Prior to the 1960’s the word environment essentially meant very little to people. For the most part pollution and the link between human activity and the weather was not the subject of public concern or knowledge. For anyone that has seen the Crown they will be familiar with Winston Churchill’s initial refusal to take accountability during the 1952 fog that killed 4000 people. At the time it was incomprehensible to him and many others that burning coal could cause changes in the physical environment that could prove deadly.
Rachel Carson’s New York Times best selling book Silent Spring was the catalyst for the modern environmental movement. It highlighted the threats posed to living organisms, the environment and the links between pollution and public health. The book shocked people across the world out of their collective stupor and propelled them into action.
On the 22nd of April 1970 20 million Americans took to the streets across the United States to rally against oil spills, pollution, the degradation of natural resources, the carelessness of corporations and the extinction of wildlife. It seems almost incomprehensible now that in a pre internet era young people were able to mobilise on such a significant scale and be the driving force for change. The movement placed environmental concerns on the national and international political agenda and led to a slew of legislation designed to protect the environment and curtail pollution.
Nearly 50 years later earth day has become the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by over a billion people worldwide. This year’s earth day theme is about reducing plastic pollution. We dump 19.4 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean each year. Ocean currents congest this waste into huge piles. The plastic is broken down into smaller and smaller pieces and ingested by marine life which can be fatal. Some predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Since 1970 our population has nearly doubled therefore our level of plastic waste is estimated to increase. It’s vital that each of us as individuals make a concerted effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce. There are simple things that each of us can do in our everyday lives like reducing our single use plastic items. Just by remembering to bring our own reusable grocery bag, water bottle and coffee cup can make a significant difference in the amount of waste we produce. Changing to a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one and using a menstrual cup instead of tampons and pads which come with a lot of plastic packaging can also make a truly profound difference to our level of plastic pollution.
The clothes we buy are of course also vital in the quest for sustainable living. The fashion industry is highly pollutive, in fact it is the second most pollutive industry in the world behind oil. This is primarily related to the shipping of garments from one continent to another across different stages of the supply chain. Many of the brands sold on ethi are making a concerted effort to change this and are taking tangible steps to mitigate the level of waste production and curb the trend of environmental degradation. By choosing to buy products sold on ethi you are supporting the environment and moving away from wasteful consumption patterns.
The message of earth day should resonate now more than ever. Our earth is in more dire strains than it has ever been before. We as individuals and consumers can each be instruments of change and push for a more sustainable and progressive way of living.
Written by Claire Poulton