It’s easy to become enraged when you see pictures of marine life that have been maimed, killed, or caught in plastic or ocean debris. It really puts a face to this huge problem but because the problem is so big – how can we help? This article is inspired from combing the ocean’s tidal pools with my own kids today and we noticed a lot more garbage at the shoreline. Finding multiple golf balls really reminded me that education is needed with our unprotected waters. We need to think about our oceans and remember to only put things from the ocean back into them – this doesn’t include sand toys, cigarette butts, water bottles, golf balls, etc. Not only is an item like golf balls made from rubber and a plastic exterior, there can be confusion for marine life once they start breaking down. Here is what I saw today:
What can we do? Talk to you children about this epic problem. Show them pictures if you don’t live close to water. There are all ranges of images – select age appropriate pictures and educate children that single use items and plastic is a huge problem. Understanding consumerism and the importance of making better choices for things that enter our homes. I also find general awareness of this problem forces you to rethink lifestyles. I recently learned that cigarettes contain plastic. I had no idea! Think of how many cigarette butts find their way into the ocean? The plastic soup of our single use lifestyle is really the turning point for so many environmental issues – the ocean is no different.
What can you start doing today that will help? Most important is limiting single use plastic disposable items from your life – once you start it doesn’t seem like such a huge undertaking. The best part is with this reduction you will be taking steps to improve not only the environment but your own health! Here are some tips.
~ Say no to drinking water in plastic and using plastic shopping bags. Grab a reusable stainless steel bottle and refill and use cloth or paper bags for shopping.
~ Use reusable tableware – say no to plastic. Refuse plastic straws, Styrofoam cups, plates, and cutlery. Are you an big coffee drinker? Recognize that about yourself and have a reusable cup in your car. Like to use straws? Keep a stainless steel straw in your glove box or purse.
~ Food packaging is the biggest problem of all! It’s easier to avoid putting fresh produce in plastic, but think of all the snack type foods that contains plastic packaging; cereal, crackers, yogurt, cheese, etc. Purchase these items in bulk, sourcing products like milk in glass bottles, and avoiding heavily packaged foods when shopping helps curb single item waste.
Many of us believe that our plastic waste is recycled but sadly it’s just not true. Recycling rates for plastic are poor – less than 1% of all plastic bags are actually recycled. The plastic you put into blue bins or recycle bins is not automatically disposed in a full circle where plastic is turned into another product or given new life. Most plastic ends up in the land fill, and the overrun sometimes ends up in our water and that has turned into a huge problem. Plastic is created to exist forever. Did I just say forever? Yes, so the problem of using something only once and having that packaging created to withstand the elements forever is scary. And once that plastic item becomes weathered and torn, the small pieces it breaks down to probably cause the most damage because it’s now making it’s way into our food system, animals, and soil.
When you can’t avoid using plastic – treat that item with care and try to use it for as long as possible. In my house we’ve accumulated toys, sand toys, water toys and rather than feeling guilty about having these items, I’ve taken a new approach; take really good care of them. When these toys are gone they won’t be replaced so if we can keep plastic sand toys that will last my children’s entire childhood….then mission accomplished. There isn’t an effective material to replace plastic with water play – especially floatation devices, pools, etc. so treat them with care. Ensure your plastic is removed from visiting the beach and treat it well. Use it and preserve it so it doesn’t become a single use item – stretch it’s use into years.
At every turn with talking about the environment and human health, the biggest factor is curbing consumerism and reducing items that have a short life span. When you understand that plastic was created to last forever – it becomes hard to purchase something that will only be used once, but will stay on the planet longer than your grandchildren.