the trip that made me take plastic seriously

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I november reiste jeg til Sri Lanka, som lenge har vært mitt drømmereisemål. Det endte opp med å bli en helt spesiell tur, både i form av møter med flotte folk og med hvordan vi mennesker har tullet til havene og naturen vår. Sri Lanka (tidligere Ceylon) er en vakker øy syd for India. På Sri Lanka finner du vakre strender, grønne frodige skoger, ville dyr, jungel, yoga, ayurveda, plantebasert mat og perfekte bølger for surfere. 

// In november I travelled to Sri Lanka, which has been on my bucket list for a long time. It became such a special trip for me, with regards to the people I met, and realising how we have done so much harm to the oceans and our nature. Sri Lanka (previously Ceylon) is a beautiful island south of India. You will find amazing beaches, lush green forests, wild animals, jungel life, yoga, Ayurveda, plant based food and perfect waves.

Dream life, plastic and saving the world

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Min plan var å reise ned og surfe, gjøre yoga og bli kjent med det vakre landet. Hver morgen i femtiden våknet vi til munker som sang, etterfulgt av yoga, frokost og surfing. Min drømmehverdag, for å si det sånn! Den første uken av turen opplevde vi en syklon (kraftig storm), og dagen etter dro vi og surfet på tross av advarsler fra de lokale. Det var som å se drømmeomgivelsene bli forvandlet til et mareritt. Det fløt plast overalt i vannet i form av sugerør, plastposer, potetgullposer og til og med en barberhøvel (!). Uheldigvis for meg klarte jeg å svelge litt av vannet. Det er ikke det smarteste jeg har gjort, det blir man dårlig av! En av grunnene til at det er så ekstremt mye søppel på Sri Lanka er at de mangler et fungerende søppel- og resirkuleringssystem. Søppelet kommer også fra båter, andre land, turister og overfylte søppeldynger. Det er ikke uvanlig å se at folk brenner plast i gatene fordi de ikke vet hvor de skal gjøre av det. Dette blir man direkte uvel av.

// My plan was to surf, do yoga and get to know the beautiful country. Every morning at 5 am we woke up to munks chanting, followed by yoga, breakfast and surging. My absolute dream of an everyday life. The first week there was a huge storm, and the day after we went surfing despite warnings from the local population. It was devastating seeing the dream surroundings transformed into a nightmare. The ocean and beaches were covered with plastic straws, bags of chips, plastic bags and even a razor! Unfortunately I managed to swallow some water, which is far from the smartest thing I’ve done… One of the reasons that there are extreme amounts of trash in Sri Lanka is that they are lacking a proper garbage collection system. The trash comes from boats, other countries, tourists and overfilled landfills. It’s common to see people burning plastic in the streets because they don’t know how else to get rid of it.

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What can we do?

Det som er så kult er at man kan gjøre en forskjell som turist. Her er mine 5 beste råd for å bidra positivt til miljøet mens du er på reise:

  1. Vær bevisst over problemet. Vis det frem på sosiale medier og ikke ignorere det.

  2. Få med deg venner og lokale på en strandrydding. Legg ut bilder på insta for å inspirere andre. Sjekk ut verdens kuleste Marthe sin instagramprofil for inspirasjon. Husk #tavaha og #plukkanopp!

  3. Bruk forbrukermakten din. Velg å spise på restauranter og å bo på hotel som tar dette problemet på alvor. Der hvor jeg bodde hadde de forbud mot plastflasker, hadde masse økologisk og lokal mat og vi fikk kokosnøtter servert med metallsugerør.

  4. Ta alltid med den en flaske og reisebestikk når du er på tur.

  5. Spis lokalt, sesongbasert og plantebasert <3

// The wonderful thing is that we as tourists can make a difference. Here are my top 5 tips to make a positive contribution while travelling:

  1. Be aware of the problem. Show it on social media and don’t ignore it and showcase just the beauty.

  2. Make friends and gather for a beach cleanup. Post images on social media to inspire others. Check out my friend Marthe’s instagram for inspiration. #tavaha

  3. Use your consumer power. Choose local restaurants and stay with local people who take these things seriously. Where I lived there was a ban against plastic bottles, they served organic and local food and we got coconut water with metal straws.

