WASTE. I hate that word. PLASTIC. Where do I even begin? PLASTIC WASTE. That’s the worst.
KQED presented a Do Now question that asks, “How many different plastic items do you use in a day? How many of these are disposable or single-use? How do you think our reliance on plastic affects the Earth?” I immediately knew that this Do Now fit the theme of what has become almost all my thoughts so far in 2017.
In a very un-encompassingly short summary, plastic is detrimental for the environment because it is made of non-renewable fossil fuels that must be mined or drilled from land or underwater that lead to water and air pollution. Plastic does not degrade in the environment by bacteria, so it just accumulates as waste as we continue to use more and more disposable items. Plastic does, however, break down under the sun into tiny, fatal hazards for aquatic animals and birds.
If you don’t already know how plastic is made, Reach Out Michigan gives a simple explanation on the transformation from fossil fuels. For more information on how plastic is detrimental to the environment as a whole, I recommend the Union of Concerned Scientist’s page that gives very extensive coverage on the harm of plastic.
KQED prefaces the Do Now with this short clip that mentions effects of plastic on the environment. The statistics will shock you!
To answer the questions, I have no idea how much plastic I use in a day. I just know it’s too much. But I can say that most, if not all, are not single-use disposables.
My family genuinely tries not to consume too much plastic. We have reusable water bottles, use canvas bags for shopping, mesh produce bags for fruits and vegetables, and reusable containers (most of which are plastic – eek!) for food storage. We also return the egg cartons, rubber bands, and plastic green fruit containers to the farmers at the farmers market every week. (Not plastic, but a good note for waste in general. All waste is bad!)
Two “trends” that have become popular are the Minimalist and Zero Waste lifestyles. I hesitate to say trend because Zero Waste should be a permanent way by which we all strive to live. Basically, people live an extremely low-waste life by not consuming any single use products and packages. This video about a girl, Lauren Singer, who fit all her trash from four years in one mason jar became viral, as it seems impossible in this era.
There are plenty of Zero Waste bloggers and Youtubers who explain how you can eliminate a huge portion of your waste. They are super creative and innovative, yet some of their ideas are so simple that it’s shocking how we don’t already use some of the low-waste practices. Some of my Youtubers favorites are here:
Sustainably Vegan (not just vegan videos in case you were worried)
Of the many things I have learned, these people taught me about buying in bulk! I can’t believe I haven’t done this all my life. I pass by the bulk section at the grocery store all the time, but I honestly never really noticed it. Now, I bring my own mesh/cloth bags to buy granola, lentils, chia seeds, banana chips, and dried fruit and avoid some of the packaging that is associated with grocery shopping. You can too! Take a step further by bringing your own bags instead of using the single-use plastic bags the store offers. At Whole Foods, you can also grind your own nut butter. I bring my own jar, weigh the jar, and subtract the weight of the jar from the total weight so I only pay for the contents inside.
We still have lots of packaging in foods, especially processed ones! The vacuum seal of bacon, the plastic wrap around string cheese, the saran wrap or plastic bag around fruit and vegetables – precut and non-precut (why???), the cartons of milk and juice, and the plastic bags of cereal (inside a cardboard box that we also throw away.)
Of course, you can stop using plastic water bottles, put your snacks/lunch in reusable containers, use reusable silverware and dishes, and bring canvas bags everywhere. But I feel like that’s a given at this point… at least in the Bay Area? I know it surely isn’t in other parts of the country…
If you have time, watch the documentary A Plastic Ocean. If you don’t have time, watch A Plastic Ocean. 🙂 It explains in depth all the harm about plastic in the environment. Conveniently, it’s available Netflix.
It’s time for you to take part! Start by reflecting on the KQED Do Now and hashtag #DoNowPlastic if you post about it! There’s always room for improvement, so I really do recommend that you watch those Youtube videos. I will be continuing to reduce my waste as I learn and learn more!
(For more KQED Do Nows, click here. I’m sure you’ll find a topic that you’re interested in!)