Plastic Free July 2019 In Review

It’s practically mid-August and I’m continuing to reflect on my month of attempting to refuse single use plastic as a commitment to participate in #PlasticFreeJuly. This year was my third or fourth year joining the movement and encouraging others to join with me. This year I was extra careful, but I still had slip ups. This is a recounting of how my month went, good and bad, along with some tips on new ways I’ve discovered to cut back on plastic use.

First the bad and then I’ll end with the good and hopeful. Last month I tried my best to not use single use plastic for the entire 31 days, but there were times when it was given to me before I could say or do anything and there are also items in my daily life that I haven’t quite been able to give up (tortilla chips come to mind, my go to snack).

Two examples of plastic that were given to me without any warning both took place at restaurants. The first was at a cool BBQ spot on Lake Erie where I went with my husband after an afternoon of him riding his SUP and me making progress on my novel (reading not writing, ha!) We sat outside to be able to see the lake as the sun went down and as we perused the menu the friendly waitress brought us two ice waters both with tall, black, plastic straws sticking out of them.

The second time I was out with a friend in Jamestown after teaching my class and we tried a newer restaurant I’d never been to. I’d heard hipstery things about the place, it seemed trendy with an interesting menu and lots of beer on tap. We ordered sliders and tater tots. The tater tots came out with two plastic forks stabbed into them. The sliders were on wooden or bamboo boards. I didn’t say anything and had my real fork in my backpack, but I hadn’t known that the food was going to come with plastic forks. Fail.

In my teens and twenties I worked in the restaurant industry, I like to think that I was a good server – staying ahead of a table’s needs to make them happy and earn good tips. I understand that that is what the waitress at the BBQ restaurant was doing when she brought us waters without prompting. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten to the point where I feel comfortable confronting strangers about single use plastic, so I said nothing, besides moaning to my husband. It was an even bigger shame because we were sat feet away from Lake Erie and so many straws were going into the trash at this place everyday. There was a big disconnect between the natural beauty that draws people to the area and the constant litter being produced.

I decided that I will not visit the other restaurant that gave us straws again, that might not be fair, but I don’t like to support restaurants that charge a pretty penny for pretty good food in a hip atmosphere and then use plastic silverware, it knocks the experience down a couple of notches, like drinking a coffee out of a styrofoam cup, yuck. It just doesn’t feel nice.

Success stories time now. For the past few months I have been shopping as much in bulk as I can. Options for this are very limited, so mostly this is just snacks such as sesame sticks or chocolate covered peanuts, but it has meant that I was less wasteful during two recent road trips that I took. I fill up old ziplocks at the bulk section because my cotton produce bags have wholes in them so produce can breathe. A cashier at my local store where I do this commented that she’s trying to cut back on plastic and never thought of reusing zip locks. It touched my heart that she said that, because although this local grocery store chain prides itself on being progressive I have never once heard a cashier ask if a customer would like paper or plastic, instead they ask “Is plastic ok?” and every time I hear that I want to scream, “No! It’s not f*ing ok!” and then go on to tell them all of the statics that I know. But again I don’t like to confront strangers and know that I would look like a real nutter if I did that. I have thanked other customers for remembering their bags though, which is also a little bit weird, but I hope they appreciate it. I’m always taking inventory on how many people brought their reusables and it’s usually just me and one other person out of a good 60 that I watch going in and out of the store. #sad

Straight up denial, refusal, and restraint were the best tactics for Plastic Free July. I was at a farmer’s market with a fellow teacher and she bought a delicious treat at a friend’s bakery stall. I wanted to support her and have a treat myself, but I said no because of the challenge of the month. She explained that due to her permit she has to package them in single use plastic sleeves, I know that it’s an issue of sanitation, but I wish there was an alternative.

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Another win was the purchase of a plastic (but not single use plastic) Tupper Ware vegetable tray from a thrift store. I used it to take a veggie tray into work for a snack day. I also made my own homemade dip that was pretty similar to ranch and very easy to make. The base was yogurt which my husband makes in our instant pot. Then spices and herbs from the garden. I bought only produce that wasn’t in plastic bags to use in the tray, so other than the gallon of milk used to make the yogurt there was no plastic involved in the dish. Sure, it was a lot more effort than buying a prepared veggie tray, but it was a lot cheaper than and didn’t create waste with the tray, lid, or dip in a tub. Plus, I now have that Tupper Ware item and yogurt dip recipe to utilize again for a pot luck or family gathering.

