Plastic is for Holds not Cups

BoulderHouse is a proud supporter of Drop the Plastic and the organization’s goal to find a solution to the issues that single use plastics cause to the environment. Drop the Plastic was started by Melissa Donich, in Vancouver. The movement was initially a petition to ban plastic straws in Vancouver and gained enough momentum that it attracted the attention of the city council. Single use plastic straws have now been banned in Greater Vancouver as of June 2019, but Melissa’s work isn’t done there. Since moving to Victoria, Drop the Plastic has become incorporated and partnered with various local business to spread the message. Last week we were able to sit down with her to discuss the work she has accomplished with her:

How did Drop the Plastic start?

“I’m originally from Toronto and when I moved to Vancouver, I was really looking forward to being in the mountains and climbing outside. The city’s slogan was “The Greenest City in the World” but I found holes in the system that could be improved. I was going to all my favorite restaurants and they were just throwing straws in water and I found that to be pretty unnecessary. I went to Vancouver to become a teacher and study Environmental Education and was already writing a paper on plastic pollution, so it was on my mind. When I went into my community, I immediately spotted plastics that could be avoided and completely just eliminated. I started with straws just because I found them to be rather ubiquitous and a lot of businesses were just oblivious to it even being problematic or unnecessary. I started a petition (Drop the Straw) and I gained enough signatures from the city that the mayor took notice, and he was super supportive of this movement because I had to sort of given enough data for them to approve it. So that kind of started us sort of single use plastic wave in Vancouver open and then from there. Instead of just sitting on it. I realized the problem is much greater than straws obviously but it had to start somewhere.”

How has Drop the Plastic grown? What’s the next step?

“My starting focus was limiting the unnecessary plastics but as I dive deeper into our plastic pollution problem, it’s very complex. We need plastics in a lot of industries. We rely on them and they’ve been very good for a lot of reasons. For example, the health care industry, or even all these climbing holds, plastics have been really good. We’ve just used so much of it and the majority of our clothing and materials are made of plastic to the point where we can’t reuse and dispose them properly. Now we have to figure out how far back we need to go and how much money we need to make changes…so we’ve grown in the sense of networking with other businesses in Victoria. We help them become more environmentally aware of their single-use plastic consumption and we encourage them and help them transition from single-use plastic to reusable solutions. The city is already working super hard towards eliminating certain products such as bags, so from there it’s about fun and creative ways to share this message so that more businesses are on board and the people are aware of the impact and that so that we can change policy on a federal and provincial level. I don’t like this consumer shaming movement. That’s not what I believe in. I don’t believe there was ever the fault of the consumer. Consumers will take whatever is handed to them, businesses will produce whatever is available, manufacturers make whatever is cheapest and governments will Implement policies that they see fit for their country, so I think this is a policy issue and applying adequate funding for the right system.”

What can we do as climbers to help?

“Leading by example. A lot of climbers are of are very environmentally conscious. They love the outdoors. We like to appreciate and respect the environment and so just things like, you know, if you’re at the crag or something just bringing your waste back with you, making sure no waste is left behind. Bringing your own cup to your cafes or even at climbing gyms that offer coffee or other beverages. Bring your own bag. Our campaign together is “Plastic is for Holds Not Cups” And for those that don’t really know what that means, essentially a lot of the climbing holds that we use right now are made of plastic. We want to keep plastics for things that are more permanent and not disposable like cups. So that’s the message in the climbing world and as an avid climber and someone who’s passionate about the sport, I wanted to start with my local community, friends, and like-minded passionate individuals.”

What’s next for you?

“I’m actually doing some research for my Master’s right now. In September, I’ll be sailing with a group of researchers to collect these microplastic samples in the ocean and figuring out where they’re coming from. Then we’re going to research and come up with land based solutions and ask, ‘Where’s this coming from?’, ‘Why is it here?’ and ‘How does it affect our health and the marine world?’. I’m hoping to do a presentation when I get back about those findings and share some stories. I’d love to follow up with a presentation at BoulderHouse”

Through its partnership with Drop the Plastic, BoulderHouse has been continuously striving to find ways to reduce its environmental impact. Though the gym offers coffee, there are no single use cups. Instead, reusable jars can be purchased with the goal of encouraging members to bring their own mug. The gym has also started offering members a scoop of chalk from a large bulk bin instead of plastic wrapped single blocks. This year at our annual Tour de Bloc competition, all proceeds received from drinks will be donated to Drop the Plastic! For more information check out their new website: www.droptheplastic.org