Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Raising Awareness for Conservation

Unless you live in a cave, there is an excellent chance you have read the many environmental focused articles, videos and awareness campaigns that litter our media these days. I wonder how many of them you can readily recall to memory or how many of them actually influence your lifestyle.

At Blue Temple, we put a great deal of effort into our attempts to live more ‘green’, but acknowledge that it takes a lot of effort to change routine and habit and to stop and think before buying that six time packaged item because it is cheaper and easier.

Who buys individually packaged bananas when bananas are already packaged naturally?’

Our efforts and changes in lifestyle have come about as we have learned more about issues that our actions readily influence (if even on a small scale). We, unlike the majority of the population, put a lot of thought into ways we can reduce our impact, though of course, we still create waste and drive cars (and fly halfway across the world twice a year), but in areas we can make a difference, we do. This comes from our knowledge, education and our belief that our actions make a difference. These are fundamentals in behaviour.

I could sit here and quote facts to you about how the coral reefs are dying, or about how climate change is a real thing, it may get warmer, it may get colder, but we know it is changing. But these are the very things all over our media at the moment, the science is there for everyone to see. What I am not seeing, is any attempt to make people believe that our actions CAN actually make a difference, so that is what we are here to try and do today.

I think perhaps the reason making people truly believe their actions make a difference is lacking in the media is because it is so difficult to achieve. Here we will try to show you real life examples of situations where even small actions can result in negative/positive outcomes for the environment.

Sucking the Life out of the Ocean

Plastic single use straws are a source of great annoyance for us in Malaysia. Used as both a stirrer and a means to avoid touching potentially dirty glasses, almost everybody has straws in their drinks. So it is easy then, that our first encounter is related directly to straws.

One day, we were sitting at the jetty in Perhentian with some conservation focused friends, who have previously advocated against straws, and more importantly, in the proper disposal of them after use. So imagine our shock when our friends purchase drinks with straws in them, it is not hard to say ‘no straw please’.

After the drinks were finished, we all rose and left, our friends leaving their straws discarded in their empty glasses. Now, I know what you are thinking, that isn’t littering, the restaurant will clean and dispose of them properly. But will they? How do we know that the best or even correct disposal methods will be implemented? A lot of the time, we don’t. This time, we do, we have sat at the jetty and witnessed this particular restaurant throwing waste food, rubbish and empties over the edge of the jetty, directly into the sea.

Whilst our friends may, or may not have known this. Their very insistence on having a straw was their first actionable mistake, their second was then not to ensure the straw was correctly disposed of. Sure, it takes a little effort on our part to pick it up and look for a bin, but knowing provides the reason, belief we make a difference provides the effort.

Can we help you?

This story is that of positive change, where actions can make a difference. This time, it is about the behaviour of one, impacting the behaviour of others, and again was seen in Perhentian. If you are a regular follower of our blog or Facebook page, you will know that we carry out regular beach clean ups as part of our efforts to keep Perhentian clean.

This particular beach clean-up was no different to any others, we were spread out across the village beach dragging our bin bags around collecting cigarette butts, plastic straws and cups, polystyrene plates and other miscellaneous objects. Maybe halfway through the clean-up, we were approached by a small group of Malaysian students. They asked if they could help and immediately started collecting rubbish with us. They carried on until the finish, where they spoke with us about our work and who we are and even liked us on Facebook.

This story highlights the power of suggestion, showing the ability our actions have to not only help the environment directly, but to encourage and help others to do the same. 

The Plastic Bag conundrum

There are many things uncertain in life. One thing that is certain, plastic bags are horrible. Thankfully, many countries and states are starting to ban or charge for plastic bags, reducing the number of them being used.

Our final story is a simple scenario, and one I guarantee you will see in your day to day life, if only you pay attention.
One summer day, I was with some friends, we were walking through town some were ahead, some were behind me. I don’t recall where we were going, probably to the shop but the group ahead were walking along talking and laughing. One is playing ‘football’ with a plastic bag, kicking it along as he walks. All good fun if you pick it up when you finish, but the friend didn’t, he left it and walked on unperturbed. By the time I reached the bag, it had been blown by the wind to the shore and was on the verge of entering the sea.

As with the story of the straws, the friend in question has the required knowledge to understand the consequences of the plastic bag entering the sea, and knew that by leaving it on the floor it was likely to reach the sea. But for some reason, didn’t pick it up. That small action would result in another plastic bag entering the sea, and if you live in a city and are sitting there thinking that wouldn’t happen to you, watch the mockumentary below for an idea as to what happens to that plastic bag you didn’t pick up yesterday.

So there we have it, three stories that show how small actions can make a difference. If we all started to believe that our actions made a difference, and made the effort to change, we’d see a huge shift in the global environmental debate and movement. It takes a little bit of effort and thought, but if you care about your family and the future, it is not much to ask to become a little more sustainable.

This really is a case of starting small, pick up litter on your daily walks, stop buying overly packaged items, talk to your local store about offering refillable products instead of always new, always packaged, look for car sharing opportunities to work. So many things we can do to make a difference and to see the difference working.

It really is time to think global, but act local and believe that what we do can make a difference. We believe, do you?