  4. Always bring a bottle and travel cutlery.

  5. Eat local, seasonal and plant based <3

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Hvis du vil lese mer om hvor du bør bo, hva du kan spise og hvilke aktiviteter du kan gjøre på Sri Lanka kan du sjekke ut dette innlegget her.

// Read more about where to stay and eat in Sri Lanka here.

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How the heck does plastic end up in the ocean? And how does it affect your health?

It's no secret that the world is facing a huge plastic problem - and we are not talking about that p surgery. Plastic is made of a material that is meant to last forever, yet we tend to through away bottles, straws, and plates after using them only once. What's alarming is that huge amounts of it end up in the ocean. It's not sexy to surf or swim among used plastic bottles, fishnets, and bags. Once you start paying attention to plastic, you see it absolutely everywhere. It's wrapped around food and drinks, it's part of the material of your clothes, shoes, headphones, sports watches and bags, it's in your makeup, toothbrushes, shampoo, and the list goes on. Luckily, it is possible to turn this trend, and a lot of people are already leading the way with zero-waste movements, beach clean-ups, and making really cool sustainable brands.

Why should we care about plastic?

Even though plastic has been hugely practical in many ways due to its eternal lifespan, it has become a major environmental issue for the same reason. According to UNEP, every square kilometer of the world's oceans has 63,320 microplastic particles floating around (1). Toxic chemicals from plastic leach out, and by now almost all people have traces of plastic in their blood (2).

MICROPLASTICS: Plastic particles with the size ranging from 1 nanometer to 5 millimeter (3). When plastic enters the ocean it breaks down due to external forces, for example, water. This in turn makes it harder to see and easier to forget.

Some of the main problems with plastic occur because it never breaks down entirely. The most important issues are:

  1. Fish and other sea animals eat plastic, which in turn can lead to hormonal, reproductive and digestive problems.
  2. Humans are indirectly consuming plastic through eating seafood and fish, which in turn can cause the same problems for humans as for the fish and sea animals at high enough concentrations (4).
  3. Humans are also directly exposed to plastic though plastic bottles, food packaging and chemical additives in cosmetics such as BPA, phthalates, and DEHP which are known to interfere with the human hormonal function (5).
  4. Animals are eating and getting stuck in the plastic litter, fishing line nets, plastic bags, balloons, and straps. Research shows that more than 100 million marine mammals are killed each year due to plastic in the oceans (6).

How does plastic end up on the beaches and in the oceans?About 80% of the plastics come from land-based activities (7) (meaning not from boats and ships). Lots of items have drifted off land from the streets, garbage cans, and landfills and into rivers or directly to the ocean. Ships also lose some cargo when they are out in the sea, or caught in a storm. Ocean currents bring the items far from where they originate.Further, small plastic particles enter the ocean through the drains. Some examples of are microbeads in most kinds of toothpaste, dishwashing powders and synthetic clothing fibers that shed in washing machines (8).

What can we do about it?

The problem and the solution to this start on land. Not only are big manufacturing companies responsible, but every single consumer has the power to change this trend through what we chose to buy and consume. Here are some tips:Five things you can do today

  1. Avoid single-use plastic bottles and buy a BPA-free bottle
  2. Change your tooth-brush from plastic to bamboo
  3. Bring your own bags to the grocery store
  4. #stopsucking on plastic straws
  5. Bring your own cup or box when you are getting take away food or coffee

Five things that need some planning

  1. Choose natural toothpaste and cleaning products
  2. Recycle as much as you can
  3. Try to repair what you already have instead of buying new things
  4. Support environmental friendly clothing brands (such as HallaxHalla)
  5. Check out eco-friendly makeup brands made without chemicals

Photo: @vanhamiesAre you interested in learning more? Check out:We also highly recommend the Netflix Documentary "A Plastic Ocean".Big eco-friendly high five!