This January I took on a personal challenge to live a plastic free year. No straws, no plastic wrapped cheese, no shampoo bottles. Nothing.
A few years ago I had a drawer full of plastic-bottled hair products and was addicted to the conveniences of takeout coffee cups and plastic shopping bags. The more I learned about plastics working at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, the more I saw the negative impact plastic debris had on the environment.
The thought of living plastic free can be overwhelming at first, but fortunately there are many alternatives to everyday single use plastics. Plastic has invaded our lives and it no longer makes sense to use an item that litters shorelines or sits in landfills for thousands of years because it doesn’t break down. Plastics are also invading our waterways and harming marine animals such as the hundreds of sea lions off the coast of B.C. who are entangled in marine debris.
Switching to sustainable alternatives can actually save money while also helping the environment. Committing to an entire plastic free year may not be for everyone, but there are small steps you can take every day to help reduce your carbon footprint:
- Start today: Don’t think about yesterday or the plastics you used last year. Just focus on what you can do today to make a difference.
- Set rules: Set some ground rules for how you want to use fewer plastics in your life. Will you allow compostable plastics? Will you purge all disposable plastics from your home, or just focus on new plastics? What about gifts containing plastic? Set a few rules based on your comfort level, and remember not to be too hard on yourself if you forget.
- Start small: Choose two or three items to start with. Maybe it’s a single use plastic item like bags, straws, takeout coffee cups or plastic cutlery. If we all commit to making small changes in our lives, it will have a big impact on our environment.
Since I began working with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, a joint venture with the WWF Canada, I have learned a lot from volunteers across Canada on the most common types of plastic litter they find along shorelines. The “Dirty Dozen” list below highlights the top 12 items found along shorelines last year. Notice something? Nearly every item listed contains plastic.
2014 Dirty Dozen
|3||Bottle Caps (Plastic)||37,994|
|4||Beverage Bottles (Plastic)||35,482|
|6||Other Plastic / Foam Packaging||24,994|
|7||Straws / Stirrers||24,482|
|8||Other Plastic Bags||23,296|
|9||Bottle Caps (Metal)||20,551|
|11||Grocery Bags (Plastic)||18,232|
|12||Cups & Plates (Paper)||15,183|
Challenge yourself this new year by trying a plastic free day, week, month or year. What are the top two items you could start with?
Interested in seeing the amount of plastic shoreline litter for yourself? Registration for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, begins March 1 all across Canada.
Tanya Otero is the volunteer engagement coordinator for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at the Vancouver Aquarium. Over a series of blog posts, Tanya will share her journey towards living a plastic free life including tips and ideas on how we can all work towards reducing our plastic consumption.