The Five Spot: Decreasing Your Plastic Footprint

By Naomi Brownson, Co-op Volunteer Writer

This month, we come around again to Earth Day, and our dear home planet needs our help more now than ever. We are all well aware of the global imperative to decrease our carbon footprint. Second on our list of necessary decreases should be another ubiquitous facet of modern life: plastic. It’s everywhere, and it is immortal: plastic never breaks down. Some sources say there are now more plastic objects in the world’s oceans than there are fish.

Here are some things we can do to start cleaning up, along the lines of reducing, reusing, and recycling/repurposing:

1. Carry your own, non-plastic utensils. I have a little bag I keep in my purse that contains a stainless steel spoon, fork, and knife from my kitchen drawer. The Co-op carries bamboo utensils. Either of these can easily fit into a purse or lunchbox, and cleaned in a sink on the go or at home each night.

2. Mugs too: most any café will willingly fill your order in your own travel cup. And, if you must use disposable cups, try the compostable ones by Repurposed, carried in the Co-op’s housewares and cleaning supplies department.

3. Bags and containers for bulk and produce. Re-use bags or bring containers from home for bulk items. For produce, the Co-op carries reusable cotton bags, as well as Bluapple, a product which absorbs ethylene gas to keep produce fresh in your refrigerator, eliminating the need for plastic bags here.

4. Last year, a study estimated that around eight million metric tons of plastic waste enter the oceans from land each year. The Ocean Cleanup works to clean up the ocean, the final receptacle of plastics. Contribute your skills or funds to this or a similar organization.

5. Participate in a local cleanup effort. Picking up trash is a great way to show kids one method for being part of the effort for the good. Join an organized cleanup day, organize your own, or just make it a habit when you go out on walks and in your daily life.

I don’t know how many plastic items I use and discard every day, but even if it’s only one, that’s one too many. If each of us decreases our use of disposable plastic by one item per day, that adds up to millions of pieces of plastic less that will enter the waste stream and potentially end up in a seabird’s gizzard. She and her babies, and her babies’ babies, will thank us. Happy Earth Day!