The Survey Says Hope

I Conducted a Survey.

I’ve wondered whether my year without single-use plastic has had any affect on the people around me -- positive or negative. So at the 6-month point, I decided to conduct an anonymous, non-scientific survey to find out. I sent surveys to 19 people who have been in my presence on a regular basis, and I got 15 responses.

First I wanted to know if I’ve been inconveniencing people. Four people (29%) said they had been inconvenienced. Not surprising – if you want to have lunch with me, let's just say there are limitations. So how did they feel about being inconvenienced? Well, no one responded with “angry,” so that’s good, right? One person said they’ve been “mildly annoyed,” and the rest were either “indifferent” or “pleased.” Yes, I offered "pleased" as a survey response to a question about being inconvenienced. And yes, more than one person said they were "pleased" with the inconvenience. Ha!

Next I wanted to know if I’ve influenced anyone’s behavior regarding plastic. 73% said they have modified their own behavior regarding plastic. They all said they modified their behavior because they wanted to, not because they felt pressured by me, or because they didn’t have a choice.

Then I wondered, would they have made the same behavior modification if they hadn’t been in my presence? That question split right down the middle. Half would have made the same decision if I hadn’t been there, half would not have. Here's to peer pressure!

My biggest fear has been that I might be driving people in the wrong direction. So I had to ask, “Has having me ‘in your face’ about this issue ever made you want to use more plastic, instead of less?” 93% said “never,” but there’s that one person who “occasionally” feels that way. The balance between being the “person who gives a shit,” and “the really annoying environmental nut-job” can be tough to strike.

Awareness

So am I making any difference? I asked if they’ve become “more or less concerned about single-use plastic’s affect on the marine environment.” 73% are more concerned. That’s a difference, right? Then I asked, “have you become more or less concerned about plastic’s affect on your/your family’s health?” and 47% said they’re more concerned. Progress, I think. And finally, “have you become more aware of your own single-use plastic usage?” 94% said yes. Awareness unlocked!

BTW -- for the other 53% -- use the free trial and check out this documentary. It's funny and entertaining, I promise.

Behavior

Now’s the real test. Did that awareness convert into action? First question: “have you made any long-term modifications to your lifestyle in regard to single-use plastic?” 47% said yes.

47% said yes! I have to admit, I’ve been dis-heartened quite a bit this year. I honestly believe that if we all make personal changes, it will make a difference. But we have to make changes. So Styrofoam go-cups and plastic-laden trash cans among friends have made me feel pretty hopeless at times. I guess that's why I needed to know – anonymously – whether hope was a just a mirage.

87% of respondents believe their own behavior can make a difference. 34% think we need laws to fix the problem, 2 respondents think technology will solve the problem, and one person says there’s nothing we can do about it. I don’t know, maybe that one person is the only one living in reality. But for me, the survey says: don’t give up hope.

Joan Wells

Swash Labs, 608 E. Hickory St. Suite 120, Denton, TX 76201, United States