Created by Neal Ludevig, Ana Mexia, and Renata Thome, below is full comprehensive guide for adopting sustainable practices before, during, and after protests with a focus on eliminating single-use plastics and implementing responsible waste management practices. While we’re acknowledging that protesting and our right to free speech is important, a planet to protest on is even more important. That’s what this is about.
Included is also a list of recommended items for purchase, based upon research, and where to find them. Please note - Moon31 does not receive any benefit in any way from the purchase of these items.
A 1-sheet, flyer version of this is available for download here or below. A version of this guide has also been adopted by Oceanic Global, a fantastic organization whose mission is to engage new audiences in ocean conservation - you can see the adapted version here.
FLYER ITEM LINKS
QUICK GUIDE LINKS
The State of Demonstrations Today
Living in a democracy, the state of our world is changing everyday. Our system is one that has been built based off of needs, reactions, thoughts, and feedback from the people that live in it. The U.S.’s population is growing substantially, and with it, the ideas for how the country should function. And while there are many official outlets to voice our opinions, demonstrations, protests, vigils, marches, and sit-ins are practices that are woven into the fabric of this country’s legislature, often being the primary catalyst for major systemic change in this country.
According to data from the New York Times, between 15-26 million people have engaged in demonstrations across the U.S. during a one-month period in 2020 alone.
Demonstrations surrounding issues like gender equality, social justice, gun violence, income inequality, and climate change are happening more frequently. And while there are ways to take to the streets and demand change, it is important to be mindful of the climate crisis we’re in. These guidelines are created to reduce the impact demonstrations have on the environment, and support movements that rally for positive change.
The Future Is
Intersectional Environmentalism - A Case Study
According to the founder of the Intersection Environmentalism movement Leah Thomas, Intersectional Environmentalism advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected.
Attending and becoming more active in demonstrations is important because it is an opportunity to connect with individuals that are passionate and unafraid to vocalize their beliefs in the hope of achieving positive change. Surrounding yourself with active changemakers can give an opportunity to find peers who can advocate further for the climate change movement.
This is where IE is important to consider. For instance, compared to Whites, Hispanics/Latinos and African Americans are both more likely to be concerned about global warming issues, and also more willing to advocate for actions to prevent climate change to their elected officials. And if you look at the demonstrations that have been taking place across America regarding social justice, one cannot ignore the fact that black communities often bear disproportionate hardships due to environmental crisis’.
Yet ironically, blacks and minorities have been historically left out of the climate change movement. According to a survey in 2018 conducted by Dorceta Taylor, a professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, white people made up 85 percent of the staff and 80 percent of the boards of 2,057 environmental nonprofits.
In 2019, Green 2.0, an organization that examines the intersection of environmental issues and race, released a report that showed that people of color made up only 20 percent of the staffs of 40 environmental non-governmental organizations.
Meeting people at a demonstration advocating for social justice is an ideal opportunity to become involved in a movement for equality, while also connecting with individuals that can become champions for the environmental sustainability movement.
First time protesting? Here’s what to expect:
Typical protests last for 6 hours
Protests can vary in size, and you should prepare for larger protests that have cramped conditions and limited access to food and water.
Protests can take place anywhere. Conditions can vary for weather and trash receptacles may be limited. Prepare accordingly.
Large protest marches have tendencies towards mob mentalities. Please be alert and be safe. Stay aware of your surroundings and don’t incite violence.
The 5 R’s
Whether you attend protests on the regular, or it’s your first time, there are several things you can do to be a sustainable protester. Some actions require preparation (up to one week before) and some can be done during the protest.
A good place to begin is with the 5 R’s, which can be used while protesting and in your daily life:
Reuse: The most sustainable item is the one you already have.
Reduce: Waste less and be a mindful consumer.
Recycle: Learn how to properly recycle and always dispose of your trash accordingly.
Refuse: Say no to single-use plastic.
Repurpose: Instead of buying new things, find different uses for stuff you already have.
Apply the 5 R’s before, during, and after protesting and you can’t go wrong. If you don’t know how to recycle properly, click here to learn (along with additional resources on best practices).
Sustainable Practices Recommended For Your Protest:
Document your sustainable actions via Twitter or Instagram— use the primary protest hashtag and add #SustainableProtest. This helps grow awareness about the climate crisis and sustainable protesting.
