Cambridge to hold #GoPlasticFreeDay and its first Eco Living Festival
Festival organiser and former TV presenter Shaheera Asante says there has been a 'mass awakening' about plastic waste
A former TV presenter turned environmentalist is the driving force behind a new festival aimed at getting Cambridge people to reduce their use of plastics.
Former BBC presenter Shaheera Asante is behind plans for the Cambridge Eco Living Festival on Saturday, September 22, at the University Museum of Zoology at the David Attenborough Building.
The festival aims to bring communities and businesses together to inspire greater environmental awareness around plastic pollution. Part of the festival is a #GoPlasticFreeDay, which has a growing committee of local independent shops that will act a community initiative.
Shaheera is a passionate environmentalist and says the Blue Planet TV programme has provided the momentum for many communities to act.
The event’s partners include the University Museum of Zoology, University Conservation Research, Cambridge City Council (Sustainable Cities), Federation of Cambridge Residents Association (FeCRA) and Independent Cambridge, with more official partners being announced soon.
Ms Asante said: “Life before the Blue Planet TV show was very different. Then we talked about climate change and recycling and a little bit about plastics but it was more about habits, litter, floodings. Then the particular episode about the plastics in the ocean came out and it became a turning point.
“People have felt a collective responsibility and there has been a mass awakening. Ocean plastics, because of its indestructible nature, and what it is doing to marine life, put everything into context. We are hoping to have the film maker at the festival.
“We don’t know the long-term effects of what it will do to us but our bodies were not made to take plastic.
“Our aim with the festival is to encourage residents of Cambridge to embrace a low-waste lifestyle, not preach to them or provide a boring lecture format. We will present a sensory experience for the whole family and practical ‘hands-on’ ideas and workshops on alternative options to plastic for their everyday life.
“We need mums and dads and kids, your average consumer, to get involved. I think there is a lack of engagement in terms of plastic pollution. I wanted something on a weekend so people could attend and most of the workshops will be free.
“It is a first for Cambridge. You have lots of families in Cambridge who are on the fringes and these are the people who are going to make the changes. We need to change our habits. I am hoping to appeal to these families.”
The festival’s programming includes a series of ‘how to’ workshops, demonstrations and innovative talks on how to live with less plastic, from upcycled fashion to plastic art, films, music and hands-on family workshops that will engage a greater understanding of what plastics are recycled and what are not.
As part of the festival’s outreach, a #GoPlasticFreeDay campaign is being organised to engage independent shops in Cambridge and the surrounding villages to reduce the consumption and use of single-use plastic items.
Supported in part by Cambridge City Council Sustainable Cities, the #GoPlasticFreeDay campaign aims to invigorate a sense of community within the city and surrounding areas, to encourage consumers and local independent shops to join in partnership and help reduce the use of items like plastic bags, cups, straws and more.
“We hope stores will reduce, not sell or distribute single-use plastic items on this day and become part of the wider UK plastic reduction movement and conversation. Each store can choose which items not to sell or distribute on that day, or to think of ways to reduce their plastic in stores. In our manifesto we will give stores a list of items they can choose from.”
Some Cambridge shops have been taking a lead on this for a while.
Ms Asante added: “We have a campaign that has turned into a wonderful community initiative. Lots of independent shops have come on board. We need to support independent shops.
“It is a massive movement. Businesses will be left behind if they use plastic. The consumer is going green whether shops like it or not.”
Meanwhile the Cambridge product design group PA Consulting is helping a UK start-up develop a machine that makes eco-friendly containers that could spell an end to plastic water bottles.
Its client, London-based Skipping Rocks Lab, has devised the container – called Ooho – which is made from seaweed extract. It is 100 per cent naturally biodegradable. When someone has finished drinking the water they can even eat the container.
Skipping Rocks Lab plans to lease machines to companies to use on their premises. Retailers will be able to produce water or juice-filled Oohos daily on-site, rather than taking up storage space with stock.
Besides using nine times less energy in the production process, the seaweed extract used in the new-style containers has the potential to be cost competitive with plastic.
Skipping Rocks hopes to have a small number of machines with clients by the end of this year and is testing Ooho at events such as outdoor food markets and marathons.
How to get involved
For more information and to keep updated on the festival or to get involved, contact the festival team via social media first.