In a time when division and conflict seem to be the loudest themes among the human species, one very important fact to remember is that all 7.8 billion of us homo sapiens inhabit the same planet Earth...The same planet Earth that is being pulverized by plastic pollution at an alarming rate. I typically approach topics from a positive, optimistic perspective, but I have to be honest, after traveling throughout Asia the first three months of 2020, my mindset has shifted. We are literally drowning in plastic waste. According to National Geographic, more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic waste are floating in our oceans. I, unfortunately, witnessed this first hand in Lombok, Indonesia, Koh Rong/Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia & Halong Bay, Vietnam. National Geographic cites that approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste drift out to the oceans from coastal nations every single year. This is equal to lining every foot of the entire global coastline with FIVE overflowing garbage bags full of waste.
In the US, much of the population adheres to the old adage, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" believing that they are making a positive impact. Another disheartening fact, though, is that since 1950, there have been 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic created in the world and 91% has never made its way to a recycling center (this is according to a 2017 study documented in Science Advances). We simply need to reduce use. There is no other way to get us out of the mess we've created.
These facts should make you FEEL something inside of you. We are all one with this earth. Mother Nature has gifted us with unbelievably beautiful vistas and has graced us with fertile land to grow foods and medicines that serve us... we have to treat her with more respect. We have to be more mindful of our impact. The world is not a giant trash can and we have to make the choice to do better.
I am not going to shame you for ordering fast food or takeout that brings with it plastic forks, wrappers and bags, but I am going to urge you to bring your awareness to it. Start to THINK about it and witness the way we're living in our throw-away society. Once you bring awareness to a subject, you can make more of an effort to create change. We all have the power to make a difference with our personal habits.
Here are a few more facts about plastics and pollution:
73% of beach litter worldwide is PLASTIC.
Throughout the world, approximately two million bags made of plastic are used every 60 seconds. Moreover, these bags are often discarded immediately after use, ending up in landfills and in our global waters.
Plastics routinely end up on our dinner plates and each year, the average person consumes between 50,000-70,000 micro-plastic particles. I try to treat my body with love and respect and do not want to EAT plastic...do you??
Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? If not, it's a despicable floating barge of plastic waste that is two times the size of Texas. Further, there are six times more pieces of plastic than there are of sea life in this area!!
When plastic bottles end up in landfills, it takes around 450-500 years for them to decompose.
I realize that these facts are not cheerful or happy, but knowledge is power and with that knowledge, we are better able to arm ourselves for battle.
Start with small steps.
Here are 10 ways to use less plastic and/or make a positive impact on the planet:
When grocery shopping, ditch the impulse to opt for plastic bags. If you have to, request brown paper bags. An even better option is to bring your own cloth bags with you. They don't have to be anything fancy, although there are lots of cute ones on the market.
Buy groceries in bulk to reduce plastic packaging consumption.
If you eat on the go, pass on the plastic straws and utensils and instead invest in your own metal set to bring with you.
Purchase a glass or aluminum water bottle and fill up on the regular. Bonus: You'll drink way more water when you have a re-usable bottle permanently affixed to you!
Ladies, ditch the pads and tampons with plastic applicators. Try a menstrual cup! The same cup can be used for 2-5 years! I have been using the Diva Cup for about 3 years now and much prefer it to tampons!
I know that we all have our caffeine cravings... bring your own to-go mug from home! The barista will certainly be fine with using your coffee cup instead of theirs!
When you go for walks, bring a bag and pick up trash along the way.
Instead of plastic tupperware, invest in glassware like Pyrex.
Start a compost pile to put nutrients back into the soil ecosystem instead of tossing fruit and veggie remnants into the trash where they'll end up taking space in a landfill.
Plant a tree or adopt a houseplant!
Here is an online shop to check out for products without packages (including reusable utensils, bottles, mugs & straws): https://packagefreeshop.com/
If you have any other ideas to share, please comment below! Knowledge is power and habit changing takes time... give it a whirl, stay positive and celebrate Earth EVERY day!
Here are the links to the articles referenced: