Idea for Lent (or any time): REFUSE Plastic

You want to make your life and the world better. Do both by reducing your plastic footprint! Here are some tips (just in time for Lent) about refusing single-use, disposable plastic.

What do I do?

Reduce how much plastic you buy and throw away. Find reusable, recyclable, compostable alternatives to plastic and Styrofoam. (Want to make it official? Take Plastic Pollution Coalition’s pledge.)

Why refuse plastic?

Pollution: In all production stages, plastics produce chemicals we end up breathing and eating. Single-use plastics (e.g. bags, straws) become plastic pollution.

Energy: Plastics are made from oil and require energy to produce. Let’s use our resources more wisely; it doesn’t make sense to create something permanent for a temporary use.

Health: All water (and trash) rolls downhill… and much of our trash ends up downstream. If you eat seafood, you ingest chemicals leached from plastic.

But you don’t have to eat seafood to be affected. Plastics are already in you, and even in newborns. Plastic additives (like BPA) are linked to cancer.

At best, we’re not sure how plastic affects human health. At worst, we’re poisoning ourselves. Diminishing the plastic waste stream can only be a good thing for our health and the planet’s.

What about recycling?

Recycling isn’t bad, but it gives a false sense of security.

  1. Most plastic isn’t recycled or recyclable. It ends up in the landfill, taking up precious space.
  2. Most “recycled” plastic is actually down-cycled. Bottles aren’t turned into more bottles; they become something of lesser quality that will be thrown away shortly. That’s not a continuous cycle; it’s just one added step before the landfill (or the plastic gyres in the oceans).
  3. Recycling saves energy, but produces pollution. Recycling isn’t as straight-forward as you think.

Can I make a difference?

Every thing you do makes a difference, especially setting an example. What if, through your example and others, American’s decided to go just one day without buying plastic water bottles? That would save 576 million bottles!!! (Americans throw away 2 million plastic water bottles EVERY 5 MINUTES).

How about inspiring people to use reusable bottles? Millions of bottles could quickly become billions of bottles saved. That’s a lot of plastic and oil saved, and a lot of trash that wouldn’t end up in our streets, our drinking water, and our food chain. Change starts with you, and continues because you set an example.

But plastic is everywhere!!!

If you’re overwhelmed by how much plastic you use, pick one item you regularly purchase and find an alternative. Change one habit a week, and by the end of a month you’ll significantly reduce your plastic consumption and start great habits.

Don’t throw out perfectly functioning plastic items. If you’ve already bought it, use it till it can’t be used any more, then recycle/repurpose it, then buy or create a non-plastic alternative.

 

There are lots of ways to reduce your plastic footprint. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more tips, and share yours! Together, we can make this a #plasticfree world. #RefusePlastic!

Cougars and Wolves

Occasionally, online exploration can be as fruitful and exciting as outdoor exploration. Here’s the story of a digital hike as winding, breathtaking, and memorable as a mountain or forest trek.

I’ve recently toyed with committing to reading a scientific paper once a week. This week as I read Song of the Dodo I was inspired to look up papers about my growing obsession: wildlife corridors.

Like getting pleasantly sidetracked in the woods, I’m not sure exactly how it happened… somehow, reading “Do Habitat Corridors Provide Connectivity?” – perhaps it was the pregnant phrase “urban matrix likely impenetrable to bobcat and cougar” – led me to a Google search on Cougars (Mountain Lions, Puma concolor).  Shockingly, cougar hunting was an auto-complete option as I typed. A few clicks later, I learned that Cougar hunting is legal, and in my state (Texas), it’s legal any time, by any means.

I find this barbaric.

And I’m not alone. I was so grateful to digitally stumble upon the Cougar Fund that it brought tears to my eyes. I had never heard of it before, and as I let them know:

[The Cougar Fund appeared] among lots of websites promoting hunting, so I was wary, but as soon as I saw the intent of the website and [the video with] Jane Goodall, I was hooked.

Yep, that Jane Goodall. She’s a Director of the Cougar Fund, and in this heart-wrenching video, she explains why sport hunting of cougars needs to end. There’s also a handy donate button on that page, which I gladly used.

Like an unexpected wildlife sighting, in the same internet session the Sierra Club’s efforts to help the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) popped onto my digital trail. So I’m now, for the first time in my life, a Sierra Club member, and have signed the petition to continue the protection of the Gray Wolf. I urge you to do the same. (And if you join, there’s an option to receive a Sierra Club bag. I would have joined anyway, but cool!)

I never thought I’d be political. I never thought I’d be an activist. But these aren’t just charismatic megafauna. They’re living beings, with rights as unalienable as ours. When we spend just a little time studying them, we see their innate worth immediately.

And if we’d stop extirpating species – yes, the cougar and wolf were both native here*! – then people would stop saying about Texas (and I’ve heard this with my own ears several times) “there’s just not much nature there.”

Not much nature?! In the land of mesas and mountain lions, prairies and bison, forests and rivers and alligators and bobcats and armadillos? We’re not just wiping out species; we’re wiping out humanity’s memories of wilderness!

So help the Cougar Fund. Help the Sierra Club. We owe it to the future, for humans and megafauna.

* Gray Wolf range http://www.sightline.org/research/graphics/wildlife-wolf-cs06m/

Cougar range http://www.cougarfund.org/conservation/states/

Hunting Mountain lions is downplayed on the TPWD site, yet cougars are classified as ‘nuisances’. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/nuisance/mountain_lion/