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The final thing I did last month that has increased my success was to join a couple of groups on Facebook that are geared towards finding alternatives to single use plastic. The primary one that I have been following is called Plastic Free Support and it is an extremely active page. There are multiple posts each day mostly of people asking for advice and tips on how to make good changes and every post gets many responses full of new ideas. I love that it’s an international group to see what others are doing around the world and ways we can learn from each other.

Being a part of a community is a key part of this life change I have been moving towards for the past six years. It is very easy to feel defeated and as if my choices aren’t actually making a difference, but I have had others tell me that I have inspired them to make change, which is a major motivator for me. Plastic is everywhere, look around wherever you are right now and start noticing it, a habit you won’t be able to stop doing once you start. It takes time, effort, research, and patience, but I will one day be living as plastic free a life as I can.

Did you have Plastic Free July success?

It’s Plastic Free July 2019!!!

You’ve probably seen at least one challenge online in the past few years. Most are quick stints that earn either a little bit of limelight and/or some money for charity. This internet challenge is longer lasting and asks people everywhere to challenge themselves to cut back on their single use plastic consumption, or better yet to refuse single use plastic for the entire month of July. The movement began in 2011 and has grown in popularity in the past eight years. This year can you commit yourself and your family to making smarter decisions to help us all decrease plastic pollution?

Here are some tips for minimizing plastic use this July

Opt for Real Stuff

First, in order to not use plastic you have to swap it out with real things. Choose real silverware over plastic and make this happen by carrying a bag of silverware with you everywhere you go. Check out a thrift store for cheap, used silverware (if you’re thinking that’s sort of gross, then remember that you probably eat off of used silverware at restaurants weekly) and go for smaller sets that are more transportable. Another good option would be a camping spork if you have one.

When you go out for a coffee take your tumbler to get a discount and to say no to the single use plastic of the lid or cup and straw of a cold drink. It’s summer here in the US and I see a lot of people with frozen coffee drinks, yum, but yuck to the waste produced. Ask for your frozen drink in your reusable-thermal container, it helps the planet and will keep your drink cold hours longer than a plastic cup. Melt city.

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Change Shopping Habits

Get your hands on reusable produce bags and remember to take them with you when you grocery shop. Produce bags are very wasteful and unnecessary if you have something that you can use over and over again. Some produce is sprayed frequently to keep it fresh, in order to deal with wet lettuce, take ziplock bags or tupperware with you to put those items in. In my household we do not buy ziplocks but we often end up with them from my mother, so we keep them and wash them until they eventually form a hole. If you use tupperware or jars when shopping be sure to have a store attendant find the tare weight so you’re not paying for the weight of the container.

This is old news, but of course be sure to take your reusable shopping bags with you when shopping. Be cuter by taking a large basket the way Europeans do, it’s so nice to carry fresh produce in a woven basket, although a reusable shopping bag is a good second choice.

 

Recruit Everyone You Know

Ok, maybe not everyone you know, but recruit as many people as you can. Spread the word by using #plasticfreejuly and post regularly on social media about your successes. Tell your friends and family about what you’re doing and why. Most people won’t make the change in their lives to cut back on plastic unless they understand how bad the issue is, and the issue is bad.

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Good luck on your Plastic Free July journey, I hope that you are able to be as successful as possible. It is really difficult to cut back on single use plastic completely because the modern world is swimming in it (literally,) so don’t knock yourself down if you get handed a straw and it’s too late to send it back. Those experiences will reinforce the habit and will encourage you to try harder next time.

I’ve been trying to cut back on my use for years now and I still run into issues, but I try my best and keep my head up. If you have any tips on cutting back use, please send them my way!

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Happy Results from a Plastic Pollution Talk

After returning to small town U.S.A. after living in South Korea one thing that really struck me was the lack of recycling. At my job I noticed that there was nowhere to recycle, except for cans and bottles that were NYS redeemable. The exact opposite of Korea where they have really streamlined recycling right down to nationwide composting.

Back home in the US, myself and a handful of my fellow, concerned coworkers in NYS would wash out our recyclables and carry them home to recycle them there. Then, with the help of a kind-hearted, hard-working maintenance man at work, as well as my husband, I started taking the recycling from our admin building to the local transfer station, which is where people in rural communities take their waste if it isn’t collected by the town or a private waste management company. That same kind maintenance man informed me a few months later that we had switched waste management providers and that they provided zero sort recycling. Exciting!

That was over a year ago and most people were doing well recycling. I’d find the odd recyclable in the garbage, dig it out, give it a rinse, and toss it where it belonged at least once a week still, but the majority of people were getting it right, but it still wasn’t perfect. Plastic silverware and styrofoam cups were being used on a daily basis although we have a full kitchen (save a dishwasher, *hint*hint*) available for use that’s steps away from all offices and contains a surplus of silverware and mugs. What to do?

