I faced something of a quandary in deciding what to post today. Valencia is in the midst of celebrating the festival of Corpus Christi this weekend, but the most interesting activities take place tomorrow, so posting today would mean making do without eye-witness pictures. If you’re outside of Spain, I assume you’ll be just as happy to see the photos of the Corpus Christi festival next week sometime.*
That being my hope, I’ve decided instead to post about an upcoming event so you’ve got time to prepare, and can participate wherever you are.
June 5th, this coming Tuesday, is a day designated by the United Nations as World Environment Day, and this year the theme revolves around our urgent need to address the increasing threat of plastic pollution for our planet.
The current conversation about plastic pollution makes no attempt to argue that we should turn back the clock and cut all plastics out of our lives. Instead, advocates for change focus on single-use plastics–drinking straws, plastic forks, disposable water bottles, etc.
As I researched the topic, I found the statistics about our accelerating rate of plastic use and our feeble rates of plastic recycling to be sobering. But it was seeing so many photographs documenting the consequences that made the biggest impact.
Maybe you’re already a black-belt recycler, very conscious of the cumulative effect of disposable culture. Maybe you’ve already made a pledge not to use plastic-stemmed cotton swabs/buds, and always bring your own fabric bag to the grocery store. Maybe you already know about the growing landfill crisis, and understand the meaning of the phrase, “there is no away.”†
I’m all for giving ourselves credit for what we’re already doing, and celebrating the ways we’re not adding to ongoing problems. (For instance, my cook-at-home default means I’m not throwing out plastic take-out containers and drinking straws.) But while it’s a good thing that I’m adding to the plastics pollution problem at a slower rate than some, that can’t really be enough. I’m interested in finding meaningful ways to advance the cause.
While you’re thinking of where you personally want to start, here are some short videos. This first is the trailer for the UN’s Clean Seas initiative last year:
Next, three paths a water bottle might take (the third path is the least bad option, but “refuse disposable bottles” is better still).
How’s your relationship with plastic?
How much plastic is in the ocean?
Where does all the plastic on the uninhabited beaches of the Galapagos Islands come from?
National Geographic’s current issue features a lot on the topic. Here’s some helpful information from their website. And I’ll call particular attention to this wave photo, because of the disconnect between the awesomeness of what it could be (and presumably was) and the repulsiveness of what it currently is.
Think of this as a sampler plate: here are 10 ways to have an impact on the plastics problem, and five good reasons to ditch the plastic bag. And if you haven’t yet had enough, here are some more plastic pollution photos.
Any ideas yet on where you plan to go from here? I think of the slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” as putting things in priority order, but anything we do at this stage is better than waiting until we have a perfect plan and/or unlimited self-discipline. If you’ve got a plastic item designed to be used once and you can use it a dozen times, hurray! How about keeping a few thin produce bags (see the end of the post for a cool way to fold them) so you can reuse them? (Or do without them when you can–laying an unbagged bunch of bananas on the conveyor belt at the grocery store works just fine.) Compiling a list of ideas to try is just an internet search away.
And one last slogan for us to consider:
If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.
Of course, we don’t have to wait until next Tuesday to put in place our new plans. We could use a few days’ head start.
*If you’re in Valencia and feel that I’m letting you down, make noise in the comments, and I’ll slip you a pre-publication draft.
†Though of course we know this, we don’t usually think it through: when we throw something away, it doesn’t just disappear–someone has to take it somewhere else, and find a permanent place to put it. Our current habits aren’t sustainable.
You can use this folding method for produce or handled shopping bags–keep some handy so you can say “I brought my own” when the time comes.
[Images: festwish.com, epa.gov, plastic-pollution.org, incolors.club, themetapicture.com]