A large part of why so many of us travel is because we’re in love with our globe and with exploring all the incredible things the world has to offer. We cherish this beautiful planet, and we care about protecting the environment as best we know how, but we can also find ourselves contributing to one of the biggest environmental problems in modern history, and often without realizing the full scale of the impact we’re having. Even trying to recycle every plastic product we use, sadly, isn’t enough to stop the avalanche of plastic products making their way into the oceans and eventually back onto our plates as part of the food chain. This is why the Earth Day Network has chosen the 2018 Earth Day focus to be on educating people to reject, reduce, reuse, and recycle plastics; alternatives to using single-use plastics in our daily lives; and the ultimate goal of ending plastic pollution altogether.
Since the invention of plastics in 1907, we have come to rely very heavily on plastic products in our lives. They are everywhere these days, and often times perform very important functions to help keep us safe and healthy, but we’re also inundated day-in and day-out with a ridiculous and unnecessary amount of single-use plastics. Think for a moment about all of the free plastic items you are offered in a day, all designed to be used once and thrown away. Shopping bags, straws, plastic utensils, plates, cups are all items designed to be used and tossed. It’s easy to be lulled into complacency by assuming that if we recycle these things, that we’re doing our part to prevent pollution, but the unfortunate truth is that often times, these items still end up in a landfill regardless of which bin they were originally placed in.
You may already have heard about the huge areas of marine plastic trash vortexes that exist in our oceans today. One, called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” is located between California and Hawaii, and has a surface area as large as the state of Texas! Every single one of us relies on the ocean in one way or another for our survival, and if nothing changes with our current habits surrounding plastic use, scientists are estimating that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish (by weight!) That fact alone should shock and scare all of us.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, we still have a chance right now to make huge strides towards reducing the amount of plastic being used and remove the plastic that has already been discarded. It can sometimes feel more difficult to make lasting impacts while we’re out in the world travelling, but there are lots of easy things we can start doing right now, whether we’re at home or on the road, that will make a real difference in ending plastic pollution.
- Use a reusable water bottle, like this one from S'well. Even in countries where you aren’t able to drink the tap water most hotels will offer somewhere where you can fill your own bottle with potable water.
- Also bring a Keep Cup with you for your morning coffee. The coffee shop will give it a good rinse for you before refilling with your favourite caffeine fix.
- Ask not to be given a straw with your drink at restaurants. If you enjoy drinking out of a straw, purchase a metal or wooden reusable one that you can take with you to use.
- Carry a cotton/canvas tote bag with you to use for purchases at shops and markets.
- When shopping, try to select products that have little or no plastic packaging.
- If you have to buy a drink, choose one that comes in a glass bottle or aluminum can instead of plastic.
- When buying clothing or textiles, choose fabrics made from natural fibres like cotton, linen, or wool over plastic-based fibres like nylon or polyester.
- Use Bee's Wrap wax-lined cotton wraps to wrap your snacks and lunches instead of using plastic sandwich bags.
- Choose toiletry products that do not contain microbeads/microplastics. (those little blue specks in most toothpaste? Plastic. Yuck!)
- Also switch out your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one instead. They biodegrade in 2 years!
- Pick up plastic that you see lying on the ground or floating in the water when you see it and place it in the bin.
Visit earthday.org for more information on how plastics in the environment affect us, and more that we can do to help end plastic pollution!