The 48th Annual Earth Day 2018 is fast approaching on Sunday, April 22, 2018. Lately, it feels the earth is screaming at us to wake up; massive earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires ravaged North America last year. Scientists report that our drinking water supplies are being contaminated by microplastics, YouTube videos show us the damage that our plastic habit has on our ocean life and we hear the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is larger than previously thought (specifically, 3x the size of France).
Yet, do not despair – there is hope! In the midst of all of this chaos, people are waking up and paying attention. Globally, discussions are beginning about how to address these challenges we face. While our current federal administration is not paying much attention to issues such as climate change and plastic pollution, the rest of the world is paying attention and countries like the UK are driving changes that the rest of us can adopt (can someone please start CupClub in the United States?!). There is great opportunity for innovative businesses to create new products using cutting edge technology that are heathy for both humans and out planet; single use plastic is on the way out and new technologies are on the way in. Yet, you don’t have to be an inventor, scientist, business owner or politician to get involved. As an average person, there is a lot you can do to support this global movement towards more sustainable solutions this Earth Day!
Here are 5 things that you can do on Earth Day 2018 to lay the foundation for our world to become a better place for future generations:
- Clean up your neighborhood with the Litterati App. Grab some friends or your kids, download the Litterati App (iTunes & Android), and pick up trash, while tagging photos of the trash you collect so that it can be added to a global database and used to help influence policy to prevent more trash from forming. In fact, this app has already has helped San Francisco combat trash from cigarette butts. Learn more about how San Francisco took on big tobacco from Litterati Founder Jeff Kirshner’s TED Talk. Tip: unless you are one of the few strict zero waste advocates, chances are you still get plastic bags from common household purchases like sandwich bread. Save up those bags and use them as gloves for picking up trash to keep your hands clean.
- Commit to #StopSucking. Globally, there is a big push to give up plastic straws this year due to the havoc it is wreaking on our oceans (learn more). Marriott and McDonalds have both committed to moving away from plastic straws in the UK, and will instead provide paper straws upon request for customers who want a straw. Talk to your local cafes, bars and restaurants, and be sure to ask for no straw when you order a drink (here is a card you can print and leave behind with your bill to request they only give out straws upon request). If you love to use straws, consider buying a reusable straw (made from bamboo, stainless steel, glass or silicone) and toss it in your backpack or purse so it is always with you when you want it. Tip: if you bundle a straw, chopsticks/fork, and spoon in a bandana, you now have a way to eat most fast food without plastic silverware when you are out and about, and the bandana can double as a napkin.
- Start carrying a reusable coffee mug. Starbucks is in a lot of hot water right now for the amount of waste they generate each year (learn more); it turns out their paper cups are lined with plastic, making them almost impossible to recycle in most places. They are looking to make a better cup, but really, you are better off boycotting their cups altogether and swapping to a reusable mug, which is more eco-friendly and frankly, a ton more functional if you can remember to carry it. I love my reusable coffee mug for so many reasons; first, it is insulated, so I don’t have to worry about burning my hand or my coffee getting cold, and if I don’t drink it all at once, I can seal it up, toss it in my bag and it’ll be warm later in the day when I’m ready for it. Second, I get discounts at many coffee shops (or get more coffee for the price of a smaller size at places like Philz). Finally, it also works extremely well for transporting smoothies (keeping them cool for hours), so I make a smoothie in the mornings and bring it with me for enjoying later in the day, which also saves me money over buying a $8 smoothie while I’m out and about. So buy yourself a reusable mug, toss it in your backpack and start enjoying the convenience and money savings that a reusable container can bring you.
- Don’t take out your trash for at least a week. This exercise is simply about building awareness of how much trash you generate and where it comes from. I have been interested in reducing the amount of trash that I generate for years and have slowly made changes to the products that I use and how I shop, using inspiration from zero waste bloggers like Zero Waste Home, Zero Waste Nerd, Going Zero Waste, and Treading My Own Path. Yet, I was still generating a ton of waste and did not realize it until I collected all of the non-recyclable plastic bags and films that I generated for a month. I ended up with multiple bags full of plastic even with all of the things I had been trying to do to reduce waste. It was things like produce bags from my grocery delivery service Good Eggs, the plastic bags full of air that Amazon uses to pad things they ship, bubble wrap, plastic wrap that cheese came in, plastic bags that restaurants put around take out food, etc. It shocked me to see the volume of the waste I generated and gave me insight into where I was generating the most plastic trash, enabling me to make changes to reduce the areas where I was most wasteful.
- Watch a documentary about an issue you care about. I know many people avoid documentaries because they find them too depressing; I personally find them uplifting because there is power in knowledge and when you know about a problem, you can make better decisions to change the way the story plays out moving forward. There are a ton of fantastic documentaries on my resources page that you can watch to learn more about plastic pollution, global warming, the dirty side of the fashion industry, etc. My top three to recommend this Earth Day are A Plastic Ocean, Chasing Coral and The True Cost, all available on Netflix.
What are you doing this Earth Day? Add comments to share how you are getting involved!