Last weekend, my husband and I hauled nearly ten trash bags full of recyclables to our local drop off. We’ve never paid for pick up since the drop off location is literally a few miles away.
We’d let our recycling build up in the garage for months. MONTHS. It wasn’t due to lack of time, access, or ability. We threw our recycling out of sight, out of mind, and into the garage because it was convenient.
Isn’t that how the pollution issue originally began? With our often-times busy and on-the-go lifestyles? We just need convenience. There’s no time to actually plan, shop for, AND cook a meal, right? Throw in a full time job, multiple kids, family obligations, volunteer promises, and errands. So many errands.
We buy the pre-cut and packaged romaine from a distant farm or produce laboratory. The perfectly packaged protein bar we can grab running out the door. The all-in-one cleaner promising everything as it clings to each surface, while we carry on with our Netflix binge.
Even an eco-conscious, minimalist, tree hugger like myself craves convenience. Sorting through bags of trash destined for a recycling center birthed an idea. If even I struggle to stay on track with environmentally friendly habits, surely others do as well.
AN ECO-CONSCIOUS MONTH LONG CHALLENGE
No one is perfect, and no one’s going to save the planet alone. So I posed this question to my friends on Instagram….”Who needs an eco-conscious accountability partner?” The feedback was overwhelming, so I decided to put together a challenge for the month of February to help myself and others take action.
Nothing too crazy. I’m not pretending like I’ll end the month with just a mason jar full of trash. This challenge will be a reminder to slow down and be more intentional with our time, the environment, and where we spend out money. We’ll take a few steps beyond what green living initiatives we’ve already begun.
I want you to be inspired and join in. No matter where you are in your journey to become more environmentally friendly- you’re invited. No judging, scolding, or shaming. Every single person I know has room to improve their carbon footprint.
For this challenge, we’ll primarily focus on plastic.
WHY A PLASTIC DETOX?
A brief history. Plastic was surprisingly originally invented out of environmental preservation. John Wesley Hyat created the first synthetic polymer in 1869 to help decrease the slaughter of wild elephants for ivory harvesting. America had an infatuation with billiards and ivory was the only natural material with the physical size, strength, and beauty to perform in the billiard room. Yes- billiard balls were once manufactured of pure ivory.
Fast forward to World War II and the Depression era. Plastics were used to conserve natural resources in the production of parachutes, ropes, helmet liners, and glass. After this period of consumer deprivation ended, Americans were ready to buy, buy, buy more.
Americans could purchase nearly anything and at a much lower price point with plastic production increasing over 300% throughout and after WWII. Furniture, cars, glass alternatives, and anything else manufacturers could dream up were all readily available in plastic.
Plastic began to develop a negative reputation around 1960. Plastic debris was spotted in the ocean around this period, and it’s been a topic of concern for environmentalists since.
Todays’ current estimates show that at last 8 million pieces of plastic are entering the oceans every single day. Every. Single. Day.
Let’s look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest stats on plastic production and management:
35.4 MILLION TONS: the amount of plastic manufactured in 2015.
14 MILLION TONS: where most plastic manufacturing fell in 2015- (packaging, bags, wraps, sacks, bottles, jars)
8.49 MILLION TONS OR APPROXIMATELY 25%: the amount of plastic recycled or converted to energy in 2015
75 PERCENT (%) the amount of total plastic sent to landfills.
Most plastics can only be recycled once or twice, often into clothing or material for items like park benches. Ultimately even these items become destined for the landfill.
Some plastics may be recycled further, but need to be combined with virgin plastics in the processing cycle.
The graph below depicts the rate at which plastic is produced, compared to the amount recycled, composted, used for energy, or sent to a landfill.
There aren’t any specific guidelines. I hope it causes us to take inventory of where plastic rules in our lives and homes. Is it in the kitchen? Our wardrobe? In our hair care or cleaning products?
It may be all of the above or a completely different areas. Let this challenge be a gentle reminder to choose more intentionally. To slow down and acknowledge the privilege of convenience. And to slowly decrease the amount of plastic waste we produce.
I’ll be sharing a different topic each day over on Instagram and I’ve created a calendar to follow along. Feel free to focus on only the areas you like. I’d love to see what you’re doing and what steps you’re taking to reduce plastic consumption in your life- no matter how great or small!
This eco-conscious challenge is not meant to promote any particular product or purchase anything in addition to what you aleady own. I always encourage others to reuse, repurpose, or recycle before bringing any new products in the home.
Receive a PDF of the February Plastic Detox Challenge calendar to follow along!
Good luck and see you on Instagram. Be sure and use #PlasticDetox on your posts so we can all hold one another accountable!