In this personal, moving essay, youth activist Hannah Testa shares with readers how she led a grassroots political campaign to successfully pass state legislation limiting single-use plastics and how she influenced global businesses to adopt more sustainable practices. Through her personal journey, readers can learn how they, too, can follow in Hannah’s footsteps and lower their carbon footprint by simply refusing single-use plastics.
“While trees provide us with some oxygen, most of the oxygen we breathe is actually produced from marine life in the ocean. Approximately every other breath we take is generated from the ocean.“
I picked up this little pocket book about a month ago from my local library, and I’m so glad I did. While I don’t usually reach for non-fiction, this looked like a quick read to give me further insight on the plastics crisis. I worked at a grocery store and seeing the amount of single-use plastic packaging used made this problem plague my mind. This book was exactly what I was looking for: a quick read but packed with informative detail and insights on steps one can do to make a difference.
I loved reading the prologue where Testa recounts how she has created change from a young age. She once organized a fundraising event with her friends to help a local farm. A viewer donated $10,000 to the cause after the event raising money for the farm (a viewing of the American Girl movie Saige Paints the Sky) was featured on the news.
A line I hear often is that an individual’s lifestyle changes is not enough to make major changes to the climate crisis. While it is true that large corporations and businesses are the ones that have the most impact, ordinary people are the ones who bring up these issues and demand change. Testa mentions many other young change makers like herself who have contributed to making change on a larger level. While the problem cannot be changed by personal commitment alone, Testa and other activists’ work has reminded me of how one person’s idea can turn into a collective effort. Like how a 12 year old’s wish to create a better space for farm animals ended up with $10,000 towards the cause.
As Testa mentions, it is up to consumers to speak up and hold big businesses accountable.
“Businesses rely on consumers to buy their products, so if customers decide to no longer buy their products until they ditch their single-use plastics and eliminate their plastic packaging, businesses will shift to match the needs of their customers”
This is something I’ve seen in action with the popularity of reusable bags, fees on plastic bags, and paper or reusable straws replacing plastic straws. I think this is a sign that it is possible and that we are moving in the right direction, though this is really just the beginning. Hannah also gives readers solutions on how they can live a life free of single-use plastics, including: using reusable bags and food containers, shopping second hand, seeking out products with little to none plastic packaging, and more.
Plastic is Toxic
This was a very insightful and sobering read as well. While I, like many others, are aware of the ongoing climate crisis, we often think of the garbage that pollutes our waters and has devastating consequences on wildlife. But, still, I wasn’t quite as aware of the extent that plastic affects our health negatively. Plastic in our water means plastic in our food, which negatively affects many coastal communities that rely on the water for their livelihoods. Along with that:
“Plastic also releases toxins into the food and drinks it comes in contact with. So, yes, your plastic coffee cup is leaching toxins into your coffee. It’s no surprise that plastic is considered a potentially human carcinogenic material.”
The 5 Rs?
While working at a grocery store, I experienced first-hand how although recycling is an option, a lot of plastic doesn’t even get recycled. There is a lot of confusion about what can get recycled or what could get a bag of recycling thrown in the trash. Testa addresses this recycling confusion, as policies change over time and also depend on your local jurisdiction.
What is there to do about the plastic crisis? Testa introduces readers to a concept that goes beyond the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) taught in school. (With recycling being a last resort- did you know only that in Canada, only about 9% of plastic is actually recycled? ) The two Rs she includes are to Refuse and Raise Awareness.
Final Thoughts: Read this book!
While I did already know some of these things before reading, I was able to learn even more about the crisis. Now, I am more aware of the problem and what I can do to limit my use of single-use plastics, as well as inspire others to do the same. I highly recommend picking up this book if you are wanting to become more environmentally conscious. (Which really should be everyone because plastic affects our health, wildlife, and planet!) Testa’s words give a great understanding of this problem and show the power that everyone carries to make change.
Check out Hannah’s website here! She is currently raising money to donate copies of her book to schools in marginalized communities.