Oh Garbage!

February 15, 2019

I’ve felt that garbage is an issue for quite a long time now. When I was maybe 12-15 years old and I cleaned up to my room I always ended up with a lot of stuff to throw away by the end of it. Back then I didn’t think about going green and doing things for the environment. I would just think, ‘where does this all go?’ Lazy me, I didn’t try to find the answer. At that time I just questioned without caring.

Fast forward, life goes on and I was busy with it. I kept occupied with friends, studies then work, etc. Then by the beginning of 2013, I started to think about it more often. I was still lazy, but I put more effort into researching the problem, started to look at the plastic bag issue. I then interviewed one of my high school friends about the Plastic Bag Diet movement she was (and is still) active in. You can check the article here.

I started to travel around 2001, but I became a little bit crazy about travel from 2009 (the year when I first travel overseas). As I travelled more I would see more garbage everywhere. Just everywhere. From 2013-2016 I travelled all over Indonesia, and even in the most remote of places, I would find piles of garbage.

I am a big supporter of Indonesian tourism and I think people should visit Indonesia for a lot of good reasons like beautiful destinations, friendly people, diverse cultures and so on. The amount of garbage you find as you travel around Indonesia is really worrying though. You will find some photos from my travels that encapsulate this problem.

Looking at these photos my heart sinks and I feel so sad. Back in 2014 when I lived in Bali for a few months I picked up garbage from Batu Bolong Beach by myself because I just couldn’t stand it (felt so odd to ignore the garbage). After 10 minutes of picking up garbage, a guy joined and gave me a hand. We didn’t clean much, we were just two people, but we managed to collect two bags of garbage, mostly plastic.

Did I feel better after cleaning up the beach? Yes, but just a tiny bit.

For years I hated my self for not doing more about the problem. But that is actually one of the problems. I focused on BIG things, BIG chances, BIG movement and such. The thing is, I’m a person who is easily overwhelmed. Continuous small steps and changes are what keep me going, and that holds true for my work as well as my actions towards garbage.

I know that I can do more, but I don’t want to get burnt out. I want to do it step-by-step. If you are like me, there’s a good chance you feel frustrated by the amount of garbage in this world and think that you should do something about it, but are confused about what you can do (and feel overwhelmed). Here are some ideas, things that I have done and I’ll continuously do that you can copy.

I believe that even a tiny change can make a contribution to a better environment. Never feel that what you are doing is useless.

No to plastic bag(s)

This is the easiest thing you can do (at least in my opinion). Start to say no to a plastic bag(s). Make sure you bring your own shopping bag and you are good to go.

Bring your own tumbler

Yes, I know that plastic bottles can be recycled, but looking at the amount you can consume, I would rather reduce than recycle. Bring your own tumbler, either fill it with water so you don’t need to buy a bottle of water or use it for the ice coffee/bubble drink/etc that you buy.

No to plastic straw(s)

This is also easy, but the difficult thing is telling the shop attendant that we don’t need it. By default, they will put a straw into a drink. Just remember to repeatedly say no and someday they will notice (hopefully more people doing the same thing). I don’t usually need a straw, but if you need one, then buy a stainless steel straw or a bamboo straw and use it continuously.

Use reusable cotton pads

Cotton pads are something that girls usually use daily. I have used a reusable cotton pad for the last 6 months and I’m happy I made the decision to switch. It is also more economical. I think you can use the reusable cotton pad for 7-8 months or so. Mine is still working fine and I think I can continue to use it for a few more months.

Use bamboo cotton buds

I haven’t had the confidence to use the reusable ear cleaner, but I’m looking to try this in the next 2-3 months. I did switch to bamboo cotton buds, instead of the ones with the plastic, 6 months ago.

Use soap bars rather than shower gel

If you go to a hotel you’re almost always provided with a small sachet of shower gel in a sachet of plastic. A bar of soap normally has less packaging. Use soap bar and you’ll create less garbage. You can actually buy a soap bar without any packaging sometimes. Again it’s a small change but can have a big impact if you think about how many sachets/packaging you use.

Girls … Use a washable menstrual pad and menstrual cup

I’ve been using a reusable menstrual pad for 8 months and menstrual cup for 4 months. I’m not confident to only use a menstrual cup, and I’d rather use a reusable menstrual pad at the beginning and end of my cycle. One thing for sure, I won’t buy the usual menstrual pads ever again for my period. I still have a few left though. So yayy for me! I’m so happy about this one.

Eat less snacks

One of my bad habits is snacking. I love cookies and crisps. With most snacks, the packaging is normally plastic. I’m trying to switch to chocolate with simpler packaging or fruit (no packaging).

Less online shopping

It is really convenient, but the packaging used by online shops is just so much! I am now more thoughtful (but yes it is difficult) about things I buy and I try my best to avoid Go-Food and services like this.

Dining in rather than take away

Dine-in more! And if you do want to have a takeaway, bring your own containers. This is something that I know I can do, but it is difficult, as I don’t usually carry containers with me. I probably need to find a simpler container or food wrapper, or just dine in.

Shop less or do second hand shopping more

One thing I realised after I came back from my 10 months trip in Asia and Africa is you don’t need much in life. You can live with fewer possessions. Sure, I still buy fast-fashion brands such as H&M, but I don’t shop as much as I did before.

Say no to fast fashion and get yourself better quality stuff, or maybe locally made stuff. It just lasts longer… Oh, I haven’t really touched on the topic of ethically produced products here, maybe later.

Join a beach clean up or similar

I haven’t done this as much as I should. I’ve joined three beach clean-ups which were initiated by an NGO or a company. Some people say that these events are just a gimmick. My response is whatever. I mean if it is a gimmick so what?

Go there with good intention. You volunteer and give your energy and time to cleaning up a little bit. Even if you discover at the end that it is just a gimmick, at least a chunk of the beach was cleaned.  Also, follow people who are concern about environmental issues on social media to stay motivated. It is so easy to get demotivated and back to I-don’t-really-care mode.

Support companies that are environmentally friendly

You can support companies by buying the products that they sell. Help them to promote their cause(s) through your own social media. The other way you can help is if they are a public company then invest in them.

Donate to some environment cause

Donate to a local NGO that you trust that is working on environmental issues. I would recommend you choose a relatively small local NGO since from my experience they are the ones that struggle and need the money that we donate for their cause.

Classified my garbage

I’ll start to look into the option of sending some of my garbage to Waste4Change to avoid it ending up in a landfill. The next thing I would like to look into is to learn how to compost so I can deal with my organic waste. Obviously, that’s harder to do in a city if you don’t have a garden.

That’s all from me. I hope you find it useful. If you have any other tips on things that I can do, please let me know. I would love to improve myself little by little. 

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