Our love for plastic is out of control. In total, we produce an average of 300 million tons of plastic every year to meet the demand for everything from to-go cups to toothbrushes, and while we might find these things convenient, they’re taking a serious toll on the planet. Every year, we dump a total of 8.8 million tons of plastic into the oceans and consequently, around 700 marine animals are threatened with extinction. Clearly, our personal convenience is hardly worth it.
But, today things might just be getting better. As they learn more, people are starting to care. People are trying. Big things are happening by making lots of little things happen. Self-regulating our use of plastic is a great way of taking some personal responsibility for our individual effects on the planet. What’s more, done correctly, it can be a fun and interesting way to make some new friends.
The Shopping Bag Scenario
My mother taught me the first half of this one, and I decided to take up a notch into the friendship zone. Step one, my mama’s method, is not ever allowing the plastic shopping bag to enter the mix. We all forget the reusable one from time and time, and generally that means shrugging it off and taking the plastic bag “this time only.” My mother, in an effort to completely curb her plastic shopping bag use, decided that, when she forget to bring the reusable ones along, she’d just buy a new one.
For her, that meant that she eventually had a trunk full of shopping bags. The collection was a bit overwhelming. And, that’s why I came up with step two: making friends. Where there are too many reusable shopping bags, there is the opportunity to give some away. Rather than leaving them bundled in the trunk, bring an extra one on each shopping trip and give one away to someone who is about to use a plastic bag. Boom! Maybe they’ll be converted, and we just help someone else do away with plastic bags?
The Water Bottle Bonanza
So many of us now are keyed into the fact that water bottled in plastic was probably amongst the most foolish concepts, ecologically speaking, of the last half century. They have simply become a horror story on the planet, and believe it or not, despite the newfound resistance mounting against bottled water, the industry is still growing. Well, it’s really easy to sit and smolder at those folks at work who are constantly contributing to the problem.
It might be just as easy to contribute to a solution by providing everyone in the office with a reusable water bottle, but often times that’s a huge expense. So, mama’s shopping bag method might come slide in just perfectly again. Hey, most of us falter from time to time, on forgetful days, and buy a plastic bottle. When this happens, we should pay the penance of buying someone else a reusable one. It’ll lessen the world’s plastic and, after doling out for a few bottles, it’ll help us remember.
Plastic-Ware for All — Again and Again
How often does it happen? Take-out food, even from seemingly well-intentioned places, come stuffed with a host of packages of salt, pepper, napkins, forks-knives-spoons, and containers we don’t really need. Well, that means we have the choice of either using them, which contributes to the environmental plastic problem, or getting pro-active and self-reflective about the situation.
Rather than going the disposable flatware route, why don’t we all get ourselves some flatware and reusable take-out containers to carry around? What will inevitably happen is that someone will look at you like your absolutely crazy, at which point a joke is more appropriate than becoming defensive. Rather than providing a lecture, it’s the perfect time to explain why you are doing this crazy thing (and there are many reasons) and perhaps inspire a new friend to do the same.
There are loads of ways, and we should endorse whichever ones we can. But, most definitely, in this battle against plastic pollution, it is time we start increasing the momentum by reaching out to others. The more inclusive the effort becomes, the bigger the difference each little fun and friendly thing will make. Why not?
Lead image source: Flickr