So I may or may not have joined Greenpeace. This statement isn’t supposed to be cryptic, I’m honestly not sure. I do give them a fiver every month and on Saturday I joined them for some protesting so if I’m not officially a member I’m certainly floating around the periphery.
The backstory is that Saturday was the Greenpeace Shopper’s revolt, whereby Greenpeace were encouraging people to remove any unnecessary plastic from their purchased goods, specifically the fruit and veg, leave the packaging behind along with a “calling card” we supplied them, stating they were unhappy with the excessive use of plastic packaging in use in Supermarkets today. We then gave them some paper bags to pop their fruit and veg back into if they so desired. More info here.
I was actually pretty nervous about the whole thing. Having never involved myself in something like this before and not knowing who I was going to be volunteering with, a million thoughts crossed my mind. There was the fear that they’d all be crusty hippies and I’d feel completely out of place. The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. The volunteers came in all shapes and sizes, ages and sexes and it was very heartening (and quite the relief to see).
There are also the other concerns you need to think about when you’re meeting a group from Greenpeace, the conspicuous stuff like ensuring I cycled. I would have anyway, it wasn’t far and the weather was nice enough. I was however running a little late (no surprises there) but decided late on a bike was a far more appealing volunteer than punctual in a car. I had done the park run that morning and hadn’t had time to change so rocked up in my (smelly) running gear, which is made from synthetic material, that I have recently learned releases plastic microfibers into the water during a wash. Was totally paranoid about this but a few of the other protesters looked like they’d also just come from a run so I was not out of place. I also had a mind that I might want to grab a coffee at some point so ensured I had my reusable coffee cup with me. What I didn’t remember, which was far more essential was my water bottle. I obviously couldn’t be seen to be buying a bottle of water while on Greenpeace duty (although it’s unlikely I would have anyway) so ended my few hours of activism parched!
The morning itself went well enough. There were about 16-20 of us there which was great. Even with the numbers it’s not easy to get shoppers to stop and talk to you. Some ran right by but others stopped and took a real interest and voiced their concerns to us before heading into Asda to make their point. My strategy was to target families and hand out the paper bags to the kids. I reasoned they were the masters of pester power, were possibly learning about the plastic problem in school anyway and liked being given free stuff. It sort of worked. Interestingly, on a few occasions we needed the kids to translate our message to their parents as they had the better English.
I think younger people were generally more receptive. One girl already had her Tupperware with her for her meat/fish counter purchases so was immediately on board. A guy, who couldn’t have been more than 16, was enthusiastic but really nervous about acting on it. He came back out after his shop and admitted he didn’t do it. I thought he was so sweet. Most people wouldn’t return to tell you, they just would have headed off home. Hopefully some day he’ll feel a little braver! On the flip side, there was the old lady I helped with her trolley because it got stuck. I pretty much lifted the damn thing back into the shops for her when the anti-theft mechanism kicked in. I then asked her to do me a little favour too and before I even finished my sentence she flat out said no chance (or something similar) and walked off. Nice.
We also had a visit from the manager. I thought it was all going to kick off but he was actually really receptive to what we were doing and said if we could ask people to remove the packaging away from the till so as not to hold up other shoppers he was fine for us to continue.
So all in all it was a pretty good day. I finished my volunteering off with a spot of shopping, ensuring I removed my plastic packaging. I actually felt pretty guilty for not going to my greengrocers, where I wouldn’t have had half as much plastic to leave behind but I suppose it was all about making the point.