By Christy Blevins
Over Spring Break, I found myself scrolling through Netflix, bored, looking for anything to watch. I didn’t expect to watch something that would change my view on the world and the health of our planet, but I did. I stumbled across a documentary entitled Plastic Paradise: The Pacific Garbage Patch. This may ring a bell to some of you as the great pacific garbage patch is an area of discussion in many classes, and personally I remember talking about it in high school environmental studies.
Although the film did not necessarily follow what the garbage patch was, it did highlight the outstanding effects of our plastic use and where it all goes. Synthetic plastics never go away because they are not biodegradable, and many types of plastics are not even recyclable. Plastics are thus disposed in trash, landfills, left on the sides of roads, and find their way to the oceans. Some people even dump plastic and waste directly into the ocean for ease. This plastic is then exposed to sunlight and seawater which breaks it down into smaller fragments, but never degrading it. These fragments are eaten by sea life, birds, and washed upon shores killing ecosystems in its path. This toxic confetti is growing in the oceans and even works its way into our food chain without us knowing.
So if discussing the rising ocean levels or global warming isn’t your cup of tea, what about discussing cute furry animals? The rate at which animals are dying and being killed off due to the rapid human consumption of single use containers is alarming. Only 5 percent of plastic in the world is recycled and most of recycled plastic isn’t reused but “down cycled” to create paper products in China.
How can we change the world? How can we start to counteract the problem that we created and reverse the damage that has already been done? For me personally, I started using reusable bags to shop. What else can be done?
There used to be 3 R’s growing up: Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Now there are 4: REFUSE, Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Here are some ideas of how you can make a difference.
You can carry your own water bottle, preferably stainless steel or aluminum. Carrying your own water bottle, and not a plastic bottle, is a great way to personally reduce your use of plastics. Not to mention your water won’t taste like plastic either. But this a cliché tip; what else can you do?
It is easy to carry your own bags to the store. I didn’t use to think so. I thought it would be annoying, I would forget, I wouldn’t have enough, et cetera, et cetera. It is easy to find an excuse to not care, but that needs to stop. It is easy to carry your own bags. If we all started, there would be less need for plastic Wal-Mart bags and maybe we would start to notice one few bag floating in the air stuck in a tree branch.
Check your disposable coffee cup use too. Those are made with plastics. If you’re going to sit a while, ask for a “for here” cup/mug. Better yet, bring your own. Did you know you can buy your own classic Starbucks cup for a dollar or so and every time you bring that in to use you get 10 cents off? See, saving the planet saves you money.
Last but not least, really think about how plastic affects your everyday life. Receipt paper is coated in plastic that transfers to your hands and then absorbs into your skin. Don’t believe me? Look it up and watch the film. Think about where else you can cut out plastic. Could you say “no” to straws at restaurants? I promise you, if you dedicate 2 weeks to saying no to single–use plastics, you’ll start to feel important. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”