I don’t believe anyone can quite imagine the energy of being on a TEDx stage… I can barely describe it, and I was recently there! 23 outstanding speakers took their passion for the ocean and environment to another level when we presented our ideas to a receptive and engaging audience of about 300 on 24th March in Cape Town. TED is a program of local, self- organized events that brings people together to share ideas that are worth distributing. The ‘x’ in TEDx is the individually organized event. To explain this further TEDxSeaPoint which I was involved in had the theme of The Ocean’s Inspiration- Who moved my sushi?

I only learnt of the TEDx concept when I moved to Cape Town, in 2009, a city that constantly reveals to me her transparent enthusiasm for involvement in environmental and social issues of local and global concern. Each time I watched a TEDx presentation on tv I found myself wishing I could be on that stage alerting the world to the impact of the single use plastic shopping bag in South Africa. I just did not know how to go about it. Well, as the saying goes, beware of what you wish for as it may just come true. Somehow someone I know saw the value in what I have to say on this topic and whispered in the ear of a TED-involved person. So when I was contacted by the TEDxSeaPoint organizers to present Rethink The Bag. I nearly exploded, no really, you should have seen my response to this invite!

As South Africans I feel we have become numb and complacent to the negative effects of the ever present plastic shopping bag on our beautiful country. We consume billions of these every year mostly without a thought to what the consequences are. So what are these costs? Uncountable sea and land creatures die annually from plastic bag presence in nature; rivers and estuaries are heavily polluted by bags; inefficient drainage results from pipes clogged with plastic; landfill sites are overflowing with plastic bag debris; human health is compromised; environmental pollution is multiplied from plastic bag production, transport and disposal; the list is endless. There are many smart and convenient alternatives available at every turn. Get creative, make your own, inspire a project! Do anything but accept another single use plastic shopping bag in your world – I mean do you really need it? Why not take up the initiative to ban plastic bags in your place of work? Where I work at the Two Oceans Aquarium all staff and volunteers have agreed that they will never again bring a plastic bag onto the premises. Once you’re in the habit it becomes easy and then even secretly rewarding to realise that you are personally doing something positively impactful for the planet. You will find your consciousness broadening to other aspects of living in this world and wanting to make more and more of a difference. What follows from there is gently inspiring others to also take a closer look at how they live their lives out on our blue planet. Planet Earth is worth saving – it’s the only one with African penguins on it!!

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