This year for Earth Day, we’re donating a portion of our profit to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, an international charity that provides education about the harmful effects of plastic and unifies several organizations and individuals who are working hard to reduce plastic pollution. We listened to the stories of two of their members, who each shared an action idea you can incorporate into your own life to fight plastic pollution.
Jackie Nunez, a river and kayak guide, has been watching the rise of plastic pollution in the Earth’s water first hand for the past ten years. In 2011, she was guiding a snorkeling trip near a marine sanctuary 30 miles off the coast of Belize. A storm came though the area, and shortly after, a thick river of trash flowed out into the sea.
“I knew that this has just got to stop at the source,” Nunez says about her reaction to the scene. “We can keep cleaning it up, but we’ll never be able to do enough.” Shortly after her return to California, she sat down at a restaurant and was given a glass of water with a straw in it. “I saw the straw as a poster child for useless plastic, and made it my plan to just start talking about it,” Nunez remembers. She did start talking to everyone around her, and also developed the website The Last Plastic Straw. “When people wrap their head around the straw, they start thinking about all the single-use plastic in their life. It’s a smaller habit leading to a bigger habit: send one less piece of plastic into the environment just by saying ‘no straw.’ It’s so simple, but so empowering, and it gives people hope.”
When Stiv Wilson was working as a journalist in Oregon, he slipped away to the coast for a day to surf. After hiking a mile through an old growth forest, he surfed for several hours without a man-made object in sight. Later that day his dog was poking around in the north end of the cove, and Wilson walked over to see a wash-up of plastic trash that was almost waist-deep. “Suddenly, the ocean became small and the world became flat to me,” he remembers. “There were all these different languages on the plastics and I realized what prolific polluters we are as people.”
“I didn’t consider myself an environmentalist at the time, I was more artistic,” Wilson says. “I was overwhelmed by this aesthetic incongruency to the natural order of things. It assailed my senses. The juxtaposition of the plastic waste on the beach really just felt wrong to me.” He later led bans on plastic bags and plastic water bottles, and also sailed out to several oceanic garbage patches to study the effects of plastic pollution.
Wilson thinks that the most valuable action people can do is to take a waste audit: don’t throw anything away for a month other than organics. Then collect everything all in one space, such as a back yard or patio, and look at it. “Just being aware of the volume of your waste will help you to cut back,” he notes.
“The interesting thing about single-useness is that it happens so fast you often don’t even register that you’re creating waste. When you hold on to all these pieces of plastic, and see that they’re persistent, you realize how much you’re consuming,” Wilson explains. “This is sort of the Buddhist mantra of plastic consumption, being present with your plastic.”