I decided to find an ally, who replied to my email saying others had similar concerns. We all teamed up and had a video conference about ideas. Zero waste my was primary contribution and it was decided that in order to ask our coworkers to make changes in their habits that it should be explained them why it is so important, so I volunteered myself to give my 5 Gyres plastic talk at the upcoming all staff meetings.

The first two meetings were less than a week ago and to be honest I was quite nervous. I have given my talk at places where people chose to attend and who were generally already aware of climate change and environmentalism, places like the local natural history institute and an outdoor outfitters; but to give my talk to a room full of people who are forced to be there and to some who might possibly be climate deniers was making me anxious, mostly because a poll came out saying that climate change is the more polarizing than abortion for Republicans and Democrats. 

My fear was unwarranted. During the sharing of statistics and heartbreaking images of the deadly effects of plastic pollution on marine life and land animals I witnessed shocked and devastated looks on my coworkers faces, it was sinking it. And it may have been the first time that some of them were hearing such information.

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Afterwards, a handful complimented me on the talk and some even shared how they already refuse plastic bags, bottled water, and one coworker asked advice on supplying a family restaurant with paper straws. Hearing that people were already making changes in their daily lives filled my heart with warm gushiness and melted away the nervousness I had originally been feeling.

In the days since giving the talk I have witnessed coworkers swap the styrofoam coffee cups for real mugs, noticed that the recycling is filling up faster meaning that it’s being used more, and have been told by coworkers with a smile on their face that they were rinsing out their yogurt tub to recycle. Things haven’t shifted 180, people still come into work with their iced coffees in massive plastic cups with big red straws, but not everyone has to go zero waste, small conscious decisions are a start.

Hearing the three coworkers’ stories about how they already hate plastic was enough fuel for me to feel really excited and happy, hopeful even, which is a difficult emotion to come by with ever more headlines in the news telling us how omnipresent this major problem is. And hey, the kitchen staff graciously agreed to switch to real silverware this year for our picnic instead of those bundles of plastic silverware, napkins, salt and pepper in single use plastic wraps. That alone cut back on a lot of waste.

What have your success been in this struggle against single use plastics? Please share, it’s these little wins that keep us going.

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Where Did All of Your Stuff Come From?

This post is part two of a response to the nationwide, nay, worldwide, sudden motivation to declutter brought about by one powerful force – Marie Kondo.

Do you ever get overwhelmed looking in your closet feeling that you have too many clothes but nothing to wear? That is a common anxiety, especially for women, because shopping has become incredibly easy and cheap, meaning that it is guiltless and painless to buy, buy, buy. Purchasing a new top for $3 often feels like a reward, a treat, that gives the mind and body a rush of good feelings which is how all closet spaces, wardrobes, and drawers in our homes got so full of clothes on top of clothes. Did you ever wonder how you ended up with so much in the first place and where they came from?

Well, to answer where they came from and in a roundabout way, how you ended up with so many – all of those clothes came from lands far away. Places where industries are free to do as they please, to pollute waterways with dyes and chemicals and to pay labor as they wish. A much longer answer could be dug into, which will be done here, but not so much a big dive as a scratch on the surface. The thread from which your overflowing closets and drawers’ items came from is a long and winding one. There is a great telling of that story, where clothes come from, by NPR’s Planet Money from 2013 where the program followed a T-shirt that they created from seed to owner. If you have 30 minutes, sit down and watch all of the videos, it really is fascinating where our clothes come from.

In two words it is known as fast fashion, which is to say that is how the way clothes are produced today, in an industry that is forever producing in developing nations at low costs to producers and consumers, but at very high costs to the human beings doing the actual work. Most are women that are paid less than a living wage. Many of our clothes today are made in Bangladesh where workers were just granted a minimum wage raise for the industry of around $3.16/day, up from the previous $2.10/day. This rise in wages only just took place in December 2018.

Cheap products behave like cheap products. Shirts made from poor material with low quality stitching tend to come undone more quickly than durable, natural fiber materials, sewn with the purpose of a lasting product. Have you ever noticed that a cheap, fast fashion top doesn’t last too many washes before it pills or has a seam come out?

In a nutshell, the way that we consume now was changed by international trade laws, free trade, and outsourcing. Sending American jobs across borders to laborers who are paid less, although not always enough, as outlined above, and where lax environmental regulations equate to cheaper means of production, but with long term costs. This is not only true of clothing that stockpile up in closets, but of almost everything found around our homes. Cheaper, in all meanings, decor, utensils, furniture, etc.

