Cooped up inside during this shelter-in-place order, I finally cracked. Looking out the window at a warmish sunny day I couldn’t resist it anymore and decided to venture down to the Potomac River to try and catch a shad. With my fly fishing gear, a compostable trash bag, and my PIC (My loving supportive wife of course 😁) we started our trek down to the river. It wasn’t long before I realized that once again I had taken on a project bigger then I could handle…one bag wasn’t going to be nearly enough. In less then a quarter mile our bags were stuffed! Walking by broken beer bottles, bait cups, shoes, plastic bags, styrofoam, and even an entire street lamp, I could not help but think about the journey that all of this trash had been on to get here and where that journey would end.
Would one of these plastic bags on the bank of the Potomac make it to the Chesapeake Bay? How about the Atlantic Ocean? Does it end up being carried by the Gulf Stream up to the North Atlantic Drift and onto the Norwegian coastline? As shown below, our oceans currents connect water all over the globe. A piece of trash in the Potomac River has the potential to visit Europe and Africa before ending up in the Caribbean or making a detour and heading down the coast of South America. If that plastic bag is lucky, maybe it will be picked up by the Antarctic Circumpolar current where it will embark on a picturesque journey along the coastline of Antarctica before possibly ending up in Australia or New Zealand. Who knows, maybe its journey will continue through the South Pacific Ocean, up along the coast of Chile and Peru before depositing itself on a reef in the Galapagos Islands. That is, if it doesn’t get mistaken for a boxed jellyfish and eaten by a sea turtle. I am honestly jealous of the plastic bag at this point… Sign me up for any one of those journeys.
What I am hoping to portray through the above rant is that all of the trash we produce has a story…both before we come in contact with it, as well as long after we’ve thrown it away.
How Do We Get Control of This?
It all begins with making a personal change. According to Ocean Conservancy, there is currently 150 million metric tons of plastic currently circulating our marine environments with 8 million metric tons entering our oceans every year. While none of us can eliminate that problem on our own, we can do our part in helping reduce it.
Here are 3 simple tips to help you become part of the solution:
1. Become conscious of your waste.
Thinking back to our grade school years (now that is a scary thought 😳), how might you grade yourself?
F – Those who litter and could care less.
D – Those who would not litter but only have a trash can.
C – Those who have a trash can and recycling bin although they are still working towards getting a grasp on what can be recycled through their municipality’s recycling system.
B – Those who have a trash can, recycling bin, and compost bin. They only throw away what can’t be composted or recycled. While they have made great progress, they still find themselves throwing away lots of materials like soft plastics, glass (in areas where it can’t be recycled), greasy cooking byproducts (for example, tin foil and meat packaging), etc…
A – Not only do they go out of their way to properly dispose of anything that can be recycled, they are conscious about all of their waste. These folks have a hard time filling up the trash can because they understand that a large majority of our waste is compostable or recyclable (if done right). They try to avoid products in packaging that they don’t know how to properly dispose of or repurpose and they use reusable packaging whenever they can.
I know this exercise may have you saying a few “kind” words about me, BUT I promise its not about the grade you give yourself. My purpose for this tip is to present a challenge. What is one thing you can do differently, in the spirit of earth day this week? How about adding a compost bin to your kitchen? maybe its adding a sticky note to your recycling bin reminding you to wash your plastics before recycling them? maybe its as simple as starting to reuse & repurpose items that may have ended up in the trash. It all adds up in the end…what may seem minimal today becomes monumental if practiced everyday.
2. Minimize your 1000 year decisions
I know this may seem stupid but is it not true? Don’t get me wrong…I love getting a refreshing iced coffee from Starbucks on a hot summer day. As a society, we have allowed ourselves to loose sight of the impacts of our decisions. While that iced coffee was amazing in the moment, we unconsciously made a 10 generation decision when we decided not to bring a reusable cup. Now… I am not trying to say move into a tree house and live like avatars. We unfortunately live in a society where single use materials are unavoidable. I mean seriously, I ordered reusable produce bags the other day and they were wrapped in plastic and shipped in plastic. I mean, what in the actual f…
While there is a lot that we cannot foresee and control, there is a lot that we can. Whether it’s avoiding certain products, buying different products in packaging you know how to recycle, setting up eco-friendly subscriptions, or repurposing materials through creative DIY projects, it all makes a big difference overtime. Please check out my post; “Is your Go Bag Ready?” for a few additional ideas.
3. Don’t be afraid to pick up trash
In the past week, have you walked past a piece of trash while out running, hiking, walking your dog, or on a stroll with the family? Ever ask yourself how a car tire ended up in the middle of a hiking trail? Does it annoy you to see trash littered throughout the woods and along our trails? I know it is not your trash but it unfortunately is all of our problem. While we unfortunately live in an out-of-sight out-of-mind society, this stuff doesn’t disappear. It ends up in our woods, washing into our rivers, being carried out to sea, polluting our environment, and impacting the health of our wildlife. I have picked up a lot of trash and I am always amazed at what I find. I can promise you that a child was not having a nerf gun battle with his friends in the middle of a swamp!!!
It begins with small changes.
How would you grade yourself? what is one thing you would do to improve that grade?
In the spirit of earth day, is there one 1000 year decision you can cut out of your day-to-day (plastic bags, straws, to-go cups, produce bags)?
How about one item you can sub out for a zero waste brand (check out my Enviro Conscious Subscriptions post)?
Is there a trail run you love that always has trash on it? Is there a way to get your run in but incorporate a trash clean-up on the back end?
A few small changes by a lot of people can lead to massive improvements over time. Please let me know your thoughts and don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or ideas! I love helping people find solutions 😁
Thanks y’all! Happy Earth Week!!! Until next time…