animated explainer video or a communications strategy, we’d love to hear about your planet-protecting project.
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Written in collaboration with Naomi Couper