Plastic Pollution is Destroying the Earth – Here’s How You Can Help
Plastic pollution is here to stay
I recently watched a video about the research of an environmentalist who studies plastic pollution and she calculated that if every bit of plastic that exists was spread out ankle deep it would cover an area the size of Argentina, the world’s 8th largest country. (Watch here)
That is shocking!
What’s even scarier is the fact that plastic can’t decompose, or even really be recycled efficiently. In some form, every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists.
And will always exist. It may break down into smaller and smaller particles but those microplastics enter into the world’s water systems, including our drinking water, not to mention the bodies of marine life, causing all sorts of health problems for them, and us.
Not only that, but many forms of plastic wrap themselves around the necks of marine life, get lodged in their throat and can cause enormous amounts of pain and suffering. This breaks my heart!
What’s even scarier is that some of the top oil and gas companies have invested $180 billion to increase the world’s plastic production by 40%! By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. (Read the article here).
Our part in all of this
I am trying to drive my point home here. This isn’t something to take lightly. I am being very, very serious right now.
Because I want you to do me a favor. I want you to start thinking about your life, your home, and be really honest with yourself. How much plastic do you consume?
I am going to be frank with you. Every single piece of plastic is contributing to the plastic pollution crisis. Every piece of plastic that passes through your hands is slowly destroying the planet.
A society of stress
I want you to know this is not your fault! It is the fault of an insidiously flawed system that fails to take into account the delicate balance of nature.
Our society functions on single use plastic. It’s convenient. It’s free. And it has become a habit to simply consume it without thinking about it.
And it makes sense! Modern life is stressful! We barely have time to keep body and soul together to make it through the week, let alone worry about our plastic consumption!
I get it! I have been there.
The problem is this stress is not only a result of our disconnect from the rhythms and cycles of our planet, but it also feeds into the systems that are destroying the planet as well.
Read my related article: 5 Ways to Connect to the Earth for a Life of True Alignment.
So what can we do? How can we break the cycle of destruction?
We have to shift our mindset
Realize that every action you take is connected to everything else.
This might sound intimidating. When I first started to realize this it scared me! I started to notice all of my habits that were inadvertently harming the planet because they were tied into a system that doesn’t take the balance of the planet’s ecosystems into account.
But this realization also awakened my compassion. I started to really care!
Let yourself care! Even if it’s a little bit painful. Because if you care it means you’re awake to what’s going on.
Modern society hasn’t programmed us to think about ecosystems. Modern society wants us to think about what’s convenient, what’s fast and what’s instantly gratifying. Buy stuff! Stuff will make you feel better! Buy this trinket, that gadget! It will improve your life!
But modern society is lying to us.
Stuff won’t make us feel better! Only tuning into ourselves and feeling how we really feel, discovering what we really want and who we really are will truly make us feel better.
To read more about this topic see my related post: Meditations on Self Love – Exploring the Shadow.
This process of tuning into ourselves also helps us tune into the ecosystems of the planet.
All of this stuff we think we need is just overtaxing the resources of the planet.
But what if we consumed only what we actually need? What if we purchased things made out of sustainable materials that aren’t toxic and are made to last?
Now I’m not saying we should only own twenty possessions – because some minimalists take it really far. I’m just saying pay attention to the excess.
I have made a commitment to myself to do my very best not to buy any more plastic! It’s not just about its use in my life but what happens to it once I’m through with it. Now I try to only consume items made of wood, cotton, bamboo, glass and stainless steel and other sustainable resources.
Not only will they last much longer but when I’m done with them they won’t pollute the environment.
But everything is packaged in plastic!
I wrote an article a few weeks ago about 5 ways to consume less plastic. One of the steps talked about refusing single use plastic items.
Make a commitment to yourself not to consume any more single use plastic! Plastic straws and cutlery and cups and bags and styrofoam! What about soy sauce packets and candy bar wrappers and chip bags? All of that ends up in the landfill, or the street, or waterways, and eventually the ocean!
So what do you do when confronted with these items?
I always bring a canvas tote with me wherever I go so I don’t have to get a plastic bag – ever. I always use a ceramic coffee mug to stay, or bring a reusable one with me if I want my beverage to go. If I eat out, I always have a container on hand to bring the food home. I also bring a set of cutlery and a glass straw with me so there is never any need to consume plastic.
Yes, this does take some forethought and organization. But I care so much about the environment that it has honestly become a habit now! And the planet does so much for us, being a little organized seems a small price to pay!
Saying no to these items can feel uncomfortable. It still goes against the status quo. But I’ve also found it empowering! It makes me feel like I’m in control of what I’m consuming!
And if we don’t go against the status quo, plastic pollution will continue to destroy the planet! The earth needs trailblazers like us to help pave the way and show the world that we can do it differently!
Shop in bulk
I’ve talked about this before, but it really is the number one way to reduce your consumption of plastic packaging! By shopping in bulk you assure that you use the same containers over and over again, preferably glass, cotton or stainless steel.
I invested in a set of cotton bulk bags and bring them with me every time I shop. I also have mesh produce bags which means I don’t have to use the plastic freebies at the store! In addition, I save tomato sauce and other jars and purchased a few larger mason jars to store my bulk food items.
Not only is my kitchen more organized but I am encouraged to buy less packaged and processed foods in the process! A healthier planet = a healthier me!
Read my guide to bulk shopping here: Everything Bulk – The Ultimate Guide to Bulk Shopping
Also check out the new bulk store in Boulder – Refill Revolution! It is amazing!
(photo from the store location on East Arapahoe)
Earth day this year is dedicated to ending plastic pollution. Get involved in some of their events! Download their free plastic waste analyzer! They have put together some great tools to help you get organized and get started. I think it’s so exciting that this is turning into a global movement!
You can also check your area for zero waste stores, meetups and events, because reducing your plastic footprint is easier and more fun in community!
I’ll leave you with a quote:
“Resources aren’t wasted, they’re contaminated.” – President Mujica
Reducing your plastic consumption is a journey! It can’t happen overnight, but simply by becoming aware of our habits we start to make better choices. By thinking about how our choices affect the ecosystems of the planet as a whole, we can start to see ways to avoid consuming plastic that were once habitual.
My husband calls this ‘consumer activism’. I like that!
While it might seem as though your actions alone aren’t making an impact, I can assure you that they are! Think of it like a huge boulder rolling down a hill. To get the boulder moving, it takes an enormous amount of effort, but once it starts rolling it gathers its own momentum until it is virtually unstoppable.
That’s how I see awareness about plastic pollution. Right now we are heaving that boulder, but once we get it rolling, its momentum will carry us all.
To change the world we must first change ourselves.
I’m here to help you in this process! Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!
What are your thoughts? What are your most pressing questions or concerns? Leave it in the comments below so we can start a discussion. The more we talk about ways to reduce our plastic footprint, the easier it will become!
Share your progress on social media with the hashtags #PlasticMindfulnessMonth and #saynotoplastic