Leave no trace —take back everything you brought with you. Trash cans are likely to overflow. Bring your own trash bag and take your garbage, sign, and everything else with you when you leave. Dispose of it correctly at home.
Flyer Sustainably — If you get a flyer of any kind, take a picture and pass it along instead of keeping it.
Eat a hearty meal before the protest. This way you don’t have to bring lots of food or buy to-go meals. You save money and resources!
For more serious protests, make a tear gas/pepper spray treatment solution using water and baking soda. Don’t forget to use a reusable container.
one you already have
The Most Sustainable Item is the
What To Buy Before Protesting
In order to reduce the amount of waste produced at protests, you might need to buy some items. All these items are meant to be reused in other protests and in your daily life. Don’t buy things you already have— instead, use what you already own.
Make sure you need every item in the list. The most sustainable item is the one you already have.
Here is a list of items we encourage you to buy (if you truly need them) and bring to any protest:
Reusable Cups: Reusable cups to use for any water or drinks provided on-site
Reusable Water Bottle: Bringing your own bottle of water is important to avoid single-use plastic and keep hydrated throughout the protest.
Reusable/Compostable Straws: Avoid plastic straws by bringing your own. It can be a metal or paper straw. Reusable straws are encouraged.
Plastic-Free Single Use Water: If you’re relying on single-use water for protesting, make sure to buy boxed or canned water instead of a plastic bottle. If you didn’t bring your own bottle of water, always opt for canned or boxed water instead of plastic.
Reusable Plates, Containers, and Cutlery: To avoid single-use plastic in to-go food, bring your own plates, bags, containers, and cutlery.
Reusable plates and containers
Reusable utensils (or bring utensils from home)
Reusable Silicone Bags:
Food Wrapping Materials
Tin Foil from your local store
Reusable Paper Towels
Reusable Carrying Bags or Backpack: Make sure to always carry with you a reusable bag or backpack to avoid single-use plastic bags.
Biodegradable Trash Bags: To avoid overflowing trash cans, we encourage you to bring a biodegradable trash bag and bring back all your trash with you, as well as pick up what you see on the street.
Bike Repair Kit: If you’re biking to the protest, don’t forget to bring your own bike repair kit.
Compostable Packaging Film
Snacks and Food While Protesting
Protests usually last for long periods of time (6 house average) and require physical activity (walking), so you’re very likely to get hungry. We encourage you to make your own snacks and bring them with you. This helps in avoiding plastic wrappers from snack bars.
You also save some money by bringing your own food and snacks. When bringing your own food, we suggest the use of tin foil, to wrap your food, instead of plastic wrap (tin foil is recyclable) and use reusable containers.
Snack ideas: Homemade granola, trail mix, energy bars, or fruit. Always use recyclable wrappers or reusable bags to carry them.
Food ideas: Veggie sandwich or wrap, salad, or pasta. It’s easier to bring something easy to eat while walking. Always bring your own reusable containers, cutlery, and napkins.
If you end up getting snack bars, use the “Energy Bar Wrapper Recycling Program” to dispose of the wrapper. You can send all brands of foil-lined wrappers as well as every kind of Clif Bar wrapper, to the Energy Bar Wrapper Recycling Program which is a free recycling program through TerraCycle®
When getting snacks consider choosing bars that don’t have palm oil and preferably are packaged in materials that can be recycled by your local waste management infrastructure.
Options for snacks with recyclable/compostable wrappers:
- Yes! Bar ($2.50 PPU on Amazon) (Recyclable Wrapper)
- Regrained (Compostable Wrapper) ($2.50 PPU on Amazon)
Tips for a Sustainable Sign
Signs are one of the most common things you’ll see in protests. People love getting creative with signs and use them to share their ideas, feelings, or thoughts. If you are making a sign for the first time, make sure to use language that can be used in multiple protests.
Use recycled materials to make your sign, like cardboard, food boxes, etc. You can make an erasable and reusable sign with cardboard and tape. Here’s a video on how to do it.
You can also opt to use a whiteboard or chalkboard to reuse in different protests. Get creative!
Another way of repurposing signs is to swap out your sign with other protesters. That way you get a brand new sign each time and you get to make new friends.
