The New Year is a time when we all think of new beginnings and big commitments for the months to come. After a holiday packed with candies and toys for my small children, it was overwhelming to take out the trash last week and see piles of wrapping paper, boxes, and the very prominent plastic packaging. Most items came packed so tight that it looked as if the little truck and the baby doll were ready to take a fly to the moon and back without falling from their boxes. It took a concerted effort from my husband and me to free these toys from their their plastic boxes.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate an additional million tons of trash above the monthly average of household waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s a massive 25 percent increase in waste compared to the previous month. Every year, Americans generate approximately 230 million tons of trash, which is approximately 4.6 pounds per person per day. Less than one-quarter of that trash is recycled; the rest is incinerated or buried in landfills.
Looking at those numbers, I can’t help but feel that I have over-indulged in plastic this season and feel ready to begin 2013 with a renewed commitment to a simpler, plastic-free life. I will double my efforts to reduce my plastic use by only buying toys made out of natural materials and encouraging my family and relatives to buy less for my kids, and to buy plastic-free toys.
A few months ago I asked many people during Coastal Cleanup Day to take a personal pledge to reduce marine debris, and of the 300 people that took the pledge, 40 people agreed to give us their names and contact information to check in with them about their efforts. As we wait for the final reports and comments, we are encouraged to hear that people took their promises to save the oceans from marine debris seriously.
We had many different types of pledges. Some people promised to avoid the use of straws, others to remember to bring their canvas bag to the store, others to stop littering or pick up trash along their way when they took the dog for a walk, others promised to never buy a plastic water bottle again or to stop using disposable plastic cups at the water cooler. The challenges of keeping a pledge like any of these are very real. Some people may find that remembering the bags before going shopping is a challenge, especially since you never know when you are going to have time to stop by the store. However, you may find that having many extra bags in the trunk of the car is always a good idea. It’s just as easy with many of the other resolutions– it’s just a matter of habits and being prepared.
The same way as we go on a diet to lose weight and overcome the temptations by adjusting our routines to eat more healthy food, we go on a plastic diet. I now ask you to join me in making a new year’s resolution to do my part to save the planet from an ocean of plastic trash. Email us your resolution at Juliana@thewatershedproject.org and we will help you celebrate your success with regular updates and tips to make your commitment more rewarding.
Happy Plastic-Free New Year everyone!