With the growing rally to ban plastic straws, this “movement” helps shine the spotlight on the bigger issue of plastic pollution. While restaurants, theme parks, and other sustainability-minded businesses are ditching plastic straws, we all need to take a deeper look into our reliance on plastics, especially single-use items such as straws, water bottles, bags, and utensils.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, disposable trash (including plastic bags, cigarette lighters, and bottles) that we throw away on land account for most of the debris in our oceans. How is this possible? Because rivers and storm drains carry our discards out to sea. In fact, researchers at Columbia University's Earth Institute estimate that eight million metric tons of plastic waste enter the oceans each year—and we can't keep up with removal efforts. By 2050, scientists estimate that the amount of plastic in the ocean will weigh more than all the fish.
Make a personal pact to reduce your use of plastics—and then challenge your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to do the same. How?
For starters, educate yourself on the perils of plastic from organizations such as National Ocean Service or the Smithsonian. Learn about the damage that's already been done and what you can do to stem the tide on plastic pollution.
Next, set an example by changing your own habits at work, at home, and everywhere you go. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers about why you're making these changes—and invite them to join you in your efforts.
Finally, create a chain reaction with you by encouraging them to ditch plastic in the home and the workplace in favor of reusable items. Share these eco-friendly ideas on social media, tag your friends and followers, and challenge them to #ditchplastic.
- Instead of plastic straws, switch to a reusable metal straw or a biodegradable one.
- Buy reusable bottles instead of throw-away plastic bottles.
- Stock up on a few reusable cloth shopping bags to carry purchases home from the store. Tip: stash them in your car so you always have them with you when you're running errands.
- Buy fresh and local to avoid the plastic packaging that often accompanies foods transported from far away.
- Buy products in larger containers rather than individual servings to cut down on excess packaging.
- When you go out to eat, bring your own reusable containers to take home leftovers.
- Dispose of trash responsibly, whether you're at home, at work, or at play.
- Not sure what to do with paint, fuel, and other hazardous waste? Follow your state guidelines for safe disposal.
- Think your only option for toothbrush is plastic? Opt for a bamboo or metal toothbrush.
- Feeling really ambitious? Take part in local clean-up efforts at nearby lakes, rivers, and streams.