A good sale feels like a win, but if the item bought quickly breaks or deteriorates then the value is lost, and honestly, how much value can be put on a cheap $3 top? Probably not much, which is why it got lost at the bottom of the drawer in the first place, it had no value. Plus, it cannot be ignored that, in terms of clothes, Fast Fashion items are not actually cheap, they have those, high costs that are felt by the laborers (mostly women in developing countries) who work long hours for little pay and have health risks from chemicals, dyes, and unsafe working conditions.

Learning the negatives of where things come from is not generally fun, but it might change consumer habits, so you’re not back to asking if this or that sparks joy in another 12 months. If you walked into the kitchen of your favorite kitchen and saw rats all over, you’d probably stop eating there, the same goes for the clothing industry and others. There are alternatives to modern shopping – clothing swaps, thrifting, and getting by with what you have. Those same principles can cross over to other home items and you get to keep your money in your wallet.

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This site has many more resources on fast fashion, just type fast fashion into the search bar to read more on the topic and how to shop in a more ethical, sustainable way.

Where’s All of Your Marie Kondo Stuff Going?

It’s all the rage to declutter and minimize your living space all thanks to a charmingly cute Japanese woman named Marie Kondo. She first came out with a book, ‘the life-changing magic of tidying up,’ three years ago and only recently did Netflix release a series on her philosophies and techniques. The series, ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,’ came out on New Years Day, the perfect time of year to make positive changes in life.

You’ve likely seen the series or heard about the phenom through news or social media. No doubt you have friends who have posted on an image of all of their items that they are letting go of bundled up in large, black garbage bags stacked in a big pile preparing to exit your friend’s house and life; or maybe that describes how you just spent your Polar Vortex weekend.

All I know is that there are piles and piles, mountains and mountains of stuff/junk/garbage/waste/clothes being taken somewhere as the realization has just struck that many meaningless things in our living spaces serve little to no purpose. You may have felt a slight anxiety looking around your closets and basements to discover that you yourself, to some degree, have the same problems as the clients on the Netflix show, trust me, we all do. Things acquire and it’s hard to let go.

In fact, most of us have that very same problem of having too much stuff, so much stuff that although an initial hit of happy-feeling oxytocin  is received when initially purchasing said too much stuff, that after some time we forget about it and the individual item gets entirely forgotten about because it is buried in a closet of hundreds of other items.

After piling up your clothes, books, knick-knacks, etc. and holding them close to you and questioning whether they spark joy, Marie Kondo’s signature philosophy, and you find that the majority in fact do not spark joy, then what happens to those poor, unloved things?

In the second episode of the Netflix special the family reported that around 150 garbage bags of stuff left their house – that is a lot of stuff… but where did it go? NPR reported that a lot of that stuff has been going to thrift stores.  That can be good, but thrift stores before the effects of MK were drowning in our used clothes, most of which gets put on clothing racks for sale for a while, weeks or months, and then sometimes gets shipped abroad to developing nations to be sold there, or sometimes is processed into secondary items for sale such as industrial cleaning rags or is shredded up to be used in homes as insulation.

Swap in full Swing

Both of those outcomes can be viewed as positive for the environment, but they are not the only results of people shedding their unwanted junk. According to this article in the Saturday Evening Post, Americans on average throw out 81 lbs. of textile waste (clothes) per year. That’s per person, per year. And that was before the Marie Kondo Effect, imagine the amount of waste being sent to thrift stores and landfill just in January 2019 alone, thre result of those that have taken inspiration from Netflix.

As you prepare to purge your closets and storage spaces, please be aware of where you are taking your items, for they may spend the rest of their days there, and their days are long if they are made of plastic or from plastic. Most clothes are synthetic these days, or at least partially, meaning they have a lifespan of possibly hundreds of years. That goes for your home goods, too.

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Follow this site for the next post about how you ended up with such a packed closet in the first place and life changes that you can make so that it doesn’t happen again.

Two Plogging Events, One Post

If you haven’t heard of the craze of plogging yet then you can learn about it in our previous post WTH is Plogging? which was posted to teach people about a Plogging & Yoga event hosted by Kara Bemis Yoga the day before Earth Day. That same week, Kara’s twin sister, Kayla, attended a Plogging event in DC. This is a special joint review of those two events co-authored by Kara & Kayla, and if this post inspires you and you’d like to stand up against single use plastic for the ocean, then keep your eyes out for events taking place in early June for World’s Oceans Day, June 8th, such as March for the Oceans in DC on June 9th.

