Plastic Pollution

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Check out this video by the students at Santa Monica high school. The students who produced this video have since graduated, but their message is still very important.

Plastic pollution is a greater problem than any other type of pollution, even if your storm drain don’t run to the ocean. Plastic takes decades to breakdown. Those water bottles you see at the side of most roadways would be there when you die if no one picked them up. Even so, unless the litter pickers turn in their collected waste to a recycle center, the plastic waste is going to be sticking around for decades. Whereas paper can breakdown within days. Some paper, like the filters I use for my coffee, can biodegrade in a home compost bin.

If you watched through to the end of the video, you saw simple ways the high school students were planning to reduce their own plastic waste. If you’d like more ideas, check out this article on Mother Nature Network.

As you saw from my previous posts, I am reducing plastic waste by not bringing it home in the form of plastic shopping bags. But I want to do more. Currently, I’m still using the plastic bags provided for produce, even though I really hate those things. I can never get them open! So I think another change that I will be motivated to make is to bring my own bags for produce. I bought a few several years ago to use at home. So it will be a natural extension to include them with the bags I keep in my trunk.

Before I continue, I want to make one thing clear. I am not here to sell anything. I will not provide links to Amazon. WordPress may make some money off of my blog, but I will not. That’s not my purpose. The main purpose I have for this blog is to make myself accountable. I want to make some changes and having these words out there will make it more likely that I will follow through. A secondary purpose is to provide this information for others who may want to make similar changes.

It is important to me that you know the following is not meant as an advertisement. I have stumbled upon the following products recently. I had no idea they existed. I am expecting they will help me make some positive changes, so I am sharing them with you in case you could use the same support.

These are the type of reusable produce bags I have, though I know I spent way too much on them when I bought them a few years ago. I was sold on them only because I thought they would keep produce longer in my refrigerator. They may do that, to some degree, because they allow the produce to breath. Doing a search for “reusable produce bag” will bring up a multitude of these bags.

I have been intrigued by waxed cotton to use to wrap up leftovers or use in any way you would use plastic wrap. I just found a similar product at Trader Joe’s for a much cheaper price than anything I could buy online. I think they had reusable produce bags, too. So they may be the best local source in my area for much of the products I’ll be switching to. While searching for an image to include here, so you knew what I was talking about, I found out that I could have made my own. Check out this DIY Alternative. This is what I’ll be doing when I need more. In the meantime, I’ll watch for cheap cotton remnants

I use plastic bags quite often. I hate trying to clean them to reuse because I can never seem to get them dry. I just imagine them growing tiny mold spores. Silicon bags to the rescue! I have seen these small bags in the store, but I recently saw 30- and 50-ounce bags online. I use the larger variety more to store food in the freezer and these are sturdy enough to go in the dishwasher.

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Need ideas for your 2019 resolutions?

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I ran across the Friends of the Earth website today. They have some great suggestions for changes. If you are eager to get started, pick one or more of their ten suggestions to start your new year.

Let me know about your resolutions. When I post about changes, I plan to include some background information and an estimate of how much impact a change can have. I’ll post this information for any resolution you share with me. It’ll challenge me to become more aware.

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So…what about those bags?

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Did you know that 90% of the seabirds that call the Mediterranean Sea their home have plastic fragments in their stomachs? Plastic takes on the odor of anything it absorbs. Seabirds pick up the scent and think it is food. The organisms absorbed by plastic are toxic to seabirds, so it won’t take long for seabirds to become extinct if they keep ingesting plastic.

In the Mediterranean Sea, 60 species of fish, all 3 species of sea turtle, and 5 species of marine mammal are known to have ingested plastic. Micro-plastics have been found in oysters and mussels. Even if these animals can survive, this will certainly have an impact on our food supply.

But, I don’t live near the ocean. I can use plastic bags safely, as long as I’m not a litter bug, right?

Not really. Even if you carefully dispose of plastic bags, they will arrive at the dump. I live in a landlocked state, but my dump is right next to a river. The wind picks up the lightweight plastic bags and carries them to the river where they do plenty of harm to the wildlife. Eventually, they are broken up in microscopic pieces and deposited into the ocean. Those pieces have absorbed toxic contaminants that plankton and other sea creatures eat.

