A tropical paradise is something usually dreamed about and reserved for vacation times - a short slice of life on an island where you can forget about work and the busy, business of life back home.
However, when My Love and I decided to make this our home for a year, never could I have been prepared for the difference between what it was like to holiday in Bali for 4 weeks a year, and what it was like to call this place home.
From that first moment when we drove down the back alley of the street where we now live, the horror that struck us both to the core - that this tropical paradise hid one seriously dark secret, one that holiday makers don't too often see, and when they do the problem is dismissed with a flippant "gross", and not thought about again.
As we travelled down that back alley that first day we were full of excitement for the life that the next year will bring us, admiring the large fancy villas, looking curiously at the ongoing new construction, and waving to the people we now call neighbours.
And at the last corner of our back alley before we merge onto the major motorway, we knew the tight corners and the holes in the road would become so familiar to us soon that it wouldn't be long before we were driving along with confidence. Until we reached the empty lot.
An area full of trees with a curious little track that must lead into the back of someone's home. Big tropical trees and bushes on this undeveloped lot, unusual for a town like Sanur because the surge in expats and private villa accommodation has created a real estate boom on this side of the Bypass. But this lot had been left untouched, except by the hands of the many locals who passed it everyday.
Hidden underneath the large bushes and wild grasses was a sight no conscious person could see and not be horrified by. Piles of rubbish, plastic bags, abandoned cushions, wastage tossed out of car windows, off of passing motor bikes, and strategically shoved under the plants that camouflaged the real truth of how the culture of Bali did not include protecting its tropical beauty. It was a virtual land fill in a very public space.
Now, we've been travelling to Bali for over 10 years now, so I'm not unfamiliar with the rubbish filled waterways, litter covered beaches and floating plastic in the ocean, but to see that this was very obviously not a problem caused by tourists, but the opposite - it was a problem caused at a fundamental part of culture in Bali, it was the locals who contributed to the issue at a significant level.
but swimming in an ocean full of plastic is disgusting!
Plastic would have to be one of the best and the worst inventions in the last century. It has changed the way we live as a society. It enabled cheap manufacturing of product which elevated the standard of living for billions of people. But plastic has infiltrated every part of our life now, the convenience of which has driven a society that cares more about the cost of product on their own bank balance than the cost of product on the environment.
There are so many things wrong with the current level of which we rely on plastic and therefore petroleum as a society, that I could go on and on for days about the massive changes we as consumers need to make in the way that we buy our products. It is not just about carrying your own shopping bags to the supermarket or carrying your own water bottle and coffee mug however. It comes down to making choices on every level - what products you buy, how you buy them, who you buy them from and what you do with the wastage afterwards.
For societies like Australia where we conveniently have council provided recycling facilities, it is easy to think that you are doing a good deed if you put your containers in the right bins, but unfortunately, we are at a point in our world's history where it has gone way beyond this as a necessary measure for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
Plastic has infiltrated every part of our lives. From the clothes we wear, to the additives in the products we use, it is harder and harder to get through a day without contributing to the issues in some way. However, it doesn't just stop there. Our consumer behaviour is just one slice of the pie.
and petroleum has no nutritional value...
The fashion industry is one of the greatest plastic wastage causes in the world. Working in a retail store for over 10 years I witnessed this firsthand. And it was one of the many reasons I began my journey toward greener living all those years ago.
Every item that enters a fashion store, newly manufactured and ready to be sold, comes in a plastic bag. Not one plastic bag for a style, but one plastic bag per item. And usually one plastic hanger per item also. All of which goes to landfill the minute it is torn off of the garment and hung for sale. Horrified by this practise, I would keep each bag in a pristine condition so it could be reused for stock transfers, and the hangers would go home with me or to the local charity shop. But despite my protests and my colleagues to our senior representatives, this is simply how China manufacturing does business and it happens AT EVERY FASHION STORE.
If you consider how much wastage that is, the numbers would stupify you. But the thing is, we can't do anything to prevent this practise from happening - except by voting with our consumer dollars.
And this is exactly what we must consider when it comes to reducing our individual footprint.
Buying an alternative to plastic covered or containing items is the first step. Taking our own containers when we purchase takeaway is another. And without doubt, buying less as a principle and a way of life is another. However, we must also become educated consumers. We must be conscious of the greater impact of the decisions we make everyday, because when we dispose of an item, this is the last step in the life cycle of a product - think of how many decisions are completely out of our hands before we even make the choice to buy.
For more on plastic in the fashion industry and how it is effecting our oceans, see this article here.
For more on how you can reduce your plastic consumption, see this article here.
To join the movement against plastic pollution, see this article here.