Plogging & Yoga Event – Jamestown, NY

This event was promoted a lot leading up to the day of the event and due to the fact that it was free, was anticipated to have a number of guests. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the event was under-attended. Initially this was a sad slap in the face, but two people did show and those are two more people who now know more about plastic pollution, why it’s a problem locally and globally, and how to change habits.

5gyres_ambassador_rgbThe most important aspect of this event was the 5 Gyres plastic talk, followed by the physical act of collecting litter, and lastly the yoga. The talk was rooted in a 5 Gyres power point that included visceral slides and facts and statistics on the importance of the oceans and the detriment of plastic. Although there were only three listeners to this talk (my husband made it to the event just in time) it was a positive experience to give my first talk on plastic.

The four of us collected an impressive amount of litter in a small radius near the Chadakoin river in downtown Jamestown, NY. It was a sunny, warm day so walking and talking while picking up garbage was an enjoyable task, seeing how much we gathered made it even more worth it.

 

 

The yoga itself was initially planned to be very beginner friendly as I was expecting yoga newbies to attend, but since all of the participants were returning students the yoga I taught was intermediate. The class was nature based including animal and insect poses. Of course vrksasana/tree played a part.

Moving forward from this event I plan to host more Plogging and Yoga events and offer the plastic talk to any group or individual who wants to hear it. Science classes, environmental groups, strangers on the street, anyone.

Plogging Event – DC

The event that I attended was presented by the DC Parks and Recreation (such an under appreciated governmental resource!) and a local gym called VIDA Fitness (VIDA) located on U Street. On the morning o Earth Day registered participants met at a recreational facility in my Petworth neighborhood. Attendance was high, nearly 40 people, which is not surprising considering that DC is the second healthiest city in America. Minneapolis stole our first place stance in 2017, hence the increased DC Parks and Rec events throughout the capital – we can win it back!

To begin, our hosts, VIDA’s Membership Consultant and a representative from DC Parks and Rec, gave an overview of the day, offered a guided stretching routine and gave an informative talk about litter control in DC. Most memorably, we practiced squatting for healthy trash pick up to preserve our ankles, knees, and backs before taking off. The DC government representative spoke for a new initiative at most DC park facilities, in which plastic trash and plastic recycling bags are available for year round plogging enthusiasts to utilize.

Each attendee was furnished with bags and plastic gloves, including a few clear recycling bags, which I was able to score. My boyfriend and I took the mission to heart and split a pair of the plastic cleaning gloves, wearing a single glove on our right hands for trash pick up and keeping our left hands air-accessible while holding our bags. The group ran, jogged or walked through our predetermined path grabbing litter along the two and half mile route. There was even some media coverage at one spot, check out the video here.

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In addition to the fresh air, meaningful community/neighborly time, environmental impact, health benefits and an increased feeling of well-being, I truly felt that our group was an inspiring view for those driving by or viewing us from their stoop. It was fun to feel uplifted by working towards a common goal with other environmental Washingtonians, and to see others smiling at our noble cause. Perhaps we influenced those spectators to do their share by snagging a few pieces of trash on their morning jogs or commutes.

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It was a really enjoyable way to spend a sunny day outside and honor the planet. I hope to see other similar events pop up in my lovely city over the coming months. In the mean time, I encourage everyone to independently do their part by plogging, decreasing their plastic consumption and trash creation and especially by participating in March for the Ocean (M40) on June 9, 2018, in celebration of World Oceans Day. Visit marchfortheocean.org  to find a rally near you, or for information on donating to help in protecting our planet and in efforts to eliminate plastic use.

WTH is Plogging?

The next event that Kara Bemis Yoga is hosting is a Plogging & Yoga event which might have people scratching their heads. WTH is plogging? Essentially it is a newly invented word that means collecting litter while on a jog. It is said to have originated from Sweden in 2016 and has since gone global via social media, so it seemed like a good idea to ride the trend and get local people interested in cleaning up their neighborhoods.

If like many people you are slightly averse to jogging and prefer walking and are also highly averse to seeing garbage scattered around your walking route, then have no worries because plogging can easily be translated into an event that takes place during walking or hiking at your nearest state park.

Before there was a trendy Swedish term for it, I have been unknowingly ‘plogging’ for years. It started while living in Costa Rica. My then Tico boyfriend picked up litter while we were on a walk at the beach and initially I thought it odd, to touch someone else’s ‘dirty’ litter, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t odd at all, and that if we were to all clean up beautiful places then the idea might spread. Maybe others would begin to do the same, heck maybe the people who mindlessly and selfishly through their trash on the ground to begin with would change their ways.

