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November 07, 2010

Ladies, the World Needs You To Be Less Plastic...

Is this India? Mexico? No, it's Long Beach, California after a rain. It's what happens when the 51 miles of LA river channel washes whatever is in it into the Queensway Bay in Long Beach.

Screen shot 2010-11-06 at 11.03.28 AM

 We don't have to travel to one of the five ocean gyres where plastic swirls and chokes the life out of our marine animals, we can walk on water right here and spend millions cleaning it up. It gives new meaning to, "What a waste..."

The screen shot came via yesterday's all-day TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch conference held in Long Beach, CA organized by the Plastic Pollution Coalition. The actual event had limited seating but anyone could attend virtually via house parties. Hopefully they'll post the presentations for later replay. 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is but one of 5 Gryes of patches (maybe more) that have formed.

As shocking as the above is to look at, the statistics on what we are doing to our oceans and LAND by using single use plastics and then throwing it away are scary. You don't have to believe in climate change to see that we drastically need to change the way we relate to this pervasive pollutant.

A few of the not-so-fun facts from yesterday:

  • Over 2.4 million pounds of plastic are being dumped into our oceans EVERY HOUR.  
  • We're losing 1 million apex animals every year because of them eating plastic and dying horrible deaths.
  • Less than 5% of plastic is recycled.
  • 40 governments and/or major municipalities representing 25% of the world's population have BANNED the plastic bag. (California recently caved to the corporate money and kept plastic bags alive, but banning the bag will be put up for election again.)

Screen shot 2010-11-06 at 10.08.29 AM Pretty grim, eh? And the pictures were worse, such as the picture of the sun bleached bones of a former camel lying in the sand -- that was the only thing left, bones and the bushel basket size ball of plastic that the poor camel ingested earlier while raiding a garbage dump near Dubai. 

The morning sessions left me pretty disgusted with myself and my species for mucking things up so badly for all living things.

"Hope" came in the afternoon sessions, when more than one presenter named 'women' as part of the solution:

  1. Women buy 85% consumer (weekly) items that are wrapped in single use plastic packaging. 
  2. As such we have the responsibility to educate each other on the issue and then...
  3. Stop it. Just stop it. Quit buying anything with single-use plastic on it.

That's what Beth Terry is doing (seen below). Because of Beth's dedication to dropping her own consumption from the national average of about 100 pounds of consumer plastics per person per year to 3.7 pounds for her, she was asked to be part of this impressive line up that included Fabien Cousteau, Van Jones, Stacy Malkan,  Ed Begley, Arlene Blum, Suja Lowenthal,  H.E. John Dramani Mahama...  go Beth!

Screen shot 2010-11-06 at 2.22.10 PM

As Beth pointed out, many plastic products don't have to list what is in them, it's up to the consumer to ask. If the companies don't supply the answer don't but the product. It's better to be safe than sorry, the toxin BPA is now in 9 out of 10 newborns according to another speaker, Ken Cook

Stacy Malkan, Co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics called for a "Girlcott" -- buying only what is good for you instead of boycotting what is bad. She went on to say that the government did get a Safe Cosmetics Act in place this year, but that isn't enough. If we want change WE have to make the first move, "Show your passion and your outrage." 

There were so many excellent speakers. I wish I could quote them all. 

Women have 54% of the electoral vote and 85% of the consumer 'vote'. If the first vote doesn't get action, use your second "voting" power and don't buy what they are selling. If you really want to make a point, blog about it.  

As for cutting back, each year an average family uses 500 plastic grocery bags. If you need a place to start, start by carrying your own bags when you shop. 


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You got a screen shot of me! Now I know what I looked like.

I mean, that's not why I'm leaving a comment. Nothing superficial like that. I just want to thank you for this excellent rundown. Going to post it to Fake Plastic Fish wall right now.

It wasn't easy to do Beth, notice how all the other shots have a pause button in the middle.

You did a great job proving that it can be done, my husband just asked me, "How can we make our own yogurt"? (as he was washing out the big plastic tub it came in) You have an other convert!

Thanks for the link, Beth. I'll give it a shot.

"Quit buying anything with single-use plastic on it."
I don't mean to sound apathetic to this very important issue, but is this even possible? Go to a store and you'll see that for many items, there is no plastic-free option! Plastic is extremely useful in some ways--keeps things sterile for one.

It seems to me the way plastic ends up in the ocean is that people don't dispose of it properly. Perhaps a good first step would be to get people to stop littering plastic. Plastic bags don't actually represent all that much mass and aren't nearly as devastating to wildlife in a landfill as they are floating in an ocean. Which is not to say both aren't ultimately an issue. I use biodegradable plastic trash bags, which degrade in a landfill. They can make all kinds of biodegradable plastics now. Might that be part of the solution?

UrbanVegan - you make a valid point, is it possible to go without plastic in today's society? All I know is that I grew up without plastic wrapped around everything and we all lived.

Beth is trying to do it and she's also managing to bring it down to a few pounds a year for her family of two adults and kitties.

I cut the most plastic out of my life simply by shopping at the Farmer's market, eating less meat and when I do eat meat, buying it from a store that wraps it in paper.

I sold corn/bio-degradable bags in the 80s, I stopped when I saw that they didn't break down in the land fills, either. Without exposure to light, air or water even carrots don't break down.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but cutting back is where it starts. Will it be easy? No. But I want to err on the side of trying.

I wonder if the bags (along with the carrots) would break down if you composted them.

Urban Vegan (love that name btw) Yes, carrots and bags would break down if you composted them first. That's the problem, corn starch bags and bottles need special composting conditions to break down, carrots don't. I did a test by putting a corn-based bottle in my compost bin, a year later it was still there.

I discovered your blog via the Fake Plastic Fish facebook page. Thanks to both of you women for what you are doing! This is a great post/blog and I also appreciated the yogurt link. I'm planning to make my own now and will post about it on my new blogging venture as well. Thanks again!

Hi there! I´m Dani, I make macrame jewelry. I found your blog after someone posted a comment about this in my blog after I wrote a post about why we shouldn´t use plastic beads for jewelry. It is scary to see how many people just buy plastic for everything and sometimes they will buy bagfulls of plastic beads for jewelry projects for their kids parties, plastic beads that will end up in the trash soon. I am also trying to get out the word that plastic is bad for us and trying to incentivate people to find other options. That is why I suggest ceramic beads instead, and my personal favorite, seed beads! I love seed jewelry because it is shows how beautiful our nature is.
Thanks for the information here, it is very useful and I will share it with my friends and come back for more! If you would like to see my jewelry you can go to www.joyasnaturales.com/blog
Here I show my macrame jewelry and write about it. I hope you have a good time. Hugs, Daniela

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