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Plastic Straws, What’s the Hype and Why?

Starbucks says by 2020 it will eliminate plastic straws, turning to biodegradable straws and a newly designed lid. These new lids are made from polypropylene that can be recycled. The issue I see is would this not produce more plastic into the environment? Like the idea of reducing plastic straws, it is a thought, it is an action, it is a conversation to the bigger picture of conserving our environment.

So why are plastic straws bad for the environment?

Society has an over-reliance on single-use plastics, and the fact is that a lot of the stuff is ending up in our marine environment.

In one 2017 international coastal cleanup, 643,000 plastic straws were picked up around beaches and waterways all over the world. Straws only make up a fraction of our plastic waste. However, it is the easiest thing we can change now. It opens the door to understanding the impact of plastic, and it impacts on the environment.

All plastics ultimately sort of break down and fracture into smaller and smaller bits of plastic as a result of being tossed around by the waves, and the sunlight basically makes the plastic brittle. It creates what we call microplastics.

Microplastics are found on everything from the forage fish that are at the base of the food web up through the kinds of fish that we end up putting on our dinner plate.

Americans use an average of 1.6 straws per person per day that translates into 7.5 billion straws year. By the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. It takes 500 years for a single straw to decompose. In that time the plastic could potentially leak pollutants into the soil and water. Every year an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic go into our oceans, and it’s harming wildlife.

We need to be more thoughtful about how we use plastic. For starters pay closer attention to your personal practices. Get into the habit of carrying your own cup, fork, bag, and straw. That’s what I have in my bag at all times.

Decisions to make environmental friendly items or not use environmentally harmful pieces can make a positive impact. So, though the one straw may not make a real impact, the decision you make to not to use straws will change the awareness to the environment and how much a carbon footprint you leave behind.

Resources:
Business Insider, “Why Plastic Sucks,” https://www.businessinsider.com/why-plastic-straws-suck-ocean-pollution-sea-turtle-starbucks-2018-7

Ocean Conservatory: https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/international-coastal-cleanup/volunteer/

Two Impactful Goals for 2019

Can you believe it?

2019 in less than a week away!

This year, was a pretty good year for me as I learned to change many of the habits that have held me back. With 2019 right around the corner, everyone is thinking about their New Year’s resolutions. I am seeing it on social media and even on the local news. No matter what you envision for next year, you probably have a few significant lifestyle changes in mind.

One of the things that I am passionate about is the environment. Climate change looks pretty scary when you read about it, and I for one started to take small steps to reduce my carbon footprint in this beautiful word. I have a daughter, and one of the best things that I can do for her is to give her skills to help salvage our environment.

One capsule I am trying to organize is my “Go Green” way of life. Last year, I reduced the amount of stuff I was buying, starting to composting and reused anything that could before discarding or recycling it. I also tried my best to buy things that were recyclable or biodegradable. I want 2019 to be more of the same only adding to my efforts to have a cleaner environment.

There is always something you can do to make the planet a better place.

To help you on your quest to be a little sustainable, I am going to share with you two environmentally sustainable resolutions I am committed to in 2019.

Stop Buying Fast Fashion

Fast fashion Is literally ruining our planet. Stores like H&M, Target, Zara, and Topshop participate in an industry known as fast fashion. Unfortunately, this creates an outrageously easy way of throwing out clothes that are cheaply made or just not in style for the new season. Throwing out clothes is the second most wasteful habit. The fashion products that we consume take up much as much of the landfills as other waste materials, like plastic. Some fast-fashion companies even participate in practices that are unethical to their workers.

Don’t get me wrong, I buy from these stores. It’s a great way to get an item you need for cheap or to fulfill a need or want. In 2018, I reduce my need to spend as I felt I had everything I needed. After watching some documentaries and reading some books, I realized how much I was hurting the environment. This scared me to take action. It has taken me a year to commit to not buying fast fashion. I had to find a system that worked for me. Starting in 2019, I will no longer buy from fast-fashion retail chains.

First, disclaimer, do not throw away your clothes if you have the use for them. They are suiting you well. The point of being sustainable is to be resourceful with what you have in your closet. However, if you have too much and you are just not wearing them. Please consider selling, giving them away or donating your clothes.

Second, buy second-hand. I live in NYC, so I know which stores have the best deals and the best clothes for me. Generally, you can find a shirt and pants for a few dollars that you may actually want to wear. I always make a list of the things I need and try to find places that can give me the best price. By making this habit, it creates a buffer from the time I want it to the time you buy it. Sometimes, I may find that I actually didn’t need the item anyway.

Finally, few fashion labels use sustainable materials and eco-friendly production practices, some of these companies include Everlane, People Tree, Reformation, and Eileen Fisher. Although these brands and others similar are more expensive than those in the fast fashion, we need to understand that saving up to purchase is sometimes worth the higher price. Some of these companies have durable clothing so the item will last you a long time, this gives you more bang for your buck. It also creates a buffer to provide you with the time to understand whether or not you actually need the item.

Limit The Use of Plastic

In an article on the National Geographic website, it stated that “a whopping 91% of plastic isn’t recycled.”

It takes plastic 400 years to degrade, so most of it still exists in some form. This is scary when you think about it, I mean, where is all of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste go? In 2015, it was estimated that every year about 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans. This dumpage, in turn, affects wildlife, the coast, and ecosystems.

The goal for 2019 is to reduce my disposables consumption. A few easy ways that I am going to practice is to reduce the amount of waste by not using single-use plastic straws, grocery bags, to-go coffee cups, and plastic water bottles.

Reminder, this also took some time to get to this point in my sustainability lifestyle journey. I didn’t want to throw out what I had without using it first. I also had to get comfortable with asking stores to not give me a plastic bag for my sandwich or using my portable coffee cup instead of their throw away cup. Habits don’t form overnight, so if you are interested in doing this, I would say, take your time and do your research. The more you know, the better you will be at actively participating. Also, doing ger discourage if you can’t master this practice. Just trying each time in each moment is more than what others are currently doing.

So, what am I going to use to help reduce my likely hold of using these easily disposable items?

I made a kit. It is small enough to carry with me and to store or to take the items that I know I will be using for the day.

Here are the items in my kit:
1. a reusable shopping bag
2. a small reusable sandwich bag
3. a reusable water bottle
4. a reusable straw
5. a reusable coffee mug
6. a reusable hand towel

You can get all these things in many thrift stores. If you absolutely cannot find it, most of these can be found on Amazon or at your local store.

I do make it a point to carry this kit with me so I can avoid temptations of convenience. If I can avoid using these disposable items in my daily life, I know I can make a difference in the environment. It also makes a statement to the people who are around you. This means that customers, sellers, and your friends and family who see you using these reusable items may spark a conversation or give them permission to do the same.

I’m personally enthusiastic about the new year. I do think that the more we progress, the more progress we will see. I see it in my personal life. My small steps in change have become more significant, and these two goals of sustainability will have a positive impact on the environment.

Please remember to keep it simple and make an effort to sustain your practice in the long term. It takes hours of repetition to change old habits and ideas. Let me know if you have any advice on sustainability and what you are or will be doing to better your impact on the environment in 2019.

Thanks for reading!

Here are some more sites that you might be interested it reading:

Planet of Plastic? https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/

35 Fair Trade & Ethical Clothing Brands Betting Against Fast Fashion https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fair-trade-clothing

Embrace These 5 Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions For A Greener 2019 https://www.peacefuldumpling.com/5-sustainable-new-years-resolutions

Why fast fashion needs to slow down https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/blog-post/why-fast-fashion-needs-slow-down

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