Do we really want to pass on an Earth that is covered in plastic?
by Melissa Cooper Sargent
It is our responsibility to step up our game. Ugh, I know...we are all doing the best we can in so many areas of our lives. You might say, don’t push me to do better, please! But, I am going to do just that because wherever you are in your consumption of plastic (which is actually both figurative and literal), you can do better. We must all do better.
We have to think about what type of Earth we will bestow upon our children and future generations. Do we really want to pass on an Earth that is covered in plastic? Plastic pollution is everywhere, in our air, soil, rivers, lakes, oceans, beaches, even in our drinking water!
China and India are no longer taking the plastic we drop into our recycling bins. It’s piling up in some communities or being sent to landfills or incinerators in others. The answer is to stop using so much plastic!
We use plastic for many reasons. It’s hard to avoid! It’s inexpensive. It’s lightweight. But, most of all...it’s convenient. But, the convenience and the savings aren’t really convenient or inexpensive. We are just sticking future generations with the bill and a big mess to try to clean up.
Enough, I say. So, let’s think about how, when, and where we can avoid plastic as if the future depends on it.
- Reusable Bags: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” has a new member: “Refuse.” If you haven’t gotten into the habit yet of bringing your own reusable bags everywhere, now is a great time to start. There are endless options for bags. (You can even find bags that fold up into tiny pouches that fit into a purse). Yes, it takes planning. It means you have to make it a part of your routine. It’s worth it. Plastic bags are the low-hanging fruit of what we can live without. Don’t stop at the grocery store. Take reusable bags to big box stores, the hardware store, department stores, and even take out for restaurants. Tell them why you are bringing your own bags and refusing the plastic.
- Produce bags: Ok, so you’re a pro at bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store. But, the first thing we do in the produce aisle is to pull on that big roll of plastic bags and tear one off. Instead, seek out produce that is not pre-wrapped in plastic. Then put it in your own muslin cloth or recycled bag. You’ve already created the habit of bringing grocery bags. Just add produce bags to the routine.
- Water bottles: It’s 2019. Disposable plastic water bottles are so last decade. Really. Fill up your own stainless steel or glass water bottle. Not only is the plastic hugely wasteful, but water bottling companies are draining the freshwater in small towns in Michigan, Maine, and other beautiful states. If you are providing the drinks for the soccer game, work party, or family celebration, bring a large dispenser and paper cups or compostable cups. Or, encourage others to bring their own drinking vessel. Collapsible stainless steel cups are fun!
- Coffee Cups: Some of us drink as much coffee as water! (Hey, we’ve all got to get through the day). Take-out coffee cups are lined with plastic and can’t be recycled. Find yourself a ceramic coffee cup or insulated thermos. Make your coffee at home or hand your empty mug to your favorite barista. (That way you skip the waste of the stirrers and lids too!)
- Pay attention to packaging: Wherever possible (grocery store, big-box store, etc) opt for any item wrapped in paperboard or cardboard rather than plastic. Also notice other places you can skip the plastic, like choosing cotton swabs with paper sticks; rather than plastic.
- Lunches: The European Union just passed a law to phase out the use of many single-use plastics, including cutlery, plates, straws, and styrofoam food and drink containers in an effort to reduce marine litter, prevent 3.4 million tons in CO2 emissions, and save about $25 billion in environmental clean up costs. Earth-friendly options abound for reusable and non-plastic lunch packaging. Try beeswax wraps (fabric dipped in a beeswax blend) instead of plastic wrap or stainless steel bento boxes with separate compartments for each lunch item. Reusable bamboo or stainless steel cutlery comes in compact cases or cloth pouches. Find reusable lunch packaging that fits your style.
If all of this is new to you, it’s not too late to take action. Start with one or more of the action items. When you’ve mastered those, add another. Some of these actions may require us to expand our comfort zones. But, hasn’t much of adulthood? And what better gift could we give future generations than a healthy, thriving Earth?