April 22: Earth Day
By: Rachel Pilkay
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Today is the 48th annual Earth Day. Earth Day 2018 is focusing specifically on ways to reduce plastic pollution. Plastic is detrimental to the health of ecosystems all around the world. Animals are killed every day by ingesting plastic materials and getting caught in man made items. Since plastic is around for essentially forever, all that has ever been made still exists somewhere on the planet. As it begins to break down, plastic turns into tiny pieces of microplastic that will further pollute the food chain. Almost all fish caught today for consumption contain microplastics. They are now found even in bottled water and in sea salt.
There are various ways to reduce our plastic consumption to keep the problem from becoming even worse. Most of the changes are small scale, and it is easy to wonder if these tiny acts will make enough of a difference. If everyone is willing to do their part, these little changes can add up to big change for the planet overall. Over the next year, consider trying out some of the following:
- Switching from single-use plastic grocery bags to carrying your own reusable canvas bags. Keep them folded up in your purse, in your car, or by your door so you actually remember them before going shopping.
- Refuse single use plastic straws in restaurants. Emily already talked about this tip on National Drinking Straw Day earlier in the year. Not using single use straws is one of the easiest changes to make that can leave a big impact. If you hate not drinking out of a straw, consider buying a metal, bamboo, or even a plastic straw that you can carry around to use instead.
- Stop drinking water from single use plastic bottles. I realize that this is not a viable option for people who live in areas where tap water is not safe to consume. If you can consume the water in your hometown, consider buying an all metal refillable water bottle to carry with you. If you drink bottled water just because you like the taste better, consider buying a filter to put on your sink or a pitcher with a filter to put in your fridge. That way you can always have great tasting water to take with you on the go.
- Buy more unpackaged local food. Instead of going to your local megamart for all of the food you eat, try going to a local farmers market. You’ll be buying healthier food (mostly fruits and veggies), get to know the people that grow your food, cut down on plastic packaging, and cut down on the CO2 emissions it takes to transport your food from the farm to your kitchen.
- Buy everything that you can secondhand. This is both cost effective and keeps lots of items out of the landfill. Americans throw away tons and tons of clothes every year. Try to find clothing from thrift stores and yard sales that are good quality and will last you for years to come. This doesn’t just apply to clothes either. My mom, my sister, and I love looking for secondhand household items such as furniture and dishes as well. You are likely to find something more unique and better quality for a much lower cost when you shop secondhand. Emily got this great corner cabinet at a yard sale for even cheaper than she could have gotten it new.
- Start using a bamboo toothbrush. Toothbrushes are not recyclable. Dentists recommend you switch out your toothbrush once every three months. That’s four toothbrushes a year each person sends to a landfill. A bamboo toothbrush can be easily recycled or composted (using a heat composter) once the bristles are pulled out. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing materials on earth, so this is the most sustainable option for brushing your teeth as of right now.
If you want to go one step further, get involved in encouraging your local government to putting policies that will help educate people in your area about reducing their waste or putting more recycling and composting bins in public areas.
How I’m Celebrating
I am working on going “zero waste”. Our current economy is not set up to allow consumers to truly be zero waste, but the zero waste movement is about reducing your waste as much as possible. Today specifically, I will be walking around and picking up some of the trash I find in green spaces, the street, and on sidewalks. A lot of this trash can be very harmful to animals, so I will try to recycle it if possible and throw it away otherwise.
You can do this any day by yourself, or you can see if there are any community organized cleanups in your area using this link: