My Spring edition of Environmental Defense Fund’s publication Solutions for 2020 arrived the other day. They have a have an article in their Green Living section entitled “Start using less plastic, today”. You may be rolling your eyes at this point thinking that surely we don’t need another article on the art of decreasing or eliminating our dependence on plastic, but sad to say, we do. Plastic is so darned convenient and it is everywhere. It’s extremely difficult to find items that aren’t plastic (and that are made in this country also (but that is the subject of another post). Our produce is sealed up in plastic and our meat and most of our grocery products. Even boxes are tea are sealed in cellophane shrinkwrap. Beverage pouches in particular make me cringe. I look at those and cringe, thinking that they will be here long after we are all gone. This particular article breaks our plastic reliance down into steps. First, take reusable bags and a water bottle with you. I tend to forget things so I keep my reusable bags in the trunk of my car. Start keeping track of the plastic you uses throughout the day, advises EDF’s Theresa Eberhardt. Then start swapping out plastic throw-away wraps and packaging for reusable containers. It will probably be as eye-opening as tracking your daily caloric intake. (Now there’s a scary thought!)
I try to use reusable containers for food storage and cleansing items that come in solid form.
I try to contact companies that use plastic in their packaging and request that they move to a more environmentally friendly container. Sometimes I strike out, sometimes not. But at least they know where I stand. No one can ever say, “No one ever complained.” No, this girl complained. I may only be one voice, but when one voice is raised with others, we can be heard. There is a shopping service called Loop (www.loopstore.com) which offers delivery of products free from plastic packaging like Clorox, Colgate, Dove and Haagen-Dazs. This service is powered by the recycling company TerraCycle. It is currently available in the northern U.S. and Paris. Some of the products are more expensive than their big-packaged counterparts, but, hopefully, as this effort grows, it will become more affordable.
Before the quarantine, my daughter would buy most of her daughter’s play equipment at yard sales and consignment shops. These items were in beautiful shape and will be able to be passed down to the next child. Check with friends and neighbors for hand-me-downs or check with thredUP, Craigslist, ebay or Facebook Marketplace for reusable items instead of buying more “stuff”. I used to like browsing our local Goodwill store. All the merchandise was beautifully arranged going there reminded me of a treasure hunt. You never knew what you would find.
I think we have all come to the realization that America consumes way more of the world’s “stuff” than the people we account for. Americans make up for roughly 5% of the world’s population, but we consume much more than that. We use 20% of the world’s energy, eat 15% of the world’s meat and create 40% of the garbage on Earth.
One American consumes as much energy as:
· The population is projected to increase by nearly 130 million people – the equivalent of adding another four states the size of California – by the year 2050.
· Forty percent of births are unintended.
· Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day – that’s roughly 200 billion more than needed – enough to feed 80 million people.
· Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily.
· The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75.
· The average individual daily consumption of water is 159 gallons, while more than half the world’s population lives on 25 gallons.
· Fifty percent of the wetlands, 90% of the northwestern old-growth forests, and 99% of the tall-grass prairie have been destroyed in the last 200 years.
· Eighty percent of the corn grown and 95% of the oats are fed to livestock.
· Fifty-six percent of available farmland is used for beef production.
· Every day an estimated nine square miles of rural land are lost to development.
· There are more shopping malls than high schools.* I doubt that things have improved since this was first published.
There’s no doubt that we are used to doing things the easy, but adapting our ways is an investment in our future that pays big benefits.
“We don’t have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment.” Dennis Weaver
(*Jason Jeffrey Semon, October 24, 2012)