To help eliminate single-use plastics at UN Headquarters in New York, reusable linen bags were handed out to staff on 3 June. The bags were donated by the Permanent Mission of India, aligning the initiative with this year’s 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi famously said. Another quote - “The future depends on what you do today” - is featured on the tote bag.
On Monday morning, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare, Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Viotti, the General Assembly President’s Deputy Chef de Cabinet Yanerit Morgan, Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin, and Deputy Permanent Representative Nagaraj Naidu Kakanur of India, welcomed staff at the 46th Street entrance and handed out the reusable bags.
Patricia Nemeth, President of the United Nations Staff Union in New York and Francisco Brito, 2nd Vice President, joined Department of Operational Support representatives, including Elizabeth Rolando, USG Khare’s Head of Office, in distributing the bags at the 42nd Street staff entrance.
“We are pleased to contribute to this action, as environmental concerns are high amongst staff priorities. We remain available to work with DOS on similar initiatives, to ensure that staff’s interests are duly considered as we green the blue,” said Staff Union President Patricia Nemeth.
Staff members have welcomed the efforts. Javier Garcia Montero said, “I am glad we are all making efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastic!”
“I was really happy to receive my reusable bag the other morning, it’s a great initiative by the Secretariat to reduce plastic pollution,” said Sharon Borsits.
A novelty in the 1970s, plastic bags are now omnipresent, produced at a rate of one trillion a year. They are showing up everywhere - from the depths of the oceans to the summit of Mount Everest and the polar ice caps - and creating major environmental challenges, according to UN Environment.
Around one million plastic bags are consumed worldwide every minute.
Plastic bags are just one of the items staff are discouraged from bringing onto UN premises. Others include plastic bottles, cutlery, coffee cup lids, and food containers.
Vendors inside UNHQ have made great strides in replacing single-use plastic items. Let’s all do our part for a UN free of single-use plastics!