I was inspired to write this article to celebrate and raise awareness for the initiative, Plastic Free July. This movement started in 2011 in Perth, Australia and it has grown exponentially since: last year 14,000 people internationally took their challenge to refuse single use-items during the month of July. Plastic items do not decompose but rather photodegrade: this means they do not break down but instead become smaller toxic pieces which accumulate in water, soil, plants and animals.
I carry a bag and as most people, have certain things I bring with me on a daily basis. These are what some people call “everyday carries” or EDC’s for short. There are a few items you can add to your EDC repertoire that will help you avoid using single-use items for July and onwards.
Bottled water is ecologically detrimental for so many reasons. First, to make and recycle the plastic bottles consumed annually in the US, it’s estimated over 17 million barrels of crude oil are needed - that’s enough to run 1.3 million cars for a year! Second, the bottles, when left in the sun or in a hot area leech harmful chemicals into it’s contents: a deterrent to reusing them.
It’s not only plastic water bottles that we should be avoiding, according to the Zero Waste Coordinator at SFU: 1.6 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown in Canadian landfills annually. This is a massive waste issue and something that can be avoided by bringing your own thermos or reusable cup. I recommend getting an insulated bottle that can do double duty by keeping your water cool or coffee and tea hot.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are billions of plastic bags “consumed” every year: approximately 60% of these enter the waste stream. Luckily many stores have started charging for plastic bags as a deterrent and are offering reusable alternatives for a nominal fee. There are even certain companies that will give out reusable bags as advertisement or upon purchase. So there’s no excuse not to BYOB (bring your own bag) when shopping.
It is estimated that there are hundreds of billions of plastic, disposable utensils thrown out each year. Not to mention the 80 billion wooden chopsticks disposed of annually worldwide. There are many convenient options for travel cutlery in any camping or outdoors store: from forks and spoons, to chopsticks and sporks.
We challenge you to commit to refusing single-use items this month and beyond by adding some new EDC’s to your kit. If you feel like going the extra mile to reduce your plastic consumption, start abstaining from using straws, take-out containers and disposable razors as well. The environment will thank you.
Find out more about what you can do for Plastic Free July and accept their challenge today!
*thumbnail via flickr NCND