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Go Plastic-Free with These Tips

Every day, approximately eight million pieces of plastic find their way into the oceans. Nearly three-quarters of all litter on beaches is plastic. And this volume of plastic pollution leaves an impact—plastic kills more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.

Here are some staggering facts about the current state of our plastic pollution crisis:

  • A plastic bag is used for a total average time of 12 minutes. It then takes up to 1,000 years to decompose.
  • Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide. That’s equivalent to the weight of roughly a billion elephants or 47 million blue whales. And only nine percent of it has been recycled.
  • There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans—enough to circle the earth over 400 times.

While the problem seems large beyond measure, every small action by even just a single person has an impact. Consider these plastic-free alternatives in your personal journey to contribute to a happier, healthier planet.

Carry a reusable bag

This is Plastic-Free-Living 101. Make sure you keep a spare cloth bag in the back of your car, bottom of your backpack or purse, or just generally around so you can grab it before heading out to do your shopping. Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute. You can do your small part in dropping that number.

Use plastic-free containers

Glass or metal jars can be used to store grains, nuts, flour and other foods, as well as laundry detergent, dish soap and lotions. Always make sure to have a reusable water bottle on hand as well—one million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.

Keep plastic-free items in your backpack

Try packing a bamboo cutlery set, paper straw and your own water bottle to eliminate the need for most single-use plastics while on the go. Restaurants and vendors all over the world are getting much more used to people bringing their own containers.

Buy in bulk

To avoid plastic food packaging, try shopping in the bulk aisle at the market and bringing your own glass containers. Weigh the jar beforehand to avoid being overcharged.

Buy used items

Some plastic is unavoidable, especially in modern appliances. For things like a vacuum cleaner, try looking around for a second-hand one either online or at a local thrift shop. If you’re not buying new, you’re also avoiding all the packaging.

Recycle “good” plastics

Whenever you can, recycle your plastics. Recyclable plastic includes clear plastic bottles, bottles for shampoos, yogurt containers, toys and reusable food containers. Things like disposable cutlery, cling wrap and coffee cups and lids likely won’t be able to be recycled, so try to find non-plastic alternatives for these.

Wear natural fibers

Synthetic fibers from clothing are an enormous plastic pollution problem, because they are a key contributor to microplastic pollution. When possible, choose clothing made of cotton, wool, hemp and silk. Or consider buying your clothes second hand.

Make your own

As so many products are packaged in plastic, it can feel unavoidable. For certain things, you can try making your own at home. For example, try a DIY toothpaste made out of baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils.

See also: Five Books About Climate Change You Need to Read Now

Five Books About Climate Change You Need to Read Now

Five Books About Climate Change You Need to Read Now

Whether you’re an eco-activist or not, it’s impossible to ignore the debate that has followed the most recent international climate report and a devastating slew of natural disasters.

Global warming should be a reality, not a controversy. If average global temperatures exceed just half a degree, the risk for major natural disasters will significantly increase.

If you want to understand the real facts behind the figures, put your energy into reading these five powerful books that promote awareness about climate change.

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Elizabeth Rush

This poetic report about how rising sea levels are affecting American shorelines is compelling, relevant and accessible. The reality is that coastlines are disappearing and salt is causing devastation to essential habitats and those who live alongside them. Rush doesn’t just share her own personal discovery of the urgency of climate change, but interviews the experts and gives voices to the survivors of ravaged coastal communities all over the country. 

The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change, Charles Wohlforth

This fascinating text about climate change as it is seen in Northern Alaska is packed full of science that, while not oversimplified, is accessible and stimulating. In the far North, these issues and fears are no longer an abstract idea, but a reality that has drastically altered daily life. Wohlforth follows both a traditional Eskimo whale-hunting party as they race to shore near Barrow and a team of scientists on a quest to understand the snow. These different but intertwined groups must work out how best to survive while navigating the issue that is now bearing down upon us all.

