One family’s plastic reduction efforts

One family’s plastic reduction efforts

Climate Catalyst co-ordinator Elise Ranck recently interviewed the Archdeacon for Mission and Ministry, Gendy Thomson, about her family’s plastic waste reduction journey.

Elise: Where does your story begin?

Gendy: About two years ago, two young boys in my parish shared about single-use plastic and its impacts on the ocean environment. The boys were passionate, but also educating the parish about the City Council’s lack of recycling efforts. The presentation was convicting for me as these young people were so passionate, really wanting to do something about it and giving information on what we could do about it. So that’s where it started. Quite soon after, that boy’s mum told me not to try and do it all, pick one or two things and make that a habit in your family. As a family, we went for a walk around Red Rocks and had a chat about what we could do as a family to reduce plastics.  In the end we decided as a family that we would no longer purchase any plastic that had single serve wrapped serving. John, my husband, had to be more creative about what could actually go in the lunches. We use containers in lunches.

We started with one or two things, now we are ready to make a new decision. We also became more conscious of the waste. I committed to fusing plastic and crocheting plastic to reuse any plastic. How can it be reused before it is recycled and slow the process down? I also committed to taking home soft plastic from the Anglican Centre so it wouldn’t go into landfill.

It’s so much a lifestyle here – one of my kids told someone else that we don’t use single-use plastic and there was no disappointment, just a statement about who we are.

Now we are wondering what our next family challenge is.

Elise: What has this journey taught you?

Gendy: It has made me notice how much waste we have. We thought we were good because we didn’t put the rubbish bin out often, but recycling is still waste. We think we are good because we recycle, but actually we haven’t done step number 1 which is “reduce waste.”

It has also made me have a really good look at recycling more rather than trusting the system. There is some deception around decomposable bags –they can’t be recycled. They have to be in the sun to decompose so they are actually worse because we have to dispose of them.

It’s made me aware about the different types of plastic and what the different numbers mean. How can we start reducing the plastics – in our house – that are hard to recycle and have more toxins? As a family, when there’s four people involved, there’s importance in keeping it small and making sure everyone is involved. So picking a thing that we all agree to and making it a habit and a lifestyle is more effective than me forcing them to do everything and then it all falls apart very quickly because it’s my thing and not owned. So going slower with all on board is more sustainable than fast, everything, fall apart. Don’t pick all the battles, pick a couple and then move on to the next one.

Another learning, a surprise learning, is that I feel like we are not doing enough because I see everything we are not doing so I get surprised at hearing our story next to others. Actually bits can still make an impact, and actually doing little things like that make it doable for others.

Elise: In your family do you talk about plastic reduction in relation to your faith?

Gendy: It’s not a regular conversation, but yes we do. When we first had that conversation it was about caring for God’s creation. If we carry on doing it (not recycling, etc.), we are actively not caring for God’s creation and so we are being disobedient so to speak. It’s not too deep a conversation… it turns the kids off if you go too deep. But it’s definitely not do-gooding, it’s caring for God’s earth. It’s so much easier for kids in some ways because they don’t question faith and they get the recycling message at school so it all marries up.

I have a challenge:

Kids know a lot and are passionate. How can we give them more opportunities and a voice to lead us in some of this?

Often in our church settings we use throwaway plates and cups when we have stacks of cutlery and crockery! Why do we do that? And I can only assume it’s lack of awareness and laziness. Because we have no excuse to be using disposable items when we have kitchens stacked with reusable items. Can we start reusing what we have to decrease waste and increase community by being around the sink and the dishwasher and that kind of thing?

If you would like to share your own story with other Climate Catalysts, email Elise Ranck, the Climate Catalyst Coordinator on

Photo: Gendy teaching plastic crocheting at New Wine Festival.