As I watch the rain from my office, the field next door slowly fills up. The vineyards act as a retention pond and somehow it all kind of works out. The vines stay dormant during winter, and when spring and summer arrives, they continue to grow. There is a sort of balance in the ecological cycle. When nature is left alone, most of the time things equalize and figure things out. Unfortunately, man gets involved, many times we throw things off balance. A subject near and dear to my heart is all the plastic in the world today and how it has taken over the headlines. The plastic island the size of Texas floating in the ocean makes my stomach tighten and especially when I am hiking and see plastic on the path makes me wonder if there are solutions to this world-wide problem. I really want to inspire you to change your plastic world.
Brief History of Plastic
A little history about where all this plastic came from helped me somewhat understand why we are in the situation we are in now. In 1862, plastic appeared at the Great International Exhibition in London and was derived from cellulose. Cellophane the was created in the 1900’s and plastic evolved over the years either by accidental discovery or on purpose.
Plastic food storage containers appeared in 1946 when Earl Silas Tupper created Tupperware. Of course we have all had Tupperware in our kitchen drawers and have had the battle of looking for the correct lid. Unfortunately, now practically every food item comes in plastic containers and I try to keep many of them to avoid creating more waste, which will end up in our landfills.
Plastic bags were developed by Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin who created them in 1959. He originally developed them to help prevent trees from being torn down for production of shopping bags. He felt like everyone could and should use and reuse their plastic bags over and over, according to his son. The bags became widely used in the 1980’s and were cheaper to produce that paper bags. They were also more popular because they had handles, which the paper bags didn’t have. Unfortunately, many people today do not use their plastic bags repeatedly, but throw them away after one use.
All of this plastic slowly breaks down into microplastics, which is the new term to describe little particles of plastic, which eventually end up in our rivers and ultimately the ocean. Once there, plastic filled currents create vortexes which become microplastic soup. Fish mistaken the plastic as food, and thus affecting humans as they partake of the fish. Microplastics are detrimental to both animals and humans as they are not food and cannot be digested and manytimes not eliminated from the body. The whole situation is perilous and discouraging.
You may be thinking that the situation is quite depressing and there is nothing that you can do. But that is not true. Each one of us can make a difference by starting in your own house and life. You can do many things in your “local world” that will eventually impact the global world.
Decision of Conscious
Make a purchase that has a conscious. Ask yourself these questions as you purchase…
- Can you get the item you are wanting to purchase in a 100% recyclable container? At one time I had 23 bottles of plastic shampoo and soap products in my shower. Now I have zero (0)!! Lush has bar shampoos and conditioners and moisturizing soaps. Try it and find one that works for you. I use Grove Shampoo and Conditioner and it works well for my skin and hair.
- Can you order something online that has green packaging? (For example, I order laundry detergent from Earth Breeze (carboard packaging), chewable tooth paste from BITES (refillable glass jars and the Bites come in paper bags), bar shampoo and conditioner (cardboard packaging) and refillable cleaning supplies from Grove (glass and cardboard packaging), Bamboo toilet paper and paper towels from Grove in cardboard and no plastic.
- Can you use your own containers when buying cheese and fresh meat? I was able to do this all the time before the pandemic. I brought in either glass, metal or plastic containers (that I already had before I started my zero-waste mission) to Whole Foods and they would gladly weigh my container and fill my container with the desired product. This policy probably varies from store to store and is a little different now after the pandemic. But well worth a try to reduce your carbon footprint and the plastic in the world.
- Find out where there are collection bins for plastic bags and wraps. Our local Safeway just installed a collection bin for plastic bags. Save your plastic bags and grocery bags. If you can’t reuse them, which we do a lot of, then take them in to recycle. Think of recycling as a last resort, though.
Affect Your Sphere of Influence
- Teach your sphere of influence about what you are discovering and using. My daughter and I make decisions on what we buy, cook and eat on packaging. Begin to consider where the leftover packaging will end up. My family has begun to copy my example.
- Plan ahead when you can. When I travel, I bring my own cup that can have hot and cold items in it. I use water refill stations and ask restaurants to fill my cup with hot water if I want tea (bring your own tea or coffee.) I don’t use straws unless they are paper and I usually don’t use straws anyway.
- Reduce your footprint. When you can, think about how you can reduce what you buy and can you buy it used? This keeps items out of the landfill and reduces our footprint on the earth. Can you get used clothes that are just as cute as new? Can you rent a special dress for an extravagant event? This is becoming popular for even famous people and is an acceptable way to make a green decision of conscious.
