Single use, disposable plastic bags and containers are a major source of land and water pollution. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used to make the plastic bags people consume. The U.S. International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion plastic bags were used in the U.S. in 2009. About 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles and jars were disposed of around the world in 2008. According to the EPA, the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash a day – or 1,600 pounds per year. The U.S. produces 220 million tons of garbage a year – enough to bury 82,000 football fields six feet deep in compacted garbage. 80% of the plastic and trash that finds its way into our oceans comes from land. More than 260 species of marine animals – including birds, sea turtles, seals, and whales – are affected by plastic debris in the ocean through entanglement and/or ingestion. (Source of above information: Bag It Movie).
So, what can we do to help? In honor of Earth Day, here’s a list of suggestions from the documentary film “BAG IT: Is your life too plastic?” that will help you make your life – and those of our marine animal friends – a little less plastic.
1. Carry reusable shopping bags. Whether you’re shopping for groceries, clothes or electronics, be sure to bring along the reusable bag(s) of your choice. Keep them in your car so you don’t forget to use them.
2. Give up bottled water. By drinking your water from a glass jar or a reusable bottle, you can help reduce the environmental costs associated with producing bottled water and save money while you’re at it. Unlike bottle water, the quality of your tap water is regularly monitored by your city.
3. Say no to plastic produce bags. Bagging your produce is generally unnecessary. If you do want a separate bag for produce, cloth options are available.
4. Buy from bulk bins. You can find almost all dry foods, as well as some personal care products, from bulk bins. If you can’t find bulk bins in your neighborhood, you can still buy non-perishable goods in large packages, which will decrease the amount of plastic used.
5. Make your own seltzer. When it comes to carbonated drinks, you can avoid high intakes of high fructose corn syrup AND the need for purchasing disposable bottles by making your own seltzer. We recommend adding a splash of juice to your homemade soda to create a delicious bubbly drink. Kids love it!
6. Pack food in reusable containers. Bring reusable containers to restaurants to take home your leftovers. Ask the butcher or deli server at your grocery store to package your food in your reusable container. Use them to pack your lunch, and don’t forget to carry along reusable utensils.
7. Choose milk in returnable glass bottles. Many communities have local dairies that provide milk in returnable glass bottles rather than plastic or plastic-coated cardboard. All cardboard milk containers are coated inside and out with plastic, not wax. Check out local dairies in your area to see if this is offered, or ask them to start a co-op.
8. Use bar soap and shampoo. Make the change from liquid to bar!
9. Choose lotions and lip balms in plastic-free containers. There are lotion bars and lip balms and glosses that come in cardboard, glass, or metal containers. Or you can even make your own products.
10. Make sure your personal care products are phthalate-free. Phthalates, which are plasticizers, have become standard as additives to scented products because they help fragrances last longer. But research has shown reasons to be concerned about the impact of phthalates on our health.
By taking a few simple steps, we can help keep plastic out of our oceans, our waterways, our animals, and ourselves!