Just because everyone does it, doesn't mean it is right.
I've been living in Barcelona for 6 months now and noticed something that people do - daily! Turns out it is actually illegal.
My daily commute consists of a 15 minute walk along the beach to the research institute where I work - the Institute of Marine Science, or Institut de Ciencies del Mar. It's the best start to the day, and I love seeing the ocean every morning and evening.
Now that it's coming into peak summer - meaning peak tourist season here, the beach is packed from sunrise to sunset. The beach is full of life.
And because it is so hot, so many people will have a few beers down at the beach - and I've seen it at any time of the day! People drinking 1 or 2, either by themselves, or in a big group. As an Australian, beach and beer is part of our 'culture', so I've spent months thinking wow they are allowed to do that here! There are police patrolling the beach everyday, sometimes telling people to rollerblade on the bike path, not the footpath (yep me, but I was still learning, and didn't know how to stop). Sometimes helping poor tourists who have had their wallet stolen. The police are around and present, and I see them everyday.
But over the weekend, this came up in conversation with a 'local' - Drinking on the beach is illegal in Barcelona. What?! I had just assumed that it was ok, because everyone was doing it. One person will see another with a beer and think they want one too. Especially because the police weren't enforcing it (or I just hadn't seen it). I'm quite glad now I haven't enjoyed an alcoholic beverage down at the beach (water 100% for me!).
It's kind of the same thing as people lining up for a restaurant. It is so common in Spain to see a huge line out the front of a restaurant, and people tend to think that means it's really good. And they will wait - sometimes up to 1 hour! Just because they see others there and think they also want to go there. No thanks. Or at the beach people will go and put their towel down right next to you (as in barely arms length away). Then more and more people come, all putting their towels down and setting umbrellas up in a big clump. Just because everyone else is there - they seem to follow. I love my space, especially at the beach, so we've walked 10 minutes away from the crowd and essentially had the beach to ourselves. People follow others.
The point of this story is that just because everyone does it, doesn't mean it is right.
Same goes for reducing our reliance on plastics.
Just because everyone has been so used to using a straw, a take away coffee cup, using plastic shopping bags - it doesn't mean that it is 'right'.
There is a better option! And the alternative is much much better for our oceans.
The challenge is to change the way we think about plastics, and change our behaviours towards using them. The challenge is to educate ourselves and our friends, family and colleagues of alternatives we can use, and to lead by example.
If you start doing something daily it becomes routine. Your routine and motivation will rub off on those around you. You will start building critical mass and uniting like-minded people who are moving towards reducing their reliance and use of single-use plastics.
One day everyone will be doing it - whether they've consciously made the effort, or they are just following the crowd. And I cannot wait for that day.
- Steph XO
Photo credit: classicsailor