- Reuse the stuff you already own. Do you really need new cabinets and counters? Can you paint, resurface and remodel what you have? I know when we bought our place, we had cabinets made out of painted plywood and had no latch. Instead of replacing them, we painted them and used folded cardboard to keep them closed. Eventually we took them out, but we used them for about 17 years and it was fine.
- Repurpose plastic containers and baskets that you already have. At times it is impossible to avoid plastic containers. Try to repurpose them. Our old shampoo and conditioner containers were used for about 5 years. I just kept refilling them at a refill station. Get creative. Baskets can be reused for gifts and meals for sick friends. Don’t throw it away without thinking of another use.
- Rot what you can rot. Food products and other things you have that can be allowed to biodegrade naturally. Some paper can be shredded and put in the garden. We used to use newspaper as a mulch in the garden. Have a compost bin to dispose of some food products and use this in your garden. Green materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, used tea, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, grass clippings, green plant cuttings, old flowers and many weeds. Brown materials are things like straw, paper and cardboard, dry leaves, woody prunings and sawdust (but not from treated wood) are all items that can be put in your compost bin.
I know if seems like an overwhelming task, but making one change a week can really begin to change your world. Give it a try and tell someone else what your doing. One by one we can change our world but it starts with you caring enough about the world to make changes.
Zero Waste Resources
When I first became interested in this topic, I did a little research and landed on a few websites and found a few books that helped me gain a bit of knowledge on the subject. Zero Waste Home https://zerowastehome.com.
I began purchasing reusable veggie bags, clothe makeup remover pads, mason jars for food storage, silicon food storage systems (which we have been using for more than 10 years) and many other items that I continue to use. There are many other zero waste resources, just google it and you will be pleasantly surprised!!
There are several organizations that are making a global difference on a larger scale in our world and oceans. As you look at each organization, which one resonates with you? How can you help with this ongoing problem? Financially is always good, but man power is also needed with such a huge task as cleaning the ocean. Get inspired to become involved.
The Ocean Conservancy Organization focuses on solution that promote a healthy ocean, abundant wildlife and sustainable coastal areas. Their website is https://oceanconservancy.org/ They believe the ocean is our responsibility but we all must do our part.
The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit foundation founded by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat in 2013, and it has since been battling against plastic pollution in our oceans. It does this by developing new technologies to remove plastic debris from marine ecosystems, which will improve our planet’s environmental issues, the global economy and the health of human beings and wildlife.
Clean Ocean Action works on the Eastern coast of the United States of America to improve and protect the quality of marine waters. It uses science, law, research, education and community engagement to protect the national and regional waterways. The organization consists of a coalition of groups working together since 1984, named the “Ocean Wavemakers”. After COA’s staff has researched the threats and decided on a policy to implement, these groups collaborate and use their individual experience and skills to bring change to the real world.
CORAL works at local, regional and global levels, connecting to coastal communities and using innovative science and technologies.They also are at the forefront of new research focusing on how corals adapt to the changing ocean conditions we have been experiencing in the last few decades. This research has shown that corals can actually adapt to climate change, and that there is hope that we will be able to save coral reefs for generations to come.
The Sea Life Trust is a registered charity organization that works to protect the planet’s oceans, their wildlife and ecosystems. They support local projects to safeguard marine wildlife and their habitats, as well as working on conservation campaigns on a global level. One of their main aim is to work on reducing plastic pollution by creating campaigns and supporting cleanup projects all around the world, as well as removing ghost-fishing gear, one of the greatest killers in our ocean.
The Marine Conservation Institute was born from the vision of one person in 1996. The organization creates Blue Parks, which are highly protected areas within the ocean. They also ensure that the diversity and abundance of marine life will be safeguarded for future generations. Their aim is to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030.
- Do Something!! Take a step in the right direction.
- Take a stand and say no more _________. (My stand was shampoo bottles. Remember, I had 21 plastic bottles in my shower, yuk!)
- Slowly keep trying to incorporate the next level of zero waste.
- Tell your neighbor or friends.
- Don’t stop trying to clean up our world.
About the Author
Kathy Denise Hicks is an author, personal trainer and human, inspired to help others live a glorious life. She teaches movement, nutrition and brain health classes and advocates for zero waste and the environment. You can check out her “Daily Lift” on Face Book and try out her Goal Crusher, to help you start creating and reaching your goals.