Is it dirty to pick up others garbage? Short answer no. More often than not the garbage is plastic. What’s the difference of picking up a plastic fork lying on the ground and touching a straw at a restaurant. Sure the straw at the restaurant is ‘new,’ but it’d likely had been handled by others before reaching your hands. It was handled in production, packaging, distributing, and from the restaurant employee to you. Same with a plastic bottle or bottle cap. What I do consider as dirty litter to collect is cigarette butts. Those are nasty little things, they’re called butts after all. They’ve touched others hands and lips and what is even nastier is that they are made from plastic, so everytime a smoker flicks their butts out of the car window they are littering. I wish police would enforce litter laws with all, but especially smokers, I think that they it is harmless to flick them out  of their hands and onto the grass, but who is going to collect them? Plus, they easily make their way down street drains and straight out of the outlet to the nearest river, lake, reservoir, sea, or the ocean. For cigarette butts I would recommend wearing cotton gloves to collect, such as gardening gloves.

If you have an interest in making  a change in your local area, start plogging today! If you live in are around Jamestown, NY, then join me next Saturday for a community plogging event that will include a free yoga class (taught by yours truly.) Wherever your walking path may be: a sidewalk, in the woods, up a mountain, or on the beach have a two minutes cleanup and share your little victory on social media by using #plogging to spread the movement.

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New Ways to Give Up Plastic

Most people are familiar with the fact that plastic is ubiquitous and highly damaging to the environment. It’s not hidden knowledge what the most common single-use plastics are and how to cut back on them, such as switching to reusable bags instead of taking plastic bags from stores, using a reusable metal water bottle instead of buying bottled water, and saying no to plastic straws at restaurants and cafes.

These three examples are very good places to start when cutting back on single use plastic. With a little bit of time and effort, it is possible to give up those three forms of polluting plastic all together. After changing your habits in those simple ways, you can begin to look elsewhere in your life and see where polluting plastic is lingering around (for its short lived lifespan) and ways to replace it or stop using it all together. Below are three ways that I have reduced my plastic use in my daily life. Check ’em out and share how you cut back with me. We can do this together.

Floss

Do you floss? Maybe you do, but not as regularly as you should; however often you are flossing, you are probably flossing with plastic. It is obvious that the thin, string-like hygienic product that we keep in our medicine cabinets is made from plastic if we take a second to think about it. What else would it be?

To be honest, I had not considered what my floss was made from until I stumbled upon silk floss (let me repeat that – silk floss – how luxurious)   in the supermarket aisle one night. After taking a moment to read about the product, I was instantly sold. Never again will I buy plastic floss. Silk floss does the job perfectly and is biodegradable. It costs a little more than cheaper, average floss, but it is worth the cost because it lasts for a long time and doesn’t come with any plastic polluting guilt, however, as you can see, the packaging is sadly plastic, but has a plastic 5 recycling lable so will be recyclable when the product is all used up.

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Sponges & Cleaning Products

Colorful sponges that come in four packs of bright yellow, pink, and blue can be made from polyurathane, a plastic and what makes that even worse is that they fall apart. Have you noticed that after a couple of weeks of use that bits of the sponge begin to break off into your dish washing basin? Where do you think those bits of plastic end up going once down the drain? Even if you pick out the bigger pieces, there are bound to be smaller ones that make their way down your kitchen sink’s drain and into the water system.

Instead of using those Spongebob-yellow sponges I have been using wash cloths. I also found more durable sponges made out of natural cellulose with a fiber on top that resembles coconut husk (it is not, but the packaging does not tell me what the top is precisely made of, it does say however, that the entire sponge is 100% plant-based).  I have used these sponges for my bathroom cleaning mostly and am happy to read on the labels that the sponges can be boiled to sanitize and that they are top rack dishwasher safe, plus It scrubs better than the cheap sponges.

For cleaning products I primarily use a simple vinegar and water solution to which I add essential oils. I also found a blog listing secondary uses for lemon peels; soak them in vinegar in a sealed jar for two weeks and add to the vinegar spray for an added fresh scent and as a way to get more life out of the lemons. When life gives you lemons… make lemonade, and then make lemon scented vinegar from the peels!

I also use borax for more heavy-duty soap scum. Used together with the fibrous sponge brings a smooth shine to my bathtub without any harsh chemicals lingering around to contaminate my next bath.

Tea and Coffee

I mostly drink tea, but sometimes coffee, never, ever do I drink Keurigs – those little pods are completely wasteful, prime examples of single use plastic waste. I thought I was doing pretty well with tea and coffee, buying organic and fair trade when my budge allowed, but taking a closer look at my tea bags I realized that my tea often came in little, individual plastic packets (even the organic kinds sometimes). And if the bags aren’t wrapped in plastic then they are sometimes wrapped in aluminum or paper. Even the expensive triangular tea sachets upon inspection are most definitely made from plastic.

