Friday, March 26, 2010

One woman's commitment to plastic bag free life inspires millions in the UK (Blogathon post)

This post is our contribution to sustainablog's Pedal-a-Watt Powered Blogathon this weekend. The long-running green blog (and new green shopping site) is publishing for 24 hours straight to raise funds for the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Northeastern Missouri. Go join the fun: read post contributions from around the green blogosphere, leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for some great green prizes, and join in the Tweetchat at #susbppb.

The theme of the Blogathon is "Radical Sustainability, Ordinary People", which got me thinking right away about Rebeca Hosking of Modbury, UK.

Well, you might not have heard of her, but let's start with John Sauven, director of Greenpeace UK, who said about her: "She's changed the national perspective about the issue in a few months. She went as far away as she could get from her town and gave what is happening in the Pacific real meaning and relevance here. She should be prime minister."

So what's the issue? what did she do? She is the woman who in less than a month persuaded all 43 shopkeepers in little Modbury to get rid of plastic bags and replace them with with reusable cloth bags. Hosking did it in March 2007 shortly after filming a BBC documentary about the devastating effect of plastic bags on marine life in Hawaii.

She showed the film to the town's traders. Four weeks of sleepless nights researching viable alternatives followed and in May 2007 Modbury became the first plastic bag free town in the UK (and actually in all Europe as well). It got so much attention and made both retailers and consumers more aware of the damages plastic bags cause.

One thing led to another and at the end of 2008, seven BRC supermarket members voluntarily pledged to reduce the number of single-use carrier bags used by customers by 50 per cent by the end of May 2009, compared with May 2006. The result was almost unbelievable - they actually met this challenging goal: in July 2009, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported on a 48% reduction in the number of bags used by consumers. In absolute numbers it sounds even better: Comparing May 2006 to May 2009, 346 million fewer bags were used by customers in that one month alone.

So you can't say that Rebeca Hosking is responsible to each and every one of these 346 million fewer bags, but her spirit, commitment and willingness to make a difference is definitely behind this achievement. There is no greater symbol of our unsustainable wasteful lifestyle than plastic bags, and although life without them seems a bit radical, Rebeca Hosking, the town of Modbury and all the millions of British consumers that got rid of them prove that it's just a state of mind and willingness to do the right thing. That's all. So we can only hope that more ordinary people like Rebeca Hosking will follow suit and lead us to a plastic bag free planet. Radical? not really. Necessary? Definitely!

Good luck to Jeff and the rest of the participants in the Blogathon!

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!

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