As I sit to write about the great outdoors and the beautiful summer upon us, I can’t go outside.
Because there was a collision in the Houston ship channel last night that released 25 000 barrels of a petroleum product into the waters of Galveston Bay. By the time you read this, it may be a distant memory but when will we all realize it’s time to change our ways?
This particular leak involved Reformate a light, floatable and quickly evaporating product that spread a pungent odor over a large geographic area. It is colorless, flammable, toxic to marine life and a known human carcinogen but you won’t read that in the news. While it is often used for high octane fuels, it is also a raw material for plastic and plastic is fast becoming a planet-killer. With the odor still in the air, I am more awake than ever about my environmental choices and, today, I ask you about yours.
Plastics are ubiquitous pollutants. Currently, there are over 50 trillion pieces of plastic immersed in the water, covering every square mile of the world’s oceans. Most is microplastic, an invisible atmospheric pollutant in the water we drink & the air we breathe, derived from everyday items like plastic bottles, disposable contact lenses, toothpaste, shampoos and the wastewater sprayed onto farms. Larger debris such as crates, fishing gear, containers and randomly scattered objects create a plastic flotilla on the ocean that is twice the size of Texas and growing by the day. Within this uncontrolled mass of floating garbage is an estimated 250 pieces of plastic for every human on earth.
Factories estimate that 300,000 pounds of plastic are made per hour and the demand for this industry is almost entirely for our convenience. The EPA reports that every bit of plastic EVER made, still exists. If the earth survives our assault, there will be a day when humans look back on our century and question our sanity for creating all this “disposable” plastic.
I am consciously aware of the essential and valuable uses for plastic and petroleum products. We have improved household conveniences, medical and surgical devices, safety equipment and the gas that fuels our cars so we can get to work. However, a shocking eighty-nine percent of plastic pollution is the type we use once and throw away. Try to imagine if you woke up tomorrow and all humans decide to forgo those convenience measures and we, individually and personally, commit to making the world a cleaner and more sustainable place for future generations? If you think you are only one person or that “they” will eventually rescue the environment or that YOU can’t make a difference, think again. You absolutely can. And we must! So, let me ask you…
What are you willing to commit to?
- Stop using disposable water bottles – 80 percent of them end up in landfills amounting to 2 million tons of discarded plastic and taking 1000 years to decompose. Even without calculating the fossil fuel emissions related to creating and filling the water bottles, which is 2000 times the energy needed to turn on the tap, the impact of eliminating water bottles would be earth-altering.
- Stop using plastic grocery bags – 1 million bags are disposed of each day leading to an estimated 500 billion annually. Grocery bags have now been logged as the deepest known pollutants in the ocean, recently found at 36 000 feet in the Mariana Trench. Every square mile of the ocean contains plastic pollution of some kind.
- Stop using plastic straws – 500 million plastic straws are discarded every day. Just say, “no straw please” every time you order a beverage.
- Read the labels of hygiene products and choose only bio-degradable or organic options. Many cosmetics have hidden microplastics that are washed into our waters every single time we wash our hands, shower or brush our teeth. The exponential impact on our environment makes this one change a valuable personal contribution.
- Use bar soap. Simple but effective to avoid the microbeads in many liquid soaps.
- Stop using “to-go” containers. Many companies are switching to compostable containers but most still use plastic. Just leave your food behind or, better yet, don’t order more than you can eat or bring your own re-usable containers to tout food home.
- Forgo the birthday balloons. Decorate the house with homemade craft items, baked goods or recyclable paper products or just sing really loud.
- If you have other ideas, join our Empowered Women’s Circle at EWCircle.com to connect with our collective global wellness journey.
As you head outside to enjoy the beautiful summer weather, look around. Explore the beach, the sky, the forest, the trees and especially the air you breathe. It’s all a precious gift for us to enjoy and our children are counting on us to prioritize conservation and environmental healing in order leave them a legacy of clean natural resources. As you put on your swimsuit and head to the ocean, remember that, we are all humans sharing this precious space on earth and we are responsible for more than our own cooler and beach bag. We are caretakers of Mother Earth and she is counting on us to change our ways.