Plastic is consuming our planet, and even though no one quite knows how much unrecycled plastic waste ends up in the sea, the damage to ocean wildlife is evidential of what UNEP is labelling an “ocean Armageddon”. In a recent article by National Geographic, it was confirmed that plastic is being discovered in the farthest reaches of the ocean.
Given that 70 percent of debris that ends up in the ocean sinks to the bottom, it is thought that there could be heaps of underwater trash beneath the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But plastic doesn’t just affect water quality, the chemicals that make up plastic have been discovered in dust, food and even the air we breathe. Plastic use, and waste therefore, is a hot topic. But what can be done to fight it? and who will our generation turn to for help?
Given that more millennials are likely to watch YouTube instead of traditional television, it’s not surprising that the popularity of today’s YouTube stars is almost equal to that of the celebrities we see on the big screen. With an audience of millions, many of the biggest YouTubers have the power to broadcast their thoughts and opinions across the world. This can be both good and bad, especially when you consider how much unfiltered content is available and easily accessible online. But the majority of this content is specifically designed for entertainment purposes only.
Some of the biggest channels are focussed on gaming, music, beauty and fashion, or lifestyle and general “vlogging”, and although a lot of this content is relatively harmless, it’s interesting to consider how online influencers could use their position to help in the fight against climate change – given that they have the potential to inspire millions of others to do so too. The good news is, in a small corner of the internet, the eco warriors of YouTube are already growing their channels and churning out videos that all seem to portray a similar theme: why you should change to a zero-waste lifestyle.
If you’re familiar with zero-waste living then you’ll be aware of how even making a few changes to your lifestyle not only impacts the environment, but also impacts you – for the better. It has also been proven that zero-waste living is good for the economy and the community, through processes such as recycling clothes and food redistribution. If you’re unfamiliar with the process of transitioning to zero-waste, then a wide variety of content online is available to help you start transitioning.
Where the YouTube beauty community has come under fire for fast fashion and unfriendly clothing hauls, the ‘low wasters’ of YouTube are showing you how to create a capsule wardrobe – that which contains a minimal amount of clothing, saving you time and money. YouTubers who have brand deals may also encourage their audience to spend money on certain products or merchandise, whereas the zero-waste YouTube community advise you on how to stop buying things you don’t necessarily need. But who are these influencers? and what does living a zero-waste lifestyle online mean to them?
Zero waste living means working towards the goal of creating a more sustainable world – one that is waste-free and circular” – Manuela Baron | @girlgonegreen
Manuela Baron, or, The Girl Gone Green (@girlgonegreen) has been on YouTube for two years and uses her channel as a platform to inspire and educate others on how to become better versions of themselves – by living both sustainably and consciously. Her content aims to normalise zero waste living, with videos such as ‘How to Transition to a Low Waste Lifestyle’, ‘Morning Routine of a Zero Waste, Minimalist’ and ‘how YOU can save the planet with small decisions’.
She believes that the biggest myth on zero-waste is that the lifestyle is supposedly expensive. Rather, it should be the opposite of expensive; zero-waste living should save you money through buying less and therefore wasting less food and resources. Watching her everyday zero-waste lifestyle videos is both inspiring and refreshing. Her morning routine is incredibly simple, and she makes low-waste living look easy. On top of this, she pinpoints the good things about maintaining a zero-waste lifestyle, such as how easy it is to clean, how efficient your life will become when it has been decluttered and how you learn to value and look after the few things that you don’t throw away.
Being plant based, low waste, minimalist and ethical, I wanted a movement that encompassed all of those values and merged them into one. This was the very reason I began social media activism” – Imogen Lucas | @sustainably_vegan
Imogen Lucas is a low-waste influencer and founder of Low Impact Movement, an educational platform which uses social media to help campaign against waste and aims to build and engage with other people who choose a low-waste lifestyle. Imogen founded the organisation in February 2018, where it was launched across Instagram and YouTube to raise awareness for low-waste living and to empower those who follow the platform to change their lifestyle in the fight against plastic.
On the blog there are the Low Impact Movement campaigns such as Plastix 2018 – a campaign focussed purely on educating others about plastic waste, a “how to” section which contains low-waste helpful tips and DIYs, and an environmental section which covers all topics environmental. The blog itself is therefore an educational tool, but it also serves as a reminder for those living a low-waste lifestyle as to why they are choosing to do so.
Imogen’s personal YouTube channel, Sustainably Vegan (@sustainably_vegan) has over 100k subscribers and is continuing to grow in popularity as more people look for tips on how become a ‘low waster’. She believes that for some, committing to zero-waste living can be too difficult, and therefore low-waste living is more attainable and still requires people to live consciously about their waste and plastic usage. As well as her guides and challenges for living low-waste, her videos promote body positivity, self-care and plant-based eating.
Zero waste means living with intention and purpose, it means living in a way that has a smaller impact and it means refusing unnecessary disposable plastics and single use products – Gittemary Johansen | @gittemary
In 2015, self-proclaimed ‘urban hippy’ Gittemary Johansen – an influencer from Denmark- changed to a zero-waste and plastic-free lifestyle, and has been blogging and creating YouTube videos about her journey ever since. Her dedication to the lifestyle has led to her being featured in Danish media and she has been awarded for her writing on waste-free living. As well as her blog and her YouTube channel, she is an EU Green Week Ambassador and a World Food Programme Ambassador.
One of her biggest passions involved with zero-waste living is sustainable fashion, where she proves that living zero-waste and not buying new clothes does not necessarily have to mean that you cannot maintain an interest in fashion. Instead she expresses the joy of second-hand clothing, and how to be conscious of styling a clothing item in different ways when your wardrobe becomes more limited. Johansen started her YouTube channel in 2014, and has since grown her zero-waste channel with zero-waste make-up DIYs, how to plan a zero-waste wedding, and how to travel zero-waste in a world surrounded by plastic packaging. Her aim is to have all of those who watch her videos join her on her plastic free journey.
These are the YouTubers that are changing the definition of ‘influencer’ for the better. Given that some of these channels are relatively new, but are already growing into the thousands, it suggests that the time for changing to a low-waste lifestyle is now. By using their platform as a method of educating others about the importance of zero-waste, as well as the sanctity of our environment, low-waste influencers are benefitting our lives and the future of our planet.