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  • Julie Smith

Say NO to Single Use Plastic – Take the Pledge!

As we celebrate the 50th Earth Day, the day when we take out some time to think, at least for a second, about the planet we call home, some of us will take action, join a protest (virtually, of course), or take a pledge to do something differently to reduce our impact on this planet.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not very impressed with how we’re treating our planet, and the other life forms that live here. The facts are telling. On the first Earth Day, that great day of hope, on April 22, 1970, 50 years ago, our global carbon footprint was 20 billion metric tons of Carbon Dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. Today, it’s about twice that. We managed to spew a whopping 43.1 billion tonnes of CO2e in 2019. Not something to be proud of. In 1970, global plastic manufactured was about 50 million tonnes/year, and now it’s more than 400 million tonnes/year, and about half of that is single-use plastic packaging. Does that feel like we’re doing better? Not to me.

And, it gets worse. In the U.S., we’re lucky to recycle about 9% of our plastic. In 1970, there was about 8 million tons of plastic waste in the oceans. Now, we’re dumping about that much each year, and the oceans contain more like 80 million tons of plastic. Researchers are finding microplastics at about 10,000 particles per liter in ocean water, and currently in the oceans it’s estimated at more than 5 TRILLION particles, more microplastics than there are fish in the oceans. That’s when you know it’s bad. And, the microplastics are killing the sea life, as if they don’t have enough to deal with from overfishing, bycatch, poaching, poisons, dead zones and acidification. Tiny fish hatchlings eat the plastic, mistaking it for food, and choke and die in their first day of life. Plastics are killing off at least 300 species in the oceans that scientists are aware of, including 85% of sea turtles. Whales throughout the world are beaching themselves in unprecedented numbers, with wads of plastic in their guts. Microplastics are found everywhere, in fish, birds, invertebrates like freshwater mussels, even bugs at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 36,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. It’s even found in honey, salt, craft beer and, yes, inside us humans.

So, does it feel like we might want to think about stopping the plastic? It’s not hard to do. In our home, we’ve reduced our waste so much that we’re down to just a small little bag of trash in a month. If we can do it, you can too! If all of us stopped using single-use plastic, we could help put a stop to this horror. In the U.S. alone, we are responsible for about 10% of global plastic, about 234 LBS of plastic from each of us in a year. If we stop using all this plastic, we can stop trashing our oceans, and as a side benefit, we can even save about 3.9 million tonnes per year of CO2e. Now, wouldn’t that be a good start to making a difference on our planet?

Which brings me, finally, to the pledge for Earth Day 2020.

I’ll start by making my own pledge. I am working on yet another phase of reducing waste. I’m reaching out to help others reduce plastic. One way is with this blog. Another is by offering recycling bins for hard-to-recycle plastic on our front porch, for anybody who wants to leave their toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, razors, blades and packaging, and pens and markers. My husband, Hilary and I are also headed out to the Clear Creek bike path to pick up trash today, before it finds its way into the waters of the creek. Trash pickup is not a new pledge, we’ve been doing that for years, but we’re doing it today, on Earth Day.

So, what do you want to pledge? If you need some ideas, here are a few: 1. Look at your groceries, and what you buy. That’s where most single-use plastic comes from. Look at the plastic, and ask yourself if it really needs to be in a single-use plastic container. 2. Lose the plastic bags. Use reusable shopping bags. Don’t grab yet more bags to put your produce in. Throw it all in the same shopping bag. Do you really need to bring home 20 plastic bags every time you go to the store? If you bring home plastic bags, at least recycle them. They can’t go in single stream, but they can be taken back to most grocery stores and recycled. 3. If you drink bottled water, stop. It’s a marketing myth that bottled water is somehow better than tap water. Not true. Especially in the U.S. I am a water engineer and I know this for a fact. Bottled water is no better for us than tap water, and it has about 1000 times as much carbon footprint as tap water, mainly because of the plastic bottle. About all bottled water does is line the pockets of big corporations who make it, and who spend tons of money in advertising to convince you that it’s better for you. Don’t be fooled. Save the money. Bottled water is also thousands of times more expensive than tap water. For travel, I take my same water bottle that I’ve had for years, and fill it with whatever tap water is available. That has saved nearly 1000 plastic bottles in just the past five years. 4. This not that. For practically every product packaged in plastic, there is often an alternative that is packaged in something else, like glass, aluminum, cardboard or even paper. Meat, for instance, is packaged on the shelf in plastic or Styrofoam trays wrapped with plastic, neither of which can be recycled, but you can simply walk up to the meat counter and ask them to wrap your meat in plain old paper. Aspire Tooth Powder is in a small plastic bottle that is meant to be refilled indefinitely. It can also be recycled. Compare this to toothpaste, which is in a tube that can't be recycled. Collectively, in the U.S. we trash about 4.5 BILLION toothpaste tubes in the landfill every year. REALLY?

5. Buy Bulk. With bulk, you can take your containers into the store and fill them. No waste at all. For a list of bulk stores that stock Aspire personal care products, check out our web site.

6. Recycle. If you aren’t recycling already, start now. In the U.S., we are only recycling 9% of the plastic we use, really lame. In order to not continue killing our wildlife with our plastic, we need to look at everything we buy, and be responsible for it from the time we buy it, until we are finished with it, and make sure it stays inside our circular economy. All plastic is theoretically recyclable, and if we do use it, we need to do the right thing and recycle it. 7. Don’t litter. In our supposedly developed country, it astounds me how much trash is still lying around, tossed aside without a second thought and I often wonder who among us does this. Please don’t be that person. Littering is truly the height of irresponsibility, and at least not littering will help a lot. I see trash as I walk our alley, our streets in Golden, and the bike path that runs between Clear Creek and Highway 58, everything from plastic bags to bottles to cans to candy wrappers to cardboard boxes, all on its way down the banks to Clear Creek, if nobody picks it up. So, off we go, heading to Clear Creek to pick up some trash.

Happy Earth Day. Thank you for taking the pledge and making a difference!

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