… before July

Written on the eve of Plastic Free July

Tomorrow is the day, well the official day, that Plastic Free July makes it’s way to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The truth is, it really began in February.

When Climate Reality Project shared a video to its leaders and encouraged us to share them, a small group of environmental enthusiasts and some unsuspecting digital nomads watched a short video on climate change and they began to respond. The grade 2 classes at one of the international schools were the first to get a greater insight into what they can do to waste less – hey, they even gave us a few tips! A local school in the temple area was next; they focussed on recycling and environment one day a week for a month, making skipping ropes from old plastic bags and learning why using less to look after our planet is in their power.

In April, whilst aiming to raise awareness, Shinta Mani Resort ran an inspiring event; inviting local business owners to an afternoon of networking and sharing initiatives on waste reduction. In the lead up to this event I boldly volunteered myself as a speaker, then immediately was intimidated and nervous at the prospect of talking to so many people on a topic so dear to me in a town so new to me! Well, it was a hit and there was an article in the local paper!! (Read the Phnom Penh Post article here!)

Then Plastic Free July was on! Out in the open, unleashed in Siem Reap.

With the official start of the campaign tomorrow I feel as though we’re already making a huge difference. Over the last 3 months, local businesses and education providers have made time to discuss the environment and how we can all make changes to make a huge, positive difference. I feel extremely proud of the trainees and staff at Haven Training Restaurant, the seniors class at ABCs and Rice, the staff taking the lead at JWOC and the inspiring perseverance to make this a core learning area at many of the schools in and near Siem Reap.

We’re proud to be holding a community event at New Leaf Book Café – a wonderful social enterprise in the heart of town for these businesses and education facility staff to get together and share ideas – forging an ongoing group to support one another and continue to make a positive change.

We’re excited to kick off the month with a launch party at Long’s Bar – a new local bar with environment at the core of their business (and mighty fine drinks); where they’ve sought out reusable straws and made their furniture from delivery crates – a first in Siem Reap (the second I know of in Cambodia) – eat your heart out Australia 😉

In the last two weeks the most heart-warming and wonderful thing has happened. I got a volunteer to help me out, we met for coffee to talk about volunteering as I also work for a responsible tourism organisation called ConCERT, the next thing I knew, Sam was putting out her hand to help with Plastic Free July! The following day as I left a meeting in Prasat Chhas village, where more great people are bringing this message to their villages and schools, I met another Australian working in education here in Siem Reap and her head teacher; both keen to join the campaign and 30 metres down the road I was to meet my next volunteer, Sambath, who’s been quietly influencing people in Battambang where he’s from and tourists who he takes on tours around Cambodia, inspiring them to take care of the environment.

Now they’re flooding in, it’s so wonderful that everyone sees the need and the urgency to make a positive difference.

This is just a small part of what I’ve experienced in the lead up to July and I can’t wait to share more stories with you as the month goes on.

Take care of each other and take care of the planet,
Sarah
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