It’s impossible to know what the tea looks like inside the box, so I choose to buy a certain brand of tea that comes in a wax lined paper pouch, all 20 tea bags in one pouch, and no staples, strings, or labels. Limited waste. Even better is loose leaf teas bought in bulk. The brand that I prefer from a box is Celestial Seasonings. For bulk tea I buy from a local grocery store. It has to be said that herbal tea grown from the garden or collected from a wild source, dried, and put into glass jars is the least wasteful form of tea and the most pranic. Herbs and flowers for collecting include mint, nettle, chamomile, Calendula, and lavender to name a few.


Plastic is a vital and necessary part of modern life. It is in our phones, computers, cars, almost everything. There is no doubt that plastic will be a part of our daily lives, but certain types of plastics can be cut out of regular use – single-use/disposable plastic. This type of plastic is overused and has a minute lifespan of sometimes only minutes (think about the plastic spoon used to eat greek yogurt, out of a plastic tub, it only takes minutes to eat that snack and then the spoon and the tub are waste.) Start becoming aware of plastic’s detriments and then decide to abstain from using it and encourage those around you to do the same.

 

Good News in 2018

It’s only mid-January, and all ready there have been some big, positive announcements around the globe regarding decreasing the use of single use plastic and climate change in general. With natural disasters becoming more and more common and devastating (this past year in the U.S. alone was a record setting and expensive year due to natural disasters – hurricanes and wild fires) legislation and commitment by cities and governments is some positive news that is welcome to start out 2018.

The four big news stories that I have seen in the new year came from Montreal, New York City,  China, and England.

Montreal has banned plastic bags. The ban went into effect on January 1, 2018 with penalties to shops who do not follow the law going into effect on June 5, 2018. I visited Quebec just before learning about this ban for a short trip between the Christmas and New Year holidays, while there I noticed that all stores charged 5 cents for each plastic bag, but local Québécois  that I asked were unsure if this charge was local, province wide, or in all of Canada. When I returned home I tried to do some research and in google searching I found the article about the plastic bag ban in Montreal.

In my opinion, plastic bags are utterly useless; they are not strong, therefore they break easily and most people toss them straight into the garbage they live their life cycle of just one use between the store, the car, and the cupboard. People casually toss them straight into their garbage, most people that I have witnessed in my area do not even recycle them. Some stores have recycle bins at their entryway in which to collect used plastic bags for recycling, but they have to be clean and dry, and of course people would have to collect them and remember to bring them with them to the store to drop off, and not all stores have these containers, so it is not convenient.

Rather than go through the process of recycling plastic bags or pollute the oceans by throwing plastic bags in the garbage, why not buy a couple of reusable bags from your local grocery store and use and reuse those for shopping? I wish more major cities would set a standard of banning plastic bags which would encourage states/provinces and countries to do the same. It is a big shift to make, but I am so glad that Montreal is leading the way in doing so in 2018, really proving that they are French Canadian, in the fact that France banned plastic bags as a country in the summer of 2016.

A couple of weeks after Montreal’s ban went into effect, New York City announced that it will be divesting from fossil fuels in the city’s pension funds and that it will begin the process of suing five large oil companies for the negative impacts that their actions have had resulting in climate change and damage to the city – hurricane Sandy, for example. This is big news, especially since it completely contradicts the view of the president, who would rather invest in coal than renewables and whom does not even believe in climate change. Thankfully, some cities and states have vowed to take action against the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement; Mayors and governors around the Unite States took a stance to pass their own laws that were in accordance with the Paris Agreement after Mr. Trump pulled the United States out to show that US Americans do believe that climate change is a real and imminent threat and that as individual cities and states they will not sit back and do nothing.

Possibly the biggest news that started this year off in terms of plastic pollution was that China has banned the import of other countries’ waste as of January 1, 2018.  A lot of people are unaware, but much of the recycling collected in the U.S. and Europe does not get processed in the countries where it is collected. About a third of the waste produced in the U.S. is exported, sent to other countries for them to process or bury. Much of it gets sent to China, but no longer. That’s a lot of waste that has nowhere to go now. This news is good in that some of the waste that was exported on container ships would blow off and end up in the ocean creating ocean pollution. But now what will happen to waste at home in the U.S.? Of course the answer should be that the U.S. will have to handle our own waste, and we should, and by facing the waste problem straight on, would give more thought to using less packaging and creating less waste. Likely however, it will get sent to another country because the U.S. does not have the facilities to handle it all. Another negative effect may be that recycling centers say that they can no longer manage recycling waste and therefore may put them instead in to landfills (see the hyperlink earlier in this paragraph.)