These are some items to consider buying for a sustainable sign:
Use a whiteboard and sustainable markers
During protests it’s common to encounter artists doing graffiti or painting during. If you plan on doing it, make sure to bring water-based, non-toxic paint and canvas made from recyclable materials.
Here are a few sustainable art supplies to consider:
Sustainable Spray Paint:
Clothing and Personal Care for Protests
What you wear matters too. These are some things to consider:
Wear closed and comfortable shoes.
Bring a hat.
Use a backpack to carry everything!
Check the weather, if there’s a chance of rain, bring a poncho or umbrella.
Put on sunscreen and insect repellent.
Eco-Friendly Hand Sanitizer
Protests are usually outdoors and there are no accessible bathrooms. Consider bringing toilet paper, feminine products, diapers (if you’re bringing kids), and hand sanitizer.
Diapers (for parents)
Protesting in Times of COVID-19
If you’re protesting during a pandemic, it’s important to be responsible for your health and others. Sometimes keeping physical distance at a protest may not be possible, but you should always wear a reusable face mask. Avoid single-use masks and gloves.
The Future Meets Present’s facemask (above), which costs $6.50, is both reusable and washable, with a tree planted for each purchase and 50% of profits donated to Build a Better Planet 501(c)3.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the usage of single-use face masks and gloves has risen. According to The Guardian, the current use of disposable masks will lead to more face-masks in the ocean than jellyfish. Also, bring a sanitizer to clean your hands as often as possible.
Protests tend to be big events with hundreds to thousands of people. Upon arrival, you should figure out in which direction the protest is moving and the schedule it’s following. Notice accessible exits in case of emergency and security personnel.
Trash and Protests
We encourage you to lead by example. Locate trash cans and if you see people littering, kindly let them know where the trash receptacles are located. If you can, pick up litter from the streets.
If there are no trash cans around, use your own trash bag. Tell people around you that you can take their trash if needed. Team effort makes it easier!
Avoid throwing any kind of litter in the streets. Even compostable items like fruit peels need to be discarded correctly. To learn more about how to properly dispose of trash and recyclables, click here.
Protests involve hundreds or even thousands of people. Cleaning up litter and graffiti from the streets is important to keep your community trash-free. For this reason, clean-ups are usually organized the day after a protest.
Volunteer to help out during the cleanup. When you show up, take pictures and videos for social media to raise awareness.
Recommendations for the cleanup:
Don’t pick up items you’re not comfortable with. Leave items like needles, syringes, and medical waste alone. Note its location and inform your site leader. They can decide the best course of action.
Don’t move or try to pick up heavy items. Safety should always be a priority. Batteries, canisters, and oil drums shouldn’t be picked up.
Bring water and food. Stay in the shade when you can and drink lots of water.
Separate trash properly. Don’t mix garbage with recyclables and compostable items.
Always wear closed shoes, a hat, and sunscreen.
Not every item can be recycled. If a recyclable item is not relatively clean, put it in A non-recyclable pile.
Stay with at least one other person while you clean up.
Volunteer Cleanup is a central clearinghouse for all neighborhood and shoreline cleanups. People can post their cleanups to our site and the system automatically emails our database of a couple of thousand volunteers of all cleanups within a 15-mile radius of where they live.
Proper Disposal of Trash and Recycling
Learning how to properly dispose of trash is one of the most impactful habits to learn in terms of sustainability.
These are the top 5 trash items found at protests, and what to do with them:
Single-use plastic bottles: Recyclable, put in a bin for recyclables if the bottle displays a 1 or 5
Plastic bags: Not recyclable, put them in the trash.
Cardboard: Recyclable, take it home, and dispose of it with mixed paper and other cardboard or take care of your sign and reuse it.
Aluminum foil: Recyclable if clean. Wash first then put in a bin for recyclables
Glass bottles: Recyclable, put in a bin for recyclables. Be considerate to fellow protesters and don’t leave broken glass behind.
How to Compost
Composting is how nature gets rid of trash. Items like food scraps, fruit peels, paper bags, branches, leaves, etc. are compostable.
You can easily start composting in your own home or backyard. To learn more about how to compost click here.
To find a composter near you, where you can drop off your food scraps and compostable items, click here. (US & Canada)
How to Recycle
Recycling allows us to create new products from existing materials. Certain types of plastic can be recycled, as well as glass, metal, etc.
To learn more about how to recycle, click here.