For example, pause if you will for a moment to contemplate the magnitude of CO2 reduction potential from reusing a plastic bag. There are around 2.3 million students in the UK. If say, 2 million of them reused a plastic bag every time they went shopping (based on an average of shopping twice a week) they’d collectively reduce the amount of bags by about 208 million in a year. This would be equal to reducing CO2 emissions by 13,000 tonnes.
Here’s the maths:
- 1 plastic bag weighs 10g
- 100 bags weigh 1kg
- 208 m bags weigh 2.08 m kg
- 1 bag’s embodied energy is 6.25 kg CO2 / kg
- Therefore 208 m bags = 13 m kg CO2 = 13,000 tonnes CO2
Yes you heard it right – the higher education sector could save 13,000 tonnes of CO2 just by reusing plastic bags! There’s definitely power in numbers. And it’d cost nothing (although if you bought an organic Fairtrade cotton bag, it would set you back about three quid).
If you ever feel you’re the only one ‘doing your bit’ to help the environment, remember that the times are a changing. As well as the student community, a whole load of people are putting pressure on their towns and cities to ditch the plastic bag.
Modbury in Devon is the first in Europe to ban plastic bags and now Brighton is getting on the bandwagon. Aylsham in Norfolk is plastic bag free as is Hay-on-Wye and Chesham in Buckinghamshire. Even Wales has gone to public consultation on banning free plastic bags in the country! It’s only a matter of time before the UK becomes plastic bag-free, reducing a fair amount of CO2 in the process.
And if plastic bags just aren’t your bag, there are loads of other things to do that won’t cost the earth (here are just six of them):
- Shower instead of a bath (if your house has a shower): £0
- Turn off the TV at the socket before you go to bed: £0
- Stop junk mail swamping your letterbox: £0
- Organise a swap shop to get rid of old clothes and books: £0
- Use the library instead of buying new books/CDs/DVDs: £0
- Recycle: £0
Kate Aydin is the Sustainable Development Officer for the University of Oxford. Her book, ‘How to Save the Planet on a Student Budget’, is available now for £6.99.