Plastic bags that remain in our landfills are not any better. It takes 1,000 years for plastic to break down. Since they absorb contaminants, they release those contaminants into our ground water as they break down.

What can I do?

My first change for this year is to stop using plastic grocery bags. I just need to get into the habit of bringing bags into the store with me. I like my own bags a lot better because they hold more, reducing the number of trips from my car into the house.

Trunk with two bags of reusable bags and several bags of plastic bags

I’m all set! I have two bags of reusable bags. I have bags of plastic bags (from my past shopping excursions) bundled up and ready to drop off at the grocery store. Two stores in my area recycle plastic bags. They will take any clean bags, not just bags from their store.

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When I get to a store, I hop out of the car and walk right in without thinking. To help me remember to get my bags out of the trunk, I am doing two things. I will put my purse in the trunk when I can. That way, I have to open the trunk before I go into the store, and that should trigger the memory to pick up my own bags. I am also going to put a post-it on my dash for those times when I can’t or forget to put my purse in the trunk.

Between these two actions, I hope to remember to bring my own bags most of the time. When I don’t remember, I’ll ask for paper bags. I can use the paper in home projects or I can recycle the bags.

What impact will this action have?

Every year, the average American home takes home 1,500 plastic grocery bags. That’s only a drop in the bucket of the 100 billion shopping bags Americans discard each year. One barrel of oil is used to manufacture approximately 8,000 plastic bags. If that doesn’t sound like much, think about this–it only takes the oil from 14 plastic bags to drive a mile.

Join me! When 5-6 families give up plastic bags for just 1 year, we will save one barrel of oil–which will fuel driving 571 miles. But, more importantly, that’s 8,000 fewer bags clogging up our oceans, streams, and storm drains; 8,000 fewer bags that will live in our landfills, long after we’ve gone, polluting our ground water.

If you choose to make this change, please let me know. I will update this post throughout the year with estimates of our impact.

UPDATE–Jan. 7, 2019: It has been a little over a week since I started this change. This included two weekends when I did quite a bit of shopping. I’m happy to report that more than 50% of the time I remembered to bring in my own bags. I forget when the stop at a store was unplanned, so I didn’t have my purse in the back.

The only reason to have my purse in the front seat with me is if I’m planning to go through a drive thru. I need to just always put my purse in back. It’ll be better for my health. Then if I go through a drive thru, I have to make the extra effort of getting out the car to get my purse before I pull up in line.

2019: A Year to Save the Planet

For many years I have carried reusable bags in the trunk of my car. They stay there, all nice and pretty. They don’t get used because I keep forgetting to bring them into the store with me. To be completely honest, I did use them a few times this year, but not as much as I would like. But…still…better than last year.

This year will be different. Yeah, I know. I’ve said that before. That’s one reason I’ve created this blog. I need the accountability. Also, I’m more motivated. The last few weeks of 2018 I spent doing a work project that involved researching on the WWF website. I have been aware, at least slightly, of the damages we humans have been making to our planet, but I always thought the burden of the repair fell on businesses. While large industries can have significant negative impact on the planet, I now understand that my actions sometimes drive those industries to make those decisions that harm the planet. I’m a domino in a long chain.

For many years I’ve asked myself, besides lobbying those businesses, what can I do to help? It has always seemed that what little effort I could make would have as much impact as removing one grain of sand from inside my shoe. The shoe would still be uncomfortable to wear. I wouldn’t be able feel any difference with just one grain missing.

Then it struck me–I am NOT the only person making changes. Maybe my close friends aren’t making changes, and maybe I’m not personally aware of people making changes, but I am CERTAIN that others are making changes. I have seen their blogs, their memes, their YouTubes. I’ve seen the organizations, the petitions, and the marches. We are here!

So, I decided, this year would be a new beginning–a year to make gradual changes that will lessen my impact on the planet. I can’t change the planet in one year, even by working with people across the globe. But I can begin the journey. Want to join me?

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Throughout the upcoming year, my blog posts will include inspiration to make little changes with big impacts. I’ll make myself accountable by posting updates of my efforts and tweaks I am making to ensure that I follow through. I’ll provide opportunities for you to commit to joining me in making changes. We can support each other in the journey. It won’t always be easy–change always requires at least a little bit of effort–but it will be fun.