I’m really, really mad. Most people can tell you how many days Kim Kardashian was married, yet hardly anyone I ask has heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Google it. It will freak you out.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean where all the currents converge, a massive garbage dump has collected. I mean a garbage dump that’s estimated to be the size of France. And that’s just the surface area – no one really knows just how deep it goes, but it could be miles deep. Where is all this garbage coming from? It’s mainly coming from plastic products that somehow find their way into the water. Plastic does not break down very easily, which is common knowledge, yet what really happens when we throw plastic products away? If they end up in our waterways they are likely to find themselves swept out to sea with the current, eventually stopping in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A quick Google search will instantly reveal pictures of plastic dishes, plastic Barbie dolls, and most commonly, plastic bottles, all floating around in a huge mess in the middle of the ocean, creating a massive garbage dump, the size of France, in the middle of the Pacific. Fish, dolphins and other sea critters can get caught in this mess and die. It’s devastating, yet very few people even know about it!
So I find myself, a concerned citizen, in that place of not really knowing what to do about it, but being very upset about it nevertheless. I started noticing on a recent vacation to Bali that plastic bottles were strewn all along the side of the roads, on the beaches, and in people’s yards. I went to a burrito restaurant last week and cringed as the young man donned a pair of fresh new gloves, made my burrito, then took them off and threw them away before ringing up my order. I wondered how many gloves fast food restaurants go through in a day doing this. I see people in the grocery check-out line putting every type of produce into those little plastic baggies – I understand putting a hundred green beans in a plastic bag (preferably a paper bag, if your grocery store offers them) but why on earth put bananas in a plastic bag? Why put apples or broccoli in a plastic bag? Just get them home in your canvas tote where you’ll rinse them off anyway. Speaking of canvas totes, what about all the people still using plastic shopping bags at every trip? At the airport a few weeks ago, I noticed an entire 4’ garbage can overflowing by 8:00 am with large plastic bottles and spray cans that people forgot they cannot carry on to the plane … and that was just one security checkpoint at one airport. The amount of waste we are creating is horrific.
I’m no expert on the environment, but I don’t think we need to be experts to understand that a garbage dump the size of France in the middle of the ocean is not a good thing. We vegans have all heard about how our diet benefits the environment, and we can feel good about that, but what else can we do to make a difference? How about…
· Commit to using canvas totes at every grocery outing. If you forget, you must go back to your car and get them, rather than use the grocery store’s plastic bags.
· Bring your canvas grocery totes to non-grocery stores, like Target or the book store.
· Never allow checkers to put individual items like tooth paste or washing machine soap into individual plastic bags “for your safety.” These products are already sealed like a vault, and they are not going to leak in your tote bag.
· Commit to only using produce bags for very small items, like green beans, that need to be contained. Look for paper bags instead, and request your grocer carry them if they don’t.
· Buy a gorgeous water bottle and only allow yourself to drink from it or from a glass – no more paying for water in plastic bottles. This tip can also save you a lot of money.
· Commit to drinking beverages you buy in convenience stores only from fountain-style dispensers – not from plastic bottles.
· Just before you take your garbage out to the garbage can, clean out your cat’s litter box and just throw it in with the load going out to the garage – don’t use individual little plastic bags which then go into the garbage can anyway.
· Instead of buying disposable plastic food storage containers (like the Ziploc or Glad brands) that you dispose of after a handful of uses, buy either non-plastic containers or more durable plastic containers (like Tupperware) that you can use years on end.
These are just a few ideas that I came up with quickly. Yet there must be hundreds of ways we can cut back our plastic garbage. What ways can you think of to help reduce your corner of the garbage patch? I’d love to hear your ideas!
PS. If you haven’t done it yet, go to my Facebook site and “like” The Vegan Next Door! I always post when a new blog goes up.
PPS. A big thanks to my friend Eric Depperschmidt, who opened my eyes to this topic. J