Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind?” What’s on my mind is my friend Abbe Gloor. Last month when I traveled to Puget Sound for HCW work I stayed with my long-time friend. And while Abbe doesn’t have horses any more, what she does still have is a passion for taking care of the environment. And what a passion it is!
I found myself truly inspired and educated by spending time with her. Abbe has begun a movement called: Bag Busters of Kent and Covington, an organizational effort to ban plastic shopping bags in the Washington State cities of Kent and Covington. As part of this movement, Abbe teaches kids and adults about recycling and reducing the use of single-use plastics. She has events where people learn how to create a shopping bag out of a t-shirt and she dresses up as a bag monster, showing people how many plastic bags they use in one year.
In her home, Abbe strives for zero waste, having whittled down her monthly trash to about one pound per month. She uses a drying rack instead of the electricity in a dryer, makes her own food instead of buying pre-packaged food (which uses single-use plastics) and re-purposes everything possible.
Here are some facts Abbe shared about the use of plastics in our modern world:
- In the US alone we consume plastic bags at the rate of 60,000 every 5 seconds.
- Plastic bags never go away, they photo-degrade into tiny particles, which get integrated into many, if not all, aspects of the ecosystem.
- On average, one person uses 500 plastic bags a year.
- We use 12 million barrels of oil annually to produce plastic bags, which is enough oil to fuel almost 1 million cars for a whole year.
The way I see it, we have three choices from this reality: be overwhelmed and stymied by these depressing facts, do denial, or get busy. I am voting for the fact that most HCW readers will vote to get busy and do what they can, plus help by spreading the word about single-use plastics.
Here are a few simple things Abbe shared with me that we can each do:
- Keep your reusable bags in your car.
- Try keeping reusable bags in your car trunk, and putting your purse or wallet in the trunk with the bags! When you get to the store you will be looking for your wallet or purse and, viola’, there are your reusable bags! [Alayne keeps a cute, collapsible Chino Bag in her backpack.]
- Use reusable net bags for produce, or don't use a bag at all.
- When purchasing one or two items, just say no to a bag!
- Keep a reusable coffee cup in your car.
- Carry your own set of bamboo silver ware (so you don’t have to get, and then throw out, single-use plastic silverware.) You can buy To Go Ware online at Amazon.
- Use refillable water bottles, such as Hydro Flasks or Kleen Kanteens.
- Don't drink bottled water.
- Don’t use plastic straws when eating out. Remember to say, “No straw please.” (You can purchase stainless steel straws online.)
- When eating out, take your own containers for leftovers.
- Shop in the bulk foods section of the store and use your own net bags or cloth bags to eliminate plastic food packaging.
It feels great to be armed with new tactics for reducing single-use plastics, helping to make the world a healthier place a little bit at a time. Let me know how it goes for you, and what you get out of this article and exercise! In the meantime, stay tuned for future HCW events where you can meet my friend Abbe and learn for yourself about how to make a shopping bag out of a t-shirt.
Here’s one more thing to try: take a fun, family challenge by designating one day a week to go plastic free. Do not purchase any plastic products or products with plastic packaging for one day, it will open your eyes to how pervasive plastic has become in our daily lives.
Happy reducing, reusing, and recycling!
To find out more about how plastic is harming our planet and to find out how you can help, visit Plastic Pollution Coalition's website.