I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof of this book. It is set for publication June 4, 2019. All opinions are my own.
I read this short non-fiction book very shortly after reading American War and so the far-reaching effects of climate change were already at the forefront of my mind. Will McCallum works for Greenpeace UK and has recently spent time working in the Antarctic to create a protected area. The book is easy to follow and reads more like an extended magazine article than a full-length book. It includes checklists and sample letters and, to be honest, I skimmed over a good portion of it.
McCallum’s descriptions of the effects of plastic and the long-lasting litter that we are creating every second are eye-opening. We might be aware that our garbage doesn’t simply disappear after the garbage truck drives away but it’s easy to forget the sheer volume of trash we create. While reading How to Give up Plastic I started to really notice just how much single use plastic is in my home. We’re good about reusable bags at the grocery store and we recently purchased reusable bags for produce too instead of using the plastic ones the store provides. We have bamboo straws and bee wraps to replace cling wrap. We cloth diaper (though not 100% of the time) and try to avoid buying a lot of plastic toys. But the strawberries I bought this weekend came in a plastic clamshell, my shampoo comes in a plastic bottle, my toothbrush is entirely plastic.
McCallum isn’t trying to make you feel hopeless though. He is encouraging toward even the smallest efforts. If you forget your reusable coffee cup one day, bring it the next and that’s still one less plastic-coated cup being used. His focus too isn’t on individual use but on the larger scale – the corporations and businesses who are creating the plastic and benefitting financially from its use. He is clear on his belief that this is who needs to stop plastic use and who needs to take responsibility for its disposal. As such, he offers ideas (and sample letters) of how we as individuals can force and encourage this change.
The most straightforward way is, of course, voting with our dollar. Don’t buy from companies that don’t have an end plan for their plastic disposal. Better yet, don’t buy from companies creating plastic. This is easier said than done but, again, McCallum encourages even the smallest changes. Personally, I’ve been inspired to try out a shampoo bar to avoid another plastic bottle. I don’t love McCallum’s idea of simply getting rid of the plastic that’s in our homes. (He suggests returning it to the manufacturer but it seems to me it would simply be thrown out there.) For example, I have a full bottle of conditioner and I’m going to use it up before I search out an alternative.
Finding plastic-free products and companies does seem overwhelming right now but I’m reminded that when I committed to buying ethical clothes for the girls and I it also felt overwhelming but got easier. I’m hoping that this is the case here too. (And if you have any plastic-free items you love, especially in the kitchen or bathroom, let me know!)
Overall, this is probably a book that you read because you already agree that our plastic use is a problem. It might spur you to further action or offer further food for thought. The book does get repetitive and much of it can be skipped or skimmed through but I do believe it’s a conversation worth having.