The Magic of Making Ripples

The Magic of Making Ripples

Even the smallest actions can have bigger impacts than we realise. It’s true. When I first came across the challenge of giving up plastic for a month back in 2012 (I’m talking about Plastic Free July) I had no idea just how much this decision would change my life. I had no idea that a world of new discoveries, challenges and opportunities was about to open up before me.

After all, at the time it seemed that all I was signing up for was refusing a few plastic bags and avoiding single-use plastic-packaged groceries!

Plastic Free July changed everything for me. It challenged many things that I’d just accepted to be true, and behaviours I’d simply accepted as the way that things were done. It changed the way I saw the world. It changed the way I saw the problems in the world. It made me realise that change began with me.

It made me act. I slowly cut plastic out of my life, and in doing so I discovered a thriving local community, made many new connections with like-minded people, improved my health, began supporting local businesses and really started living a life that was in line with my values – and felt much happier for it, too!

Plastic Free July ignited a passion in me that has never gone out. The first six months were very much a personal journey, but as new habits formed and the challenges of living plastic-free lessened, this energy and enthusiasm has transferred to something bigger. Now I’m trying to educate and inspire others to think about their own personal environmental impact, and live more sustainable lifestyles, through writing, public speaking and running workshops.

I’ve been running one of these workshops (focusing on sustainable living) over the last six weeks, and last week was the final session. It’s been a great few weeks with a group of inspiring and enthusiastic people, and so rewarding!

At the end of the course I asked the participants to share all the changes they’ve made so far, or are planning to change soon. Here’s what they wrote:

Living Smart Goals

This is the kind of response that makes it all worthwhile! People feeling inspired to make positive changes, and taking action!

In addition, just after the course ended one of my participants sent me an email… “just a quick email to let you know we really enjoyed the course and we have made some positive changes because of it. I have also attached a photo of a letter that got published by our local rag, the Midland Echo. Its not one of my best but l think it makes the point… If someone replies to it, we can keep the theme rolling for a few weeks and perhaps broaden the debate out.”

Here’s the letter:

Dave Knight Letter to Echo Plastic

When I signed up to Plastic Free July in 2012, I had no idea that as individuals, we really do have the power to make a difference. That is where my real inspiration has come. It’s so rewarding to work with people and support them in making changes to their lives, and to witness the satisfaction that comes with these achievements.

Reading these lists filled me with gratitude that I’ve been able to share a message that is important to me, and that the people I’ve shared it with have been inspired to take that message and make it their own.

I realised something else from looking at these lists. Thinking about it on a personal level, in some way, small or otherwise, I have influenced all of those behaviours. To have that kind of influence is a powerful thing.  But of course, we all have that kind of influence. We usually don’t get to see lists of all the things that we influenced, but nevertheless, everything we do has some kind of influence on someone else.  Everything we do has an impact beyond ourselves, even if we don’t always realise.

Our actions are like ripples, that extend out and reach others in ways we don’t always know or see.

Whether it’s the conversations we have with friends or at the checkout when asked if we need a plastic bag, whether it’s the blog posts or articles we write that others read, whether it’s the way we behave when we pick up litter or choose to use a reusable container in public… There are others around us who are observing, watching, listening, and thinking.

It may be the people we know, or it may be the people we simply have a chance encounter with. The things we choose to do, or say, will have an influence on others. Know that whatever you do, you have the power to make a difference.

10 Responses to The Magic of Making Ripples

  1. Lindsay you and your story is really inspiring. Your course participants are so fortunate to have you as their facilitator. I had always been a “change starts with me” believer in terms of the environment, but over the last couple of years I have given up. Just overwhelmed and feeling I was making no difference, plus sick of greenwashing and put off by “eco” been trendy. However, a spark has recently been reignited. Like your Plastic Free July 2012, my month long experiment in The Minimalist Game. It’s only week two but already I am noticing changes – changes that surprise me. Basically I have realised I have been hoarding for the environment. Not chucking out things because its a waste. Its making me seriously recommit to manage my waste upstream. Rather than trying to be perfect I am just going to pick a few small actions to turn into habits and go from there. The hardest thing I find is going against the norm, even saying no to little things like plastic bags and cutlery. Also expressing my preferences, I feel like I am making a fuss. But its time to get over it and go for it and be true to my values.
    I am charting my #minsgame progress daily on Twitter @AmyMoreTime (warning excessive plastic waste may offend), as well as at moretimethanmoney.co.nz (with other musing). Hopefully this will help me keep my nerve.

    • Hi Amy, thanks so much for your comment and your lovely kind words : ) I’m so sorry to hear that you gave up, although I’m sure lots of us can relate to feeling overwhelmed at times! But glad to hear your spark has been reignited! I can totally relate to your story too…I hoarded things thinking I was doing the environment a favour, except it was more true that I was turning my home into a mini-landfill. I realised that if I have such a hard time getting rid of things then I really need to work hard to stop them getting through the front door in the first place! Good luck with the mins game : )

      I’ve just followed you on twitter and look forward to watching your progress!

  2. It is great to see your positive impact spread! My mother’s been amazing – no more cling wrap for her, reusing bread bags despite protestations from my brother! She’s in on a year ban on new clothes – a second hand challenge which she’s largely enjoyed!

    Other friends know I’m a ‘mad greenie’ so they rub off little tit bits. The BF sadly still will get a plastic bag when out without me. I actually feel ‘relief’ when out with mum, that I won’t have to assert ‘no plastic bag’ cause she’ll do it no matter what! I’m convinced my next wedding gift will be countless pyrex ‘lunch’ dishes. That’s been a HUGE waste reducer, and why we too don’t need cling wrap. We have about 12, which covers most bulk cook ups, and then two larger ‘lasange’ pyrex dishes with lids which work for things cooked like that. Any new couple could benefit from something that is durable and a step away from all the easily stainable, never gets dry in the dishwasher, plastic products.

    • Hi Sarah – I do love hearing about your mother’s journey! Very impressed that she’s reusing the bread bags!

      I can relate to the “relief”. Today a girl from work went to the shops and I asked her to get a couple of things for me, and when I gave her my reusable bag she declared it was too embarrassing! As in, the idea of bring your own bag! It was a neutral calico type bag, no weird logo or anything. How is that more embarrassing than a plastic bag?!

      I think Pyrex is probably the best gift ever : ) I just wish they had glass lids rather than plastic ones which seem to split. Then again, I probably just need some rectangular plates to put on top and I’ll be all set!

  3. Thank you for inspiring me and so many other people, not just in Australia, but around the world, to make conscious decisions about the things we buy and the waste we produce. Your workshops sound very promising and I am sure the participants will in turn inspire others to cut down on (plastic) waste. Slowly but steadily, these ripples will help create a cleaner and greener world for all of us.

    • Aw, thanks Annemieke! I love talking about waste and sharing what I’ve learned, and it’s so encouraging to know that other people want to hear about it! : ) I do think that there is still a lot of education around plastic – so many people just don’t realise the issues. We will continue to make ripples : )

  4. I am nearer 100 than most people reading this. I grew up without Plastic and that was not easy. Bread came wrapped in brown tissue. Give me my clean plastic bag. In my home country you buy the bag Next shopping day you bring it back . If it has seen better days its exchanged for a new one. To my way of thinking its not the plastic as much as how people use them. Also one has to use soap hot water to clean the pyrex

    • Growing up without plastic…I can’t really imagine it, and yet the uses have definitely exploded even in my lifetime! If my grandparents were still alive I’d love to talk to them about what living without plastic was like.

      The issue I personally have with plastic, like you say, is how it’s used – so much is just for single-use disposable items and that is such a waste : (

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