Plastics & the universe

A few years ago, I went on a back-to-nature holiday with my dear friend Mario. We went to Bali. Bali is a paradise for those who are environmentally conscious; at least, the part of Bali where we were.  We stayed in a little villa amongst the paddy fields and ate in a raw green restaurant called Alchemy.


I remember with fondness the coconut shell bowls, the bamboo straws and the reusable food packaging (though they were over-priced).

In a fit of environmental fervour, I started googling these products with the idea of buying them. But wait a minute….they have to be shipped – nay, flown – to me across the ocean, burning carbon as well as a hole in my pocket (postage is not cheap).

Obviously, importing reusable stuff from across the miles is not a good solution. It might reduce my plastics usage, but it creates a burden elsewhere.

For those who are wading into the plastics war, I would recommend reading the Bellagio Principles:

Advocacy alone is not enough to rid the world of plastics. It will reduce the usage, definitely….in the educated and privileged classes who have the luxury of making a choice.  This is a reusable mug.


I mentioned this in a previous post about the people in my neighbourhood (in Asia) who are one of the biggest users of plastic: these people exist on breadline, and they have very little choice. I asked the lady who sells 300 drinks a day in plastic cups (and straws) if she knew about the damage she is doing the environment on a daily basis and her reply was, “OK. Plastics very bad. What you want me do?” She feeds her family on the back of this….and she has a large family, including extended family members. She cannot afford to make changes that will hit her precarious living by increasing her costs.

Any long-term changes must therefore address these three axioms of the triangle of humanity:  “People, Planet, Prosperity”.

A couple of years ago, I had an interesting conversation about the environment with an economist who had a hydroponics project going in my daughter’s school. He said that the only way to stop massive deforestation is to provide the people who live in the forest with alternative means of income (e.g. eco-tourism) so that they do not collude with the illegal loggers….you can preach all you like to them about the environmental impact of deforestation, but unless you provide them with a means  of putting food into their children’s mouths, they are going to cut down trees for money.

My question; is how do we bring people together to work together to effect positive change that goes beyond advocacy?

My daughter suggests buying 100 reusable plastics drinks cups and donating it to the lady who sells 300 drinks a day and ask her to give those to her regular customers, offering them a 0.05THB discount on a 20THB drink (because that’s how cheap a disposable plastic cup is).

Here’s a review of reusable plastic cups. Eeks, mine has only a shelf-life of 30 uses!




My children’s father’s most cherished books is Viktor Papanek’s Design For The Real World: If only designers could spend 10% of their time working on solutions for real problems in the world.


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