Forget the Year of the Dog, for me 2018 was the year of plastic. Well, the year of the plastic problem.
Single-use plastic became a common turn of phrase. So common, in fact, that it was named the Collins Dictionary word of the year. And boy, did it escalate. People using straws were given dirty looks, everyone got themselves a KeepCup and we all found out that bamboo toothbrushes exist – who knew?
It was a bandwagon for a cause and I, for one, was happy to jump on board. Like many others, my 2018 new year's resolution was to cut back on my plastic consumption. A year on, I'm nowhere near perfect and my shopping trolley still makes me feel guilty as I leave the supermarket, aware that there is plastic somewhere on so many of my buys. But I now make shopping decisions based on the packaging and source of the product, whereas in the past I was all about the price.
My main battle, however, has been with single-use plastic water bottles – I've been guilty of going through multiple 1.5 litre bottles a day.
So, I challenged myself to go a year without using any single-use single plastic bottles. Did I succeed? Not entirely, but I got to March without using a single one, and in the whole of 2018, I used only seven.
My main take away from my tiny challenge is that there are drinking water fountains everywhere in the UAE. So as long as you have a reusable bottle, you'll never go thirsty. And very few beach clubs or restaurants actually have a problem with you pitching up with your own water supply.
I started using gyms that I knew had plumbed-in filtered water supplies, rather than 500ml handouts, checking what kind of bottled water would be served in restaurants, and in the process finding out that the tap water in the UAE has been deemed drinkable by the World Health Organisation.
I bought a Brita water filter, making tap water my go-to. There is always a jug of cold, safe-to-drink tap water in my fridge, and on a blind taste test, a friend of mine was unable to identify which glass of water came from my tap and her Masafi bottle.
Brita filter jugs are available to buy on Souq.com from Dh220, and replacement filters cost Dh80 for a pack of six. The filters should be changed every two to three months, so as well as being more environmentally friendly, it works out cheaper than buying water bottles in the long run.
What I learned
This year, more eyes seem to be on plastic consumption than ever. #MyEcoResolution is an Instagram campaign, which has been loudly backed by Cara Delevingne.
In an Instagram post from January 12, the model- turned-actress wrote, "#MyEcoResolution is to give up plastic bottles and plastic straws!
“Even though I may never be ‘perfect,’ I am making the resolution to start making positive changes to the way I live in order to help prevent climate change, environmental destruction and mental illness,” Delevingne continued, before encouraging celebrity friends Kendall Jenner, Miley Cyrus, Jared Leto and Rita Ora to also go public with their own eco resolutions.
For 2019, I am keeping my plastic ban going, adding in coffee cups and shopping bags, and keeping a tally of my usage in the notes on my phone.
Seeing how much you have used in black and white really helps with keeping on top of unnecessary plastic consumption, and I am now on a mission to use even fewer than seven bottles in 2019.