Even in the long and uneven history of awards ceremonies, I doubt that many people have won an award for something they haven’t done yet.
But that’s precisely what happened earlier this year to the organisers of Plastic Free Worthing when the people of this town voted for them to win a Sunny Worthing Award.
You must know you’re absolutely bang on trend when people vote for you because you’ve got the right name, but it was still a surprise. “I think we won it based on what we’ve said we’re going to do,” says Jean Raleigh, the owner of zero waste scoopermarket Larder. “Everyone saw Blue Planet.”
“And the clock is ticking,” says jeweller Gwen Le Bris. “I arrived in England two years ago. I looked at a listing of worldwide climate change events and saw one in Worthing.” And she’s already won an award.
Now they’re ready to give out awards of their own. “We’re asking for micro-changes that will end up making a big difference,” says Jean. “Any community group, school or business that makes three swaps from plastic to an alternative and that has a plan to carry on making changes will be announced as a Plastic Free Champion!”
“They get an award,” continues Gwen, “and we’ll spread the word about them on social media. We reward the business and we inform the consumer so that people can choose to go to the businesses that are doing their bit to help the planet. People have the power!”
“We don’t want to become the plastic police,” says Jean. “A lot of places will want to use up what they’ve got before they switch, and that’s fair enough. But it could be as simple as changing from plastic cups to something biodegradable – that’s one swap. We’ll try to work with the B&Bs and the hotels, helping them to switch from the little sachets, or convincing the takeaways to move away from plastic food containers.”
“It really is tiny steps we’re asking for,” insists Gwen. “It’s happening in other towns, especially along the coastline. It raises people’s consciousness. They start off saying they are going to make three swaps and end up making six. Or even more than that. Then they start engaging in other ways, like joining in with our monthly beach cleans.”
The goal, of course, is to have whales swimming around without 40kg of plastic in their stomachs. But there are some smaller targets along the way. Under the Surfers Against Sewage guidelines, a town needs a certain percentage of businesses to be Plastic Free Champions before the town itself can be called Plastic Free. In Worthing, the calculation is that 34 businesses need make the change. At the time of writing, 498 communities have already achieved this status and that number grows by the day. Surely we can all do something to make sure that Plastic Free Worthing becomes a reality?
Beach Clean 3rd Sunday every month (next one May 19)