Why the City Girl Network created Trash Talk

As environmental organisations and activists were sharing campaigns, ideas and content across the internet about Plastic Pollution on World Earth Day, the City Girl Network were busy announcing a campaign of our own.

Similarly to the other contributors on the day, our campaign aims to tackle the Plastic Pollution problem - but it doesn't just stop at plastic. 

When the City Girl Network vision started to form in my head, the aim of this business became very clear: to improve the lives of young women across the world. 

First and foremost, we're a business that focuses on connecting women in cities - helping them to find housemates, travel companions, new jobs, new friends and general advice givers. Together, we're creating a world for these women where you start recognising faces as you walk down the street and forming friendships with girls that would be far more difficult to find in the work bubble that we're all so used to.

But we're also a business that focuses on tackling issues affecting young women.

Our latest campaign, as referred to in the beginning, is focusing on an enormous issue that's all over the news right now: packaging pollution. 

We're calling for a Trash Talk.

 Photography by Fanny Beckman

Photography by Fanny Beckman

Every single day, we're throwing away cardboard, plastics and a range of other materials that come with the product that we actually want.

And it's having an enormous impact on our environment - just for the sake of a few seconds.

This problem is at the forefront of environmental policies right now. Just last week, 42 major international companies, responsible for more than 80% of the plastic packaging in UK supermarkets, made joint commitments to make unnecessary single-use plastic packaging "a thing of the past". They called this the 'Plastic Pact'.

The government have said that they want to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042. A ban on plastic straws, a tax on takeaway cups and a deposit scheme for single-use plastic drinks containers are some of the many things in consideration. 

This is a promising time for environmental change.

But there's a very key missing piece here: the voice of the consumer.

I'm not just talking about the consumers who are fighting for change on petitions, at protests and across social media - although their voices have played a big part in this change. 

I'm talking about every consumer - because how can the government or these businesses possibly decide what's 'avoidable plastic waste' without asking the people who buy the products?

Until now, packaging has been based on assumptions. The more beautiful and extravagant the packaging, the higher the price can be.

That may be the case for some consumers, but they also may have a different opinion if they had the knowledge of its environmental impact and the opportunity to consider other options. 

It's for all of these reasons that trash talk is essential.

From 7th - 12th May, we're encouraging as many people of all ages, genders and locations as possible to talk about the packaging they find both unnecessary and useful. 

And I'm absolutely thrilled to have Clarity Environmental, who help businesses comply with environmental regulations, as our sponsor. 

As a compliance scheme, they work closely with packaging producers and understand the challenges that they face. They offer the bridge between consumers and manufacturers that this campaign would thrive from.

"Many retailers and manufacturers are already taking innovative steps to rethink their packaging, but it is a complex issue that needs wide-scale involvement; from decision makers to manufacturers and retailers. Consumer awareness is higher than ever before and we hope that this campaign will empower shoppers to play a part in finding solutions for the future.” David Adams, Clarity Environmental’s Managing Director, said, when we asked him why he wanted to be involved in the first place.

Trash Talk is not about brand bashing.

It's about going through your day, buying your products and actually paying attention to the packaging your throwing away.

Do your avocados need to be on a black tray, individually covered in plastic, then wrapped in plastic again? Does your fast-cooking meal really need to be in a plastic container, sealed in plastic and then wrapped in cardboard? 

Does your razor need to be in a box that's five times the size of the actual razor? And does your online order need to come in a cardboard box, wrapped in bubble wrap and covered in paper? 

The purpose of packaging is to protect our products, but could they be protected with less than it is now? Or does it need a more eco-friendly material?

Let's design out packaging waste our way.

We want to inspire positive, practical change, empower consumers to ask for that change and support them in doing so.

Trash Talk will be an online-driven campaign, with conversations taking place across all social channels under #TrashTalk. There will also be a central Facebook group to provide a space for more in-depth discussions and to keep participants closely updated with the campaign.

THERE ARE TWO WAYS YOU CAN BE INVOLVED.

1. Volunteer to collect all of the packaging for everything that you buy in the week so that we can calculate your carbon footprint.

2. Share examples on social media of packaging that you find unnecessary and how this could be improved. This can either be on our dedicated Facebook Group and/or through your social media network of choice using the #TrashTalk hashtag.

After the week's over, we'll be producing a whitepaper highlighting consumer attitudes towards packaging, the carbon footprint of packaging collected by all of our volunteers in the week and the most talked-about issues across social media. 

Later in the year, we'll be putting on a panel event, asking key decision makers and designers for their thoughts on our findings.

With one week to go until I glue myself to a laptop for a week, chatting to people about the packaging that we hold in our hands for a few seconds before they go in the bin, I'm excited to see the impact that this campaign could have. 

I'm also curious to know how much packaging waste I personally incur over the course of a week - I sense that I'll be a little shocked.

But it's the following quote from so many people who have signed up that excites me the most: "I'm interested in the idea that my one opinion can become more important when it is mirrored in the opinions of others."

Let's take control of the conversation over packaging waste. Let's have a Trash Talk.