With the ice caps melting, our toxic water and air, diminishing resources, and that 270,000 square mile patch of plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it can be difficult to know how to even begin to make a change. This is not just another doomsday article scaring you into feeling guilty and helpless. The purpose of this article is to give you hope and direction. You, as an individual, are capable of creating big change. Simply going plastic free, or at least single-use plastic free, can have a miraculous impact on your health, the health of those around you, and on the environment.
If you’re anything like me, you are 31 years old and have made a significant footprint on this earth with the use of unnecessary plastics like food packaging, water bottles, drinking straws, and shopping bags. What can I say? I was a child of the 80’s where plastic and mass-production was viewed as convenient and economical! I was ignorant, but I have learned. As C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Let me share with you some motivating facts on how plastics are harming us, as well as some simple alternatives so that you can make a change like I did. Trust me, I feel better already.
Hard truth #1: Plastic is harming our planet, and not just a little bit.
The majority of litter on our planet is plastic. It is taking up space and poisoning our resources. From the years 2000-2010, more plastic was produced than in the entire century prior. Currently, over thirty million tons of plastic is produced each year. Only about half of it is recyclable, and only about 10% actually is recycled. Plastic is not biodegradable, and only decomposes after hundreds of years into microplastic (smaller pieces of plastic, and toxic gases and liquids). Seals, whales, turtles, birds, and many other species have been found tangled in plastic wrappers and packages that have suffocated or starved them, and it is estimated that by 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by weight. Plastic lives for a long time, so it doesn’t make sense to make single-use products from this harmful material. Wouldn’t you agree that if something is meant to be used once and thrown away, it should be made of something that decomposes quickly?
Hard truth #2: Plastic is making us sick.
Microplastics have been traced in our food and water supplies, and 93% of people that have been tested have shown positive traces of BPA in their urine. Babies today are being born with BPA in their systems before they have even had a chance to choose paper, glass, or steel over plastic. BPA is a chemical that is used to make plastic harder and to make livestock gain weight before slaughter. BPA and other chemicals used in plastic have been directly linked to hormone imbalances, obesity, deformities in babies (primarily in the genitals), decreased sperm quality, miscarriages, type two diabetes, allergies, neurological problems, and heart disease to name a few. Even with all of this evidence, plastic producers still claim that their products are safe!
- Stop using disposable plastic water bottles immediately. -It is time. You know too much. The convenience factor is no longer great enough to support the negative effects of single-use plastic. Find a stainless steel or glass water bottle to use daily and install a water filter in your home. This worthy investment will offer you an unlimited supply of clean drinking water and you will end up saving money in the long run. The water you drink will taste better, and it will stay cooler longer. 50% of bottled water is filtered tap water anyway!
- Stop using plastic straws. Straws are convenient, but in reality, YOU DON’T EVEN NEED THEM! Straws, like most inventions, were created to make life more convenient. Plastic straws are inexpensive luxury items that makes drinking faster and easier, but the effects on our environment are devastating. Straws can be made out of metal, corn, or paper. Bring your own metal straw out to restaurants with you or just ask for no straw. It is a small effort that makes a gigantic difference.
- Bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store. Most stores offer reusable bags for purchase, or you can find some eco-friendly ones online.
- Avoid plastic packaging and other unnecessary plastic.– When you have the choice, don’t buy food with single-use plastic packaging. Avoid feminine products that have plastic applicators, use regular dental floss instead of plackers, buy a wooden toothbrush, buy a cork yoga mat, stop ordering things in to-go cups, using plastic silverware, etc. Keep the plastic thing in the forefront of your mind until it becomes second nature.
- Stop playing the victim.– Big business is often rightfully demonized for brainwashing citizens into consuming things that are unhealthy or bad for the environment to make a profit. However, could it be said that the consumer has even more of an influence on businesses than vice versa? Think about it in terms of the tried and true supply and demand theory: If we stop consuming, they will stop producing. After all, isn’t it diminishing our intelligence to assume that our purchases are being completely controlled by someone else? At the end of the day, people buy things that are economical, convenient, and available. We now have the knowledge, the resources, and the power to make an informed, responsible decision for a better tomorrow. Just as we improve by keeping up with new inventions, we must also stay current when it comes to phasing out products that are no longer benefiting society. We are a strong, informed, capable human beings!
“Not all heroes wear capes, but they probably all have metal water bottles.”-Me.
Well, that’s one way to look at it, but more accurately, it’s the responsible thing to do. Thankfully, governments worldwide are getting on board. The EU launched an effort to make all packaging throughout Europe reusable by 2030, and China has banned all imported non-recyclable material. The U.S. government has sadly moved away from this priority as of late, so it is up to individuals to take a stand. I have noticed first-hand that restaurants in my town are already switching to a “straws only upon request” policy, and most offer eco-friendly to-go containers. Collectively as a human race we are waking up. As Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Now is the time to do better! Purchase a beautiful eco-friendly water bottle here!