Today is Earth Day and it is the perfect time to make a pledge to help our planet by recycling, and reusing. Simple things like refusing a straw, or using paper plates instead of plastic ones can help. Buy and use things made from recycled materials when you can, especially for things like trash bags with recycled content. It may not be a lot in terms of individual effort, but every little bit you do is added to the little bit I can do, and our neighbors can do, adding up to big change if we all do some. So, here are a few ideas to help get us moving, so help keep our world beautiful, like this scene from our Canoe Trip on the French Broad river.
Our biggest problem is plastic. It is still not well known that plastic never degrades, it just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, working its way into the food chain. Plastic in the ocean is ingested by fish, which is then ingested by humans. Tiny particles can make it into the bloodstream of animals, fish and humans, and it is never excreted. Marine life is threatened by the amount of plastic floating in the ocean trapping and killing sea life like turtles. Plastic in the landfill is just as much of a contaminant. Washing clothes containing nylon or polyester puts micro fibers into the local water supply that cannot be filtered out, which then work their way into our food supply. Recycling helps, but not every community has recycling, and not all plastics can be recycled. So what can you do? Visit EarthDay.org to see how you can reduce the amount of plastics that you use by downloading the pdf file Action Kit. To reduce the use of single use plastic bags, use your own bags not only at the grocery store, but carry them with you to the hardware store, garden center, department store, anywhere you may buy something. If you have large bags for birdseed or dog kibble, make your own bags with my tutorial. These bags contain plastic and nylon, so that keeps them out of the landfill, too. Bird Seed Bags.
Consider recycled batting in your quilts like Quilter’s Dream Green. Using products like this, made from 100% recycled materials, increases the market for recycled material goods so more can be re-used instead of making more plastic. This batting is a joy to use, quilts beautifully, and doesn’t shrink. Every pound of Dream Green takes TEN plastic bottles out of our landfills! The soft green color is from natural processing without harsh bleach, does not show through fabrics, and can be quilted with stitching lines 12-inches apart. It is available at many quilt shops, and through my affiliate link. Make a queen size quilt, and it takes 20 bottles out of the landfill. How many could we recycle if every person reading this post did just one quilt this year with Dream Green? Thousands!! Now, that is real impact.
When you buy new clothing, look for natural fibers like cotton and wool, without plastic fibers. As a thrift store junkie, I often wear clothing that has been given a second chance in my closet. Some of my best bargains have come from there, like sequined jackets for holiday wear, and designer duds for everyday. My favorite pickleball t-shirt is a thrift store find, with a dandelion on the front. I get more compliments on that shirt than anything else I own, LOL!!
Use refillable water bottles, or at least refill the one-time-use disposables and use them a second time before putting them in the recycle bin. I am not advocating to get rid of plastics altogether, they are useful in many applications, but I am advocating to reduce the use of new plastic where possible, and recycle all we can. Buy only recyclable plastic items, BPA free, and advocate for others to do the same.
Lobby your favorite restaurants to stop handing out straws to everyone, dropping handfuls on a table, and instead only giving one to those who ask, or switch to paper straws. No, I am not saying that you cannot use a straw. If you want one, you should have one. What I am saying is that you should be ASKED if you want one, because many of us don’t. Every item left on a table must be thrown away after the customer leaves, whether it was used or not. So leaving a perfectly sealed straw on the table goes to the landfill, unused. Even worse are the straws put in your drink without asking. Again, the one in my drink will go to a landfill unused. Better yet, if you use straws, buy your own Reusable Straws, many come with travel cases and can be put in your dishwasher at home.
At a lunch some time ago, a friend mentioned that the plastic dump in the Pacific ocean was from Asia, absolving our country in her mind of any responsibility. But, did you know that up until the beginning of 2018, 80% of our plastic recycling was being shipped to China? So much of that huge plastic mess in the Pacific ocean is our responsibility. Early in 2018, China passed a new law that their country would no longer accept waste or recycling from international sources. So, we have to deal with that on our own – 7.3 metric tons of plastic was shipped to China in 2016. But, the US doesn’t have the means to recycle all that on its own at this point, so all that plastic that you thought you were recycling is now going to landfills. Make sure your community has recycling.
And more ways to do crate mats and beds from old sheets and batting scraps are on my post More Recycling and Repurposing.
Do try to recycle appropriately. You may believe that if it is plastic, it should go in the recycle bin, but much of what we throw in there is a problem. Plastic single use grocery and produce bags plug up machinery and need special handling, so put those in the bag recycle bin at the grocery store, don’t dump them in with the plastic recycle at home. Clean the plastic of contaminants. Try not to be a ‘wishful’ recycler, and I am guilty of this one. We often make recycling mistakes that send more to the landfill than we realize.
Our natural resources are a precious commodity, and need protecting for future generations. If you have Netflix, be sure to see the new series Our Great National Parks. It is a five part series on parks all over the world, from our own Yellowstone and Monterey Bay, to Chilean Patagonia, Kenya and Indonesia highlighting conservation and endangered species. See my post on our trip Adventures in Yellowstone for more spectacular pictures from this amazing park.
What do you do to recycle, reuse, and give a second life or purpose to old items?