The Very Scary Current Situation:
The first major ocean “garbage patch” was discovered in the 1990s, and approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic find its way into our oceans each year according to Jenna Jambeck, who is an environmental engineering professor at the University of Georgia. Another recent study concludes that the oceans now contain more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic. In a 2013 study, researchers warn that the Earth’s garbage patches will be around for at least 1,000 years, even if all plastic pollution stops immediately.
We must stop ignoring this issue, and take responsibility for own own actions. You CAN make an impact! As Michael Jackson’s wisdom conveys to us in his song “Man in the Mirror”, it is up to us to make the change that we want to see in the world.
What Steps can I Take to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle?
- Increase you knowledge about sustainability through education
- Sign a petition/communicate with politicians
- Use your voice on social media platforms to spread awareness
- Make a donation to a non-profit organization
- Support CSR (corporate socially responsible) companies by purchasing their products or using their services
- Research products and companies before you make a purchase
- Create awareness by volunteering
Use Your Purchasing Power to Create a Change
Conscious consumerism is when consumers “vote” for earth-friendly products and practices by purchasing from companies who put its people and the planet first. The idea is that if there is a high demand for products that protect the environment, companies will be incentivized to expand their earth friendly product lines. On the other hand, environmentally damaging companies will be economically motivated to change their practices or face going out of business.
The Reality of Plastic
Stop Using Plastic! Plastic is an oil derivative made from natural gas. It is a byproduct from the refining process of crude oil. According to the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE), it takes 100 years for a plastic bottle and 10-20 years for a plastic bag to decompose.
How Can I Reduce my Plastic Intake?
- Use reusable produce bags.
- Say no to straws!
- Give up gum: gum is no longer made from rubber tree sap, you are chewing on plastic. Additionally, you may be chewing on toxic plastic (polyvinyl acetate is manufactured using vinyl acetate, which is a chemical shown to cause tumors in lab rats)!
- Buy boxes instead of bottles: the process to recycle cardboard is much more environmentally friendly than plastic, and can be made into a greater variety of products. Cardboard decomposes in a much shorter time frame (2 months) then plastic, should it accidentally find its way into our oceans and forests.
- Buy from bulk bins: many stores sell bulk food like rice, pasta, nuts, and cereal. Buying your groceries in this method will also save you money!
- Reuse glass and plastic containers: according to Food & Water Watch, bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. These bottles require 47 million gallons of oil. Avoid disposable goods at all costs!
- Don’t use plastic utensils and bring your own containers: it has become common in Boulder Colorado for restaurant goers to bring their own Tupperware for leftovers.
- Clean your home and office spaces with green products.
- Shop and eat locally: shopping locally benefits the local economy as well as the environment. Locally sourced products require less transportation fuel, and is likely to be more fresh and taste better.
- Choose natural over synthetic materials: choosing an organic cotton shirt over a polyester one.
By following these tips you can make a significant impact, and help make the sustainable lifestyle trendy. Soon your friends and children will follow suit, and your actions will make ripples throughout the community!
It is said that it takes 2 to 18 months to form a habit, depending on the amount of change that the habit is requiring. Becoming an environmentally conscious “Earth citizen” is like changing your eating or workout habits, it is a lifestyle change. I am sure you have or know someone who has been on a “diet”, but shortly after attaining their desired weight they quickly gain back all of the weight they worked so hard to lose. This is because the behavior change has not become part of who they are at their core being.
To successfully implement a behavior change, you need to be constantly vigilant about your thoughts and actions. Behaviors are typically triggered by an action or thought. For example: next time you write a grocery list, write P at the top of your list to remind you to check for plastic versus cardboard packaging while you are shopping. Change your systems: I always keep reusable grocery bags in my car, so no matter where I am or what I am buying they are there when I need them!
Do you have any system or short cuts that you use to help you live a more sustainable life? Please share them with our community by commenting below!