Black plastic bag floating in blue water with little fish surrounding it.
A plastic bag floating off O’ahu, Hawaii that little fish have taken up as residence.

Plastic is a hot topic these days and rightfully so. By 2050 it is projected that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish (source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation). Kind of mind-blowing, right?

The more I spend time in the water, the more I see the negative impacts of plastic in our waterways. From confusing jellyfish for plastic bags (much like a sea turtle) to seeing fish take up residence in a floating plastic bag (pictured above) there is no mistaking the need to reduce our dependence on plastics, especially single-use plastics. Here are 5 easy ways to reduce your plastic use.

Stop buying plastic bottled drinks

Plastic bottled beverages are horrible. At some point in the past, it was cool to walk around with these, but the tides are turning and it couldn’t come soon enough. It’s estimated that about 80% of plastic water bottles end up in landfills. Not only are they filling our landfills, but they are choking our oceans and its beautiful residents. Why should we care? At a bare minimum, it is impacting our own health. As sea life ingests plastics, we eventually will ingest these toxins too. Plastic toxins also leak into the watershed which has been linked to health issues like cancer. How can you replace plastic bottle drinks? By using a reusable water bottle or buying boxed water. Opt for sodas in glass bottles.

Bring Your Own Bag

Bringing your own shopping bags to grocery stores is one of the easiest ways to make a huge impact on your plastic consumption. On average, a person in the US goes through about 6 shopping bags a week. Which results in around 1.8 billion plastic bags a year. Plastic shopping bags don’t easily decompose and since they cost more to recycle than the material in the bag many bags end up in our landfills. They will live there for about 15 – 1,000 years. And if they don’t make it to the landfill they likely end up in our forests and oceans where wild animals can become entangled in them or ingest them. It’s estimated that 100,000 sea turtles ingest and die from plastic bags that block their digestive tract each year since they are easily confused for jellyfish, a favorite snack of sea turtles. Think about getting some reusable produce bags as well.

Skip the Straw

I cannot tell you how many straws I have seen a the beach since moving to California. It seems like it’s an infinite number. While some people think that skipping the straw or using a reusable straw is not going to make a huge impact I beg to differ. Not only does it remove useless single-use plastics from our planet, but it also helps create a mental shift in plastic reduction. Every bit counts so say no to plastic straws (or utensils) and bring your own.

Say No to Excess Holiday Flair

From Mardis Gras beads to Easter Eggs, how much of that plastic eventually ends up in the landfills or in our oceans? Holidays are a time for celebration, but at what cost? Much of the excess of holiday celebrations stem from our culture of consumption and much of that consumption is fueled by plastic made knick-knacks. Make a conscious effort to avoid the temptation to impulse purchase that cute, inexpensive plastic heart that is going to end up in the trash bin.

Rethink Your Gift Wrap

While there is a lot of paper git wrap out there, there is also a large amount of gift wrap that includes plastic of some sort (ahem glitter). A lot of the plastic is small particles that easily become microplastics that are impossible to recycle and easily consumed by animals or even by use :/. So rethink your gift wrap by using newspaper, butcher paper, even cloth can be used.

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