Members of the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) society are spreading awareness about consumption and waste through creative initiatives around campus.
Every two weeks 1 million coffee cups are thrown into Irish landfills, and washing clothes sends millions of microplastics into the ocean. But with such a largescale problem, is it possible for one person make a difference?
According to Annika Henke, Representative for the Community and University Sustainability Project, one person can make a difference. Henke said the Mayor of Galway believes that if there is economic demand to change the way we consume products, then innovative changes will follow.
“If there are people who want the difference, there will be a supply. The economy will change, it will change what they [companies] give to you… because you just have to buy it,” Henke said. “Every time you shop something that is an alternative [to single-use products], you elect the alternative.”
The bonus isn’t just for our Earth, consumers and businesses benefit as well.
“It is also cost efficient for the companies when we provide our own stuff because every time they have to buy something single-use, they have to buy it,” Henke said. “In the long run their prices can go down.”
Unfortunately, the problem goes farther than what we consume, it is also what we wear.
“A lot of our fibers are made from plastics, so when we wash them [clothes] in the washing machine they release a lot of microplastics. So it’s just awful, we can’t win,” CCAFS member Michaela Peters said.
Peters is bringing the environment-focused fashion initiative, Nu Wardrobe, to Galway. It is a blog-style fashion website where users can upload pictures of clothes they are willing to rent or sell to buyers in their area.
Dublin-based founder Aisling Byrne was inspired to create the site after experiencing firsthand the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry in India. Only 6 months after the creation of the online marketplace, Nu Wardrobe has ambassadors all over Ireland.
The platform reduces some of the harmful effects of fashion on multiple levels by creating a sustainable fashion alternative.
“It’s also kind of based around this idea of community, so not only are you dealing with an environmental problem but it’s also trying to build a community and a different kind of economic system as well that’s a bit more just,” Peters said.
Peters and other CCAFS members were inspired by a flea-market style clothing swap hosted by Byrne at Trinity College, and are planning their own “Swap Shop” in the upcoming months. At the event, NUI Galway students will be able to shop and exchange clothing for affordable prices, while keeping their environmental impact low.
According to CCAFS auditor Theo Lienhardt, making a positive change on the environment starts with changing our daily habits.
“If you don’t use plastic you don’t have to worry about recycling,” Lienhardt said. “Trying to cut down plastic in my daily life actually made it [being sustainable] so much easier.”
CCAFS has been collecting take-away coffee cups as a part of their most recent initiative, Plastic Free Week. They plan to continue to spread awareness of how much waste NUI Galway students are consuming by displaying the cups they collect in a creative way.
Could you live one week single-use waste free? Visit our Facebook page, Facebook.com/NUIGSIN, to see if one of our reporters succeeded.
By Claire VanValkenburg
Photo credit Kevin Gill