It's #PlasticFreeJuly, a month long opportunity to take the pledge to refuse single-use plastics and tell the world about it on social media in hopes that others will see the light too - namely, that our addiction to 'convenient' disposable culture is having devastating effects on the planet, especially water.
While putting together Zero Waste Kits, avoiding plastic packaging wherever possible and participating in community cleanups are fantastic and admirable steps towards generating a more mindful culture, we also need to take it to the next level. Rather than convincing 2.8 million Torontotonians to carry zero waste kits, wouldn't it be easier if we put regulations in place at the city level to reduce our reliance on single-use items?
What Can You Do?
Appropriately (considering it's #PlasticFreeJuly) Councillors on the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) will be considering what the city can do to eliminate and reduce unnecessary and polluting plastics. This could mean bans and fees on single-use plastics in Toronto.
BUT - there's always a but - paid corporate lobbyists have been emailing and meeting with Councillors and the Mayor to ensure the operation of business as usual. This is why the proposed plastic bag ban never materialized back in 2012 and also why nothing was done in 2008 to regulate the one million non-recyclable coffee cups and lids that Toronto throws out every day.
Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) has been running Zero Waste Advocacy Training Sessions in the city to educate people on how to effectively make our voices heard, loud and clear above the corporate lobbyists. With the first PWIC meeting coming up on July 10th and the second around the corner on July 23rd, there is no better time than the present to follow TEA's advice (you can find a summary of the full run down of the last meeting on Zero Waste Hub's blog):
1) Contact Your City Councillor
Locate your City Councillor and contact them. Tell them you want to see them take meaningful action to reduce the amount of single-use plastics in our city with fees, bans and other regulations.
2) Contact the PWIC Councillors
Whether you live in their ward or not, you should contact the Councillors on the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) directly and voice your concerns about waste in Toronto. According to TEA, these particular councillors are motivated by the financial angle of waste. For example, you could mention that all this waste the city has to process is a drain on tax-payer dollars and that the companies who create the garbage should shoulder the financial burden in paying for its disposal.
But it doesn't have to be about money - you can take any angle that is meaningful to you. This can be done via a phone call, an email, a letter or a tweet. Here is their contact information:
3) Sign the Petition: Tell Toronto to Take Action on Single-Use Plastics
Toronto Environmental Alliance has been circulating a petition over the last few months that gets sent directly to the Mayor, your Ward Councillor and the PWIC Councillors. This is incredibly important - when large numbers of people sign petitions like these, it sends the message loud and clear to our politicians that this is an important issue for voters. And guess what - there's an election around the corner in October. SIGN IT.
4) Take Photos of Waste Around the City and Post Them Online
Use what the Internet gave ya and tweet your heart out! Take photos of all the waste you see lying around our streets, on our beaches and in our waterways and post those photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Post them with a link to TEA's Petition and encourage people in your social network to sign it too. Tag your City Councillor as well as the PWIC Councillors in your photos and tell them you want meaningful action on single-use plastics.
Here is a sample tweet, notice that the PWIC Councillors and others are tagged in the photos:
5) Come Out to the PWIC Council Meetings
If you are able to, come out to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meetings at City Hall and show your support for the zero waste movement in Toronto! The first meeting will be held at City Hall on July 10th at 9:30am. You can read more about the background of what will be discussed here.
You can also register to speak at the PWIC meetings to have your say - either personally or on behalf of an organization or group - to ask councillors to take the actions you want and why. It's probably too late to make it to the July 10th meeting, but you can look for the July 23 meeting here.
6) Hold an Event with a Zero Waste Angle
If you are organizing an event - it could be a swap, a Farmer's Market, a Community Potluck, a screening, or anything really - use it as an opportunity to promote an aspect of the zero waste lifestyle. Take photos of what you're doing, post them online and - you guessed it - tag your City Councillor.
For example, Withrow Farmer's Market has launched a Zero Waste Station for patrons of the market to borrow reusable bowls, plates, cups and cutlery to avoid using single-use plastics while enjoying food and drinks from local vendors.
You could also consider inviting your City Councillor as well as asking them to publicize your event in their community newsletter. You can also use your event as an opportunity to make your attendees aware of the severity of the plastic pollution issue, ask them to sign TEA's petition or ask them to reach out to their own City Councillors about it.
Take #ActionForWater by participating in any of the above actions - whichever ones work for you! As Toronto Environmental Alliance and Greenpeace Canada have emphasized, the priority is to show that enough of us care and why, and to keep it up! We underestimate how much power we actually have - and what better time to come together and exercise it than during #PlasticFreeJuly!