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#trashtag – a trend for change

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The #trashtag challenge has gone viral and is raising awareness on the current waste crisis 

Recently a new social media challenge has emerged where in various countries individuals or groups are implementing small waste-related activities and take pictures of the area before and after they have cleaned it. The #trashtag challenge has gone viral and simply by looking at the number of people who share information related to this subject, one can assume this is developing into a global trend.

Where we had all sorts of social media challenges throughout the past years, more or less “useful” for the planet, this one seems to be something which has the potential for raising awareness on various aspects of our current waste crisis. First it shows that all over the world, communities are facing the issue of polluted habitats; second again globally more and more citizens are being disturbed by pollution; and third and maybe most importantly, more and more people are taking action – individually. 

“It is just one straw,” said one million people. Similarly “it is just one area I clean,” said one million people maybe? Each one of us has responsibility to be a sustainable citizen, no matter which roles we take on professionally and privately. 

Too often the assumption that “only one” cannot change anything, cannot do anything, cannot have the power to influence sustainability. Well this we have been confirmed more and more in the recent years, is a false statement. It is merely a perceived impotence looking at the unsustainable developments which are taking place in front of our eyes day by day. 

Sometimes these developments seem so complex, large and absolute, that one feels frustrated and tends to “give up”. But then we see that even a school girl like Greta Thunberg, by being committed in raising awareness about our climate situation, can attract global attention and finds followers all over the world. 

Each and every one can contribute to change. “Be the change you want to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi is probably one of the most used phrases in this regard, but it also expresses the core of what I try to express here. One person can only start with oneself. By living and implementing a certain type of lifestyle, others will follow. It won’t be easy always, however it is the most efficient way I have experienced to bring change.

A country is the sum of its people. Surely there are imbalances and inequalities and many power relations which make it seem that some parts of society have no influence. I am a strong advocate of equality, however I would like to challenge the perception of impotence of the seemingly powerless. A forest is the sum of its flora and fauna. There might be big trees and small ones, there might be large animals and tiny ones. However the ecosystem needs each and any of them to survive and strife – even the smallest components such as bacteria. 

While I understand that there are parts of society who have almost no choice in where they can receive their daily products from, those parts of society who waste most are also considered those who have a choice. Each one of us can refuse a plastic straw, can bring a reusable bag to the shop, can clean up a small area which is polluted, can hand out reusable cups and plates during a get together, can reuse and exchange items which are not needed for a certain purpose anymore – the list is long. These are small things we can do, which will create large scale change if we all do it. 

For sure, we need policies as well and implementation of these policies is crucial. However we can’t wait for this. We also should not excuse our behaviour and point fingers at those who do not live up to their responsibility. What is the difference for one individual’s behaviour of others do it or not? It won’t change at all. If I give the best I can, even if others do it, I cannot give more than the best I can, right? I might be more motivated, however the situation we live in globally, should be motivation enough. 

We need a better waste collection and recycling system, for sure, however the lack of this should not paralyse us. Clean ups are not on top of the priority list for change, we are well aware of that, however they are needed. The most important for us as consumers is to refuse! Refuse single use plastic, refuse unsustainable products, refuse to join behaviour which has a negative affect onto the planet.

Another aspect which can go hand in hand with individual responsibility is to raise awareness on the sustainable behaviour someone is involved in. Exactly to motivate others, to join those who are already involved in it and need some fresh support as well and also, to highlight the possibility to change to those who are still completely unaware. In this regard I find it crucial to include corporates into the activities in a way to raise awareness on the origin of the waste which is collected. Leaders of companies are citizens and consumers as well and thus should live up to their responsibility in society. 

If everyone in whatever role and position a person is, can take on the responsibility of being a sustainable citizen, this world would be a different place. A long way to go? Maybe, but observing the current trend of activities around the globe, maybe the way is shorter than we think!

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