It’s the end of July: a time of year when people around the world celebrate the act of reducing single-use plastic items. Taking the challenge is not only about becoming more aware of your plastic consumption; it’s about challenging a dependent mindset when it comes to disposable plastic. There’s of ways to reduce plastic waste, like starting with targeting one single use plastic item every month, or if you’re already a pro, by taking the step to live a day, week or month completely single-use plastic free!
This year, the Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise® initiative, kicked it up a notch by partnering with 38 other zoos and aquariums in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to tackle single-use use among employees. That adds up to thousands of employees working together to make an impact for our planet. To be exact: 5,442 employees in total.
The Vancouver Aquarium’s team numbered 151 employees and collectively the team saved from the landfill:
1,686 plastic utensils
745 plastic bottles
823 plastic containers
858 plastic straws
484 disposable cups
The team also took on diverse actives, like cleaning up shorelines, educating themselves and others about the environmental impact of single-use plastic, contacting public officials, writing petitions and hosting community events.
As we all know, plastic is an integral part of our lives. Avoiding all single-use disposable plastic is a huge task. So here are a few suggestions to encourage you on your path to less plastic waste:
1) Don’t sweat the small stuff, like a tag on some thrifted jeans or a pesky plastic seal on a glass bottle. These things happen, and it’s not a reason to feel defeated. Keep track of where plastic comes up and try to avoid it later if you can.
2) Only count the plastic you are directly responsible for. For example: if a friend brings packaged food to your home and leaves the wrapper behind, it doesn’t need to count towards your personal monthly trash.
3) Be kind to yourself and don’t get too wrapped up in the challenge mindset. Try to view your reduction efforts as a journey; a way to try new things and learn about your relationship with disposable plastic. So, how does one go about tackling a single use plastic challenge? The number one thing to do is be prepared! Carry a zero=waste kit and plan ahead for what you might need that day. A typical zero waste kit includes: a reusable straw, utensil set, cloth napkin, reusable coffee cup, and a small food container, which can all fit into a backpack or a canvas bag.
These essentials will help you avoid single-use plastics containers and food packaging. If you know you’ll be shopping or going to a restaurant, bring a reusable produce bag, shopping bags and a container that can hold a take-out meal or leftovers. The second thing to remember: Shift your mindset about throwaway plastic. Think about packaging, convenience, and if you really need something before you buy it (one of the best ways to avoid waste all together).
If you’re interested in reducing your plastic footprint on the regularly, take the #BePlasticWise pledge and get monthly tips for living a less plastic-filled life. Ocean.org/pledge
Jordan Hawkswell is part of the Ocean Bridge 2018 Cohort.