 

 

The final big news that has come out since the start of the new year came from Teresa May just this past week. The PM of England declared that England’s newest environmental plan includes a goal of stopping all UK plastic waste by 2042. That is a few steps forward of Montreal’s plastic bag ban, but as some critics have said, it is too far in the future and her plan lacks clear guidelines, but it is a good start to move the conversation towards reducing and eliminating plastic waste.

There has been talk that many UK politicians are getting behind environmental movements due to the Blue Planet II series with Sir David Attenborough. The series is beautifully made, awe inspiring, and full of fascinating information. The fact that a TV series can educate so many worldwide on the sate of the oceans and the wildlife that habitats them is better still if it moves politicians into action.

Although the devastating, recent mudslides in California along with the multiple natural disasters of last year weight heavy on all of our hearts, it is a small comfort to know that governments around the world are beginning to make changes to combat our negative impact on our planet. As information becomes more widespread and people demand change by their leaders, there is hope that governments all over will pass similar laws and will overpower the attempts of some politicians (ahem, Mr. Trump) to take us back in time with environmental regulations. The future looks bright, albeit with a lot of hard work in the process.

Bye-bye 2017, Welcome 2018

Well, that was fast. It doesn’t seem possible that 2017 is coming to a close and a new year will be here full of hopes and goals. This year was a big year for me personally and quite the roller coaster around the world. In this post I want to reflect on my past year in terms of my personal life, yoga, & sustainability, as well as use this platform as a way to commit to a few goals for my 2018.

My previous year was full of primarily of weddings and green cards. On Earth Day 2017 I married my love in our down to earth civil ceremony. The choice to marry on Earth Day was intentional as was the entire day and the way that we designed to tie the knot in the most sustainable way that we could. You can read here for ides on planning your own DIY, sustainable wedding.

My husband I again got married in September which was the big shindig with my large family and friends the came from near and far to celebrate with us. This event we also planned to be as DIY and sustainable as possible. I have not written about our wedding in any blog posts yet, I will post tips bit by bit during 2018 as wedding season gets nearer.

As mentioned above, my year was full of our two weddings and a green card, which belongs to my husband (finally). That was a stressful, long, and moderately pricey endeavor, but it was well worth all of the hard work and sacrifices that we both had to make so that he could settle with me here in the U.S. We completed the entire process with some advice from a few friends whom previously obtained green cards, yet without the assistance of an attorney. Coming in 2018 will be a few posts with tips for others who are going it alone to get a green card.

In terms of yoga, my year was both quite and busy. Unfortunately, I did not attend any trainings in 2017 save a few workshops with my dear friend Mindy and some classes here and there at local studios and during my travels. It is a serious goal of mine to attend a weekend or week long retreat in 2018 and to seek out a YTTC in the next couple of years to continue to build my teaching tool bag.

This past year, however, was busy for me as a teacher. I taught in studios and increased my corporate schedule. I continued to teach vinyasa, designing classes appropriate for my students, hatha classes for the corporate students, and some fun workshops and seasonal classes. My 2018 teaching goals, besides training in classes, workshops, and YTTCs, is to push myself more and more to therefore safely push my students to their abilities and beyond as well as to force myself to become more creative with workshops and collaborations.

Finally, and most importantly, I have had some great experiences in my local area, attending educational events on the environment and sustainability. On a personal level I have tried my best to cut back more and more on plastics and have continued my slow fashion lifestyle. Looking towards the future, I am excited to have been accepted as a 5 Gyres ambassador, a title that means that I will host some educational events in 2018 and into the future in which I’ll share the damaging effects of plastics on our oceans. Being an ambassador is a commitment to learn and share and by having an association with their name I have more weight when sharing information with the public as opposed to standing alone on my soapbox. Many people are already aware of the dangers of plastic, but many more are not, and to ask someone to change their daily habits for fish can be seen as a stretch and annoyance, so I am looking forward to utilizing 5 Gyres resources to give myself more credibility.

5gyres_ambassador_rgb

This time of the year is an excellent time to reflect on goals and lessons learned from the past year’s experiences and an even greater time to dedicate yourself to personal goals and resolutions. I can’t wait to give 2018 my all and hone my skills and craft with each passing month and year. This yoga thing is such a journey, as is life as a whole. Each new pose is a practice to get there and each teaching experience is an opportunity to obtain more and more knowledge to benefit my students of the present and in the future.