Ashely is a Tearfund Ambassador and super volunteer! Inspired by the Rubbish Campaign, Ash challenged himself to reduce his single-use plastic consumption and made a few surprising discoveries along the way.
Recently, he shared how he went about it and the unexpected blessing of choosing a less convenient path.
Hi there, I’m Ashley, a 22-year-old Science and International Development student at Monash University in Melbourne.
Learning about the Rubbish Campaign (such an awesome name!), got me thinking about where I use plastic in my life. I’ll admit that I use more plastic than I expected. Aside from spontaneous purchases of bubble tea when I’m out with my youth group, I don’t get takeaway coffee and rarely buy takeaway meals. My main plastic use is in my weekly food shop.
I’m a relatively boring person in that I tend to eat the same things most days. For example, lunch is a sandwich with a couple of slices of chicken, a slice of cheese and some lettuce and spinach. Sliced chicken always comes in plastic packaging. Cheese normally comes in plastic packaging (unless you get the really fancy stuff), so does bread, and you often just grab a bag of lettuce off the shelf. All four components of my lunch have plastic packaging. Then there was plastic for my oats for brekkie and packaging for many dinner items. It really is everywhere!
So here’s some of what I’ve done: Instead of buying bread at my local supermarket in packaging, I’ve started buying it at the local bakery. I bring my own plastic bags from previous loaves of bread and they just keep filling them up with fresh loaves. For my lettuce, I’ve discovered a local independent grocer that has boxes of it with tongs, so I just grab that myself. I’m so thankful for the cotton bags my very wise parents bought me for Christmas (yes, it was honestly very thoughtful) and also for the local food co-op which runs every two weeks at my local church so I don’t need to use any plastic on my other fruit and veg. The green grocer is also a lot cheaper than the supermarket. It’s been really great to support local businesses - and discover a sneaky bargain there, too!
The big lesson for me in doing this has been experiencing the blessing of community: changing my behaviour to be less convenience-based has opened me up to being much more engaged with the people around me. I’ve started having a couple of chats to people at my local bakery just down the road (shout-out to Marta if you see this!), and that’s been lovely. I’ve realised how much we miss by having a really convenience-based lifestyle. When we’re driven by convenience, we tend to stick to our habits and just go to the one place that gives us everything we need. It’s been really eye-opening to realise how the big supermarkets have monopolised my consuming choices. Going to other places has been so beneficial - supporting small businesses, loving the community that comes with those small businesses, connecting with the same people over and over again, getting to know their names, enjoying new relationships, and just caring for people in my local community. It’s so much more loving. And it feels so much more like what God wants us to do in our communities.
Because God loves the world. God clearly says throughout the entire Bible how beautiful He made this world to be and that He wants us to nurture it. We are doing a pretty terrible job of taking care of it. We prefer to live comfortably than sustainably, and I am not comfortable with that. Our actions all have greater potential consequence than we know, and our society really needs a change of mindset from busy-ness and convenience to an outward-looking care and awareness.
God calls us to love - both people and planet - in everything that we do, with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. I can try and be ok at loving people, but the Rubbish Campaign is helping me to love the environment even better. Plastic is in a lot of places in our world, and a lot of the barriers we face in reducing its prevalence are quite systemic and habitual, but I want us all to see that by changing our [plastic-laden] lifestyles we are faithfully living out our Christianity, witnessing to the Gospel, and helping the world.
So what would I say to other people thinking about changing their plastic habits? It’s been a really cool adventure trying to cut plastic out of my everyday shop. I haven’t been able to get rid of all of it but I’ve definitely cut down. Just take the plunge!
Living without the convenience of going to a supermarket and getting easy, quick, plastic-wrapped goods is helping Ashley live a more deeply connected life. We pray that you too might be richly blessed as you explore new ways of putting your love for God, your neighbours and our shared earth into action.