It’s only when you start trying to get away from plastic that you realise it’s literally everywhere.
Plastic in your fridge, plastic in your bathroom cabinet, plastic upon plastic tangled together in the shameful little cupboard you hide all those disposable bags in. This is a world of plastic now. We’re ruled by single-use packaging, and there’s nothing human beings can do to stop it.
Except, no! This is not the end! Because while our everyday lives have been invaded by the slightly useful yet infinitely wasteful pollutant, there are people out there who are putting up a fight.
You can call them activists, influencers, or simply good citizens. They’re from all over the world, a band of like-minded young people who are not only leading by example on living life with less plastic, but who also happen to be quite good at social media too — which is great, because their content can help inspire all of us to do more to cut plastic out of our lives.
There’s all sorts of ways you could get started on your plastic-free journey, from carrying a reusable water bottle or coffee cup with you, to taking a packed lunch instead of getting something to take-away, to making a decision to only buy plastic-free products. But enough from us — here’s the people we think you should be following to feel inspired to start your plastic-free journey, crowdsourced from staff at Global Citizen who spend way too much time online.
1. Franziska Trautmann
When Trautmann was a student in New Orleans, she founded a grassroots recycling organization with a friend of hers, called Glass Half Full. Together, they’ve been turning glass into sand, solving two problems at once: offering a service to recycle glass, not provided by the state, while producing materials that could be used to slow down coastal erosion in the area.
And in addition to saving 650,000lb of glass from landfill in their first year, Trautmann talks a lot about waste and recycling on TikTok. While giving a behind-the-scenes look at her life as the “Queen of Recycletok”, Trautmann has been encouraging her 55,000 followers to do Plastic Free July, makes facts about how little plastic actually gets recycled go viral, and shares extremely satisfying videos of melting sand back into glass to make sustainably chic jewelry.
Think before you recycle or throw something away PLEASE♬ original sound - FRANZISKA ♻️
2. Morgan Cook
Morgan Cook, a former fashion student from New York City, runs a blog called Mostly Eco Morgan. It shares tips on living an environmental life and household waste, mixed in with titbits on feminism, racial justice, mental health, and a healthy appreciation for the World’s Greatest Living Popstar, Lorde.
From sharing guides on her favorite ethical brands to shouting out Who Gives a Crap, the plastic-free toilet paper company that builds toilets in low-income countries with every sale — at a time when toilet paper is reportedly becoming less sustainable all the time — Cook’s TikTok posts to her 12,300 followers are all about “perfectly imperfect pro-planet things.”
3. Shane Brown
Shane Brown lives some life. While the rest of us are sipping from our reusable water bottles on sweaty, crowded, masked-up commutes, the man known better as “Shanger Danger” is usually found filming himself snorkeling off the coast of Hawaii.
The self-proclaimed “CEO of the Ocean” first moved to Oahu to study engineering, before discovering his true passion: the, um, ocean. So now he spends his days swimming with fish, shooting GoPro videos for his 9.1 million TikTok followers, and picking up any plastic products he finds along the way.
Recycling, but make it sexy!
It’s the run to the car with no shorts for me♬ original sound - CEO of the Ocean
4. Leah Thomas
Author, blogger, and climate activist Leah Thomas founded the Intersectional Environmentalist to connect the environmental movement to social problems, especially within the context of racial injustice. She lives in California, has a degree in environmental science and policy, and has a book coming out soon.
Thomas also posts excellent guides on how to avoid clothes with plastic microfibers, explains what people mean when they talk about a “circular economy”, and goes in on her favorite zero-waste items she keeps around her house. Surely 228,000 people can’t be wrong — follow her, immediately!
5. Chelsea Yamase
Does Hawaii have more eco-influencers than sea turtles now? We cannot comment, but prepare yourself for another envy-follow: Chelsea Yamase, travel blogging photographer, sustainability guru, and environmental entrepreneur.
She uses her ginormous platform — 1.1 million followers on Instagram — to share her fascination with the beauty of nature, capture her adventures around the world, and express messages on why we need to tackle pollution.
With posts including images of dives with whale sharks and snaps of breathtaking underwater landscapes, Yamase shows us everything we’ve got to lose if our dependency on plastic doesn't slow down. We only have one world, and with every plastic cup or discarded piece of packaging, the gorgeous creatures that live in our oceans are less likely to survive in it.