Posted by: lauraearly | March 4, 2011

What can you do to reduce plastic in the ocean?


Plastic Marine Debris photo from Anne of Carversville

Plastic debris in the ocean can be the cause of death for marine animals including dolphins, fish, sea turtles, and sea birds. It is estimated that 80% of the plastic debris in the ocean originated from land sources. Will we ever be able to rid our lives of plastic, and in turn quit adding plastic trash to the oceans?

Last month, I attempted Rodale’s Plastic-Free February challenge, and while I can’t say that I was even remotely successful at forever ridding my life of plastic, the challenge has made me aware of what a giant role plastic has in my life.

Virtually everything I do, from sleeping to eating to bathing, involves plastic in some way. Foods are packaged in plastics. Cleaning supplies come in plastic spray bottles. My shower gel is in a plastic bottle. My alarm clock is made out of plastic. I even use a plastic credit card to purchase most of these things.

When you start to think of going “plastic-free” it can be quite overwhelming. For some things, I can’t even come up with a reasonable non-plastic alternative. Where do you even start?

Since plastic marine debris are a real threat to the ocean community, I decided that reducing my use of single-use disposable plastics is where I need to start, and Sanibel Sea School has taken steps to do this as well. Sanibel Sea School has banned the use of single-use water bottles from our institution. To learn more about why we are so adamant to do so, read our previous blog.

I am already on board with toting my reusable water bottles and my reusable shopping bags, which are the two top ways to reduce our plastic trash as a society.  But I am ready to take the next steps in reducing my plastic waste.

Below, I’ve listed a few of the challenges I came across this past month and some possible solutions, thanks to Beth Terry’s Plastic-Free Life blog. Be sure to share with us how you reduce the amount of disposable plastics in your life.

  • Reusable cloth baggies from Graze Organics

    Plastic zipper-sealed sandwich baggies are my go-to. When I pack a lunch to bring to work or a snack for the beach, it is so easy to put it into one of those little plastic baggies. If I only use half of an onion, the other half usually goes into a baggie. Sometimes I even store non-food things in the baggies. I really like Anchor Hocking’s TrueSeal glass storage containers, and I try to use them as much as possible. Here is a great resource for cloth alternatives to sandwich baggies from My Plastic-free Life. I have added these to my wish list.

  • Food is already packaged in plastic. Many foods come to the store prepackaged in plastic. One way to avoid this is to avoid prepackaged foods. Shop in the produce section and meat and deli counters. Some grocery stores, like Whole Foods, will allow you to bring your own containers to take home your purchases. For example, if you buy a few mahi-mahi fillets instead of putting them on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic, you could put them in a glass leftovers container you brought from home. Another great option is to get your food straight from the farm: less packaging and less transport! Check out local vendors at the Sanibel Farmer’s Market, or a farmer’s market near you.
  • Almost all of my toiletries and cosmetics are in plastic containers. My soap, deodorant, shampoo, sunscreen, and many other things that I consider essential all come in plastic containers. Hand soaps, bath soaps, and shampoos are all available in the form of a bar and are a good alternative the liquid version in the plastic bottle. Try this Burt’s Bees shampoo bar, or search for other brands at local stores. If you are feeling adventurous, you could forego shampoo altogether. (I have attempted this a few times, but haven’t been able to follow through, yet.) Living in Southwest Florida, I cannot condone forgoing sunscreen as well, but I can suggest wearing protective clothing so that you need less sunscreen. And as for deodorant, I hear that baking soda works wonders.

Remember that in the name of conservation, every little bit will make a difference. It is hard to make such drastic lifestyle changes as eliminating the use of plastics, but don’t get discouraged. Start small–find some aspect of your life that you can change, and go with it!

Challenge yourself to make better choices for the future of our oceans!

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