The City Where We Once Lived, Eric Barnes

If you’re working up the courage to embrace hard-hitting non-fiction texts, Barnes’ dystopian novel will still pack a pretty loaded punch when it comes to the issue of climate change. In a near (and foreseeable) future, climate change has caused the crumbling North End of an unknown city to be abandoned by all but the scavengers, who are attempting to bury their memories of what was lost. Like the topic it discusses, this haunting story is purposefully an exhausting and depressing read, but it is also a rewarding one; one that forces you to look sharply at yourself and at humanity. 

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Amitav Ghosh

In his first major work of non-fiction, acclaimed Indian novelist Ghosh asks: “Are we deranged?” Certainly, we seem unable to grasp the sheer threat of climate change, and even more incapable of preventing it thus far. This literary text moves the conversation away from science and towards culture, politics and ethics, begging the reader to recognize the problem in being so unwilling to protect the future of life on Earth. The eerie relevance of this narrative realises the critical need to think about the unthinkable.

Below Freezing: Elegy for the Melting Planet, Donald Anderson

This ‘collage’ of ‘scientific fact, newspaper reports and excerpts from novels, short stories, nonfiction, history, creative nonfiction and poetry’, is both absorbing and informative. Anderson tackles the beauty and dangers of the cold, as well as the alarming rate at which our planet is warming in a meditated way that feels as serene as the conditions it explores.

Further reading: 12 Years to Halt Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN

Humans-have-Caused-Wildlife-Populations-to-Decline-by-60-Percent

Humans have Caused Wildlife Populations to Decline by 60 Percent

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have declared a state of emergency for wildlife after revealing that the world’s mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have decreased by a staggering 60 percent since 1970.

By overusing natural resources, driving climate change and polluting the planet, humanity has not only prompted a cataclysmic decline in wildlife populations, but destroyed the system upon which it depends for clean air, water and every day existence.

The report warns: “Humans are living beyond the planet’s means and wiping out life on earth in the process.”

According to the Living Planet Report 2018, only a quarter of the world’s land area remains free from the impacts of human activity, a figure that is expected to fall to just a tenth by 2050. More than 4,000 species have declined between 1970 and 2014, the most recent available data.

Between 2009 and 2014, African elephant populations in Tanzania fell by 60 percent alone, largely due to poaching. WWF has warned that current protection methods are failing and more needs to be done to protect numerous species from becoming extinct in the near future.

Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF said: “We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff.

“If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”

“We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last that can do anything about it,” added Tanya Steele, chief executive of the WWF. “The collapse of global wildlife populations is a warning sign that nature is dying.”

It’s not just poaching that is threatening the planet. “Exploding” levels of human consumption, over-exploitation of natural resources such as over-fishing, cutting down forests and the use of pesticides in agriculture are having dire effects on the system that humanity is dependent upon. The report highlights food, health and medicines as amenities that rely on natural resources.

“It is a classic example of where the disappearance is the result of our own consumption, because the deforestation is being driven by ever expanding agriculture producing soy, which is being exported to countries including the UK to feed pigs and chickens,” Barrett said.

Plastic pollution is also proving a significant threat. The percentage of seabirds with plastic in their stomach is estimated to have risen from five percent in 1960, to 90 percent today. Plastic can suffocate and injure marine animals and, if mistaken for food, can cause fish and turtles to suffer blockage, starvation and internal wounds.

The report added that around half of the planet’s shallow water corals have been lost in just 30 years, and that the most damaged habitats are rivers and lakes, where populations have fallen by 83 percent due to the thirst of agriculture and the large quantity of dams.

South and Central America are the worst affected regions, seeing a drop of 89 percent in vertebrate populations.

More species referenced in the report as those whose populations are in decline include black and white rhinos, polar bears, African grey parrots, hedgehogs, whale sharks, Bornean orangutans, puffins and the wandering albatross.

“If we want a world with orangutans and puffins, clean air and enough food for everyone, we need urgent action from our leaders and a new global deal for nature and people that kick starts a global programme of recovery,” said Steele.

A 2020 meeting of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity is expected to make new commitments for the protection of nature.

Barrett said: “We need a new global deal for nature and people and we have this narrow window of less than two years to get it.”

“This really is the last chance. We have to get it right this time.”

Further reading: 12 Years to Halt Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN