Summer is often marked by the scents of sunscreen, warm earth, wildflowers, salty seaside air,... and plastic. Walk into any convenience store, drugstore, or coastal gas station and you will be greeted by stacks of freshly-minted water wings, flip flops, rows of overpriced bottled water, and beach toys. A garish panoply of neon colors and the acrid aroma of cheap wares.
As a community committed to building a better tomorrow, we should consider two things: why beaches exist and where those plastic conveniences end up. The answer is one and the same: the ocean. Of course, not everything that we pile into our large beach totes remains on the shore, but the increase in disposable plastic can harm us and our environment. In addition to the health concerns that arise for humans and wildlife from exposure to plastics, this waste is a financial burden for states and countries. [California, for instance, spends $52 million annually to clear trash away from its beaches alone.]
There are over 165 million tons of plastic in the world's oceans, with eight million pieces of plastic entering the ocean every day. Seem abstract? Animals from at least 267 different species have died due to eating or getting tangled up in oceanic plastic waste – that's an embarrassing fact.
We love the outdoors and are grateful for all the affordable fun it provides us. So, as part of our commitment to making sure the earth wins, here are six things you can do this summer to reduce your plastic waste.
1. Use a reusable water bottle
If you're looking for reasons to switch to a reusable water bottle, here are a few: Bottled water is not any healthier or cleaner than tap water – so why spend the extra money and time waiting in line?
The most commonly used plastic in the production of plastic bottles is petroleum-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Manufacturing these bottles requires an estimated 47 million gallons of oil each year. In fact, in the United States alone, 1.5 million barrels of oil are used annually in the production of plastic bottles. That's enough to fuel 100,000 cars for one year!
The global distribution of bottled water creates yet another environmental hazard. The trucks, airplanes, and boats on which the water travels consume even more fossil fuels, while simultaneously causing air pollution and global warming. “The Earth Policy Institute estimates that the energy used to pump, process, transport and refrigerate bottled water is over 50 million barrels of oil annually”. Around our office, we use these tumblers.
2. Bring your own bag when you shop
For those committed to reducing waste, sometimes the hardest part can be remembering to bring the bags along. I have a compact bagu that I keep in my purse at all times – it comes in handy. For large shopping needs, I keep a few totes in my car. If you need a cute tote for heavier items, grab one of ours! It's a great way to reduce unnecessary waste.
3. Buy food with limited or no packaging
When you can, buy produce at the farmers market, roadside stalls or stores that provde packaging-free items. It's also a good way to reinforce healthier eating.
4. Pack a picnic in reusable containers
There are countless numbers of reusable lunch containers available today – buy a few that work well for your needs and bring them along to the beach or pool. Getting in the habit of packing your own snacks will not only save you money, it will also help with eating healthy. We reviewed some of our favorites in Issue no. 4.
5. Invest in quality beach toys
As the carefree days roll on, plastic beach toys often break under the pressure of enthusiastic castle building. Instead of grabbing another bucket and shovel from the local gas station, think about investing in tools that will last longer. Need some ideas? We're a big fan of the San Francisco-based company Green Toys that makes items out of recycled milk bottles. Consider their Sand Set for your summer fun this year (and next!).
6. Buy better footwear that won't dissolve before the weather turns
When the weather finally warms, sandals take the stage and demand perfectly pedicured toes. The impact of fast fashion can be even worse when it comes to flimsy footwear. Instead of grabbing a pair of cheap flops, consider investing in a well constructed pair that will last for years to come and save some of our ocean friends in the process.