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Five Ways to Honor the Planet this Earth Day

Honor Planet Earth Day

Our favorite day of the year is this Saturday, April 22, marking the birth of the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people acknowledge Earth Day every year by participating in planet-friendly activities, making it the largest civic observance in the world. The possibilities for participating are endless. Here are our favorite five ways to honor the planet this Earth Day:

1. Get outside

Spending the day outside in nature with family and friends can be one of the most sustaining and powerful ways to celebrate Earth Day. Our culture is becoming increasingly reliant on our phones and our televisions to hold our attention, and as a result we’re spending less time connecting with and appreciating nature. This disconnect between children (and adults) and the natural world is causing us to be less interested in and less passionate about our planet. In one of our favorite books, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv says “direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.” He believes that there is a correlation between the health of children and the health of the Earth.

2. Change a habit

To honor Earth Day, commit to making a change, and keep that commitment every day. Start small: give up plastic wrap, stop buying Ziploc bags, bring reusable containers to the market, carry a reusable utensil in your bag, make your own cleaning products. The key is to keep this small change going every day. Get inspired by two women, one on each coast: See Bea Johnson’s journey on her blog: Zero Waste Home. She and her family are not only happier since their quest to live waste free, but they also lead more meaningful lives based on experiences instead of stuff. Lauren Singer, inspired by Bea, keeps her trash in a 16-ounce Mason jar, and hasn’t emptied it in four years. How? Find out at: Trash is for Tossers.

3. Create a healthy home

Spend Earth Day by taking steps to create a healthy home. Simple changes can have a staggering impact on your health and the health of the planet. Read about our top ten healthy home tips. Some are very simple but also very impactful, like avoiding so-called “natural” fragrances in dryer sheets, fabric softeners, cleaning products, candles and air fresheners. Other tips might take a little more thought, like finding alternatives to non-stick, stain-resistant and water-resistant coatings.

4. March for science

Science plays a critical role in the health of our planet. This Earth Day, join a nonpartisan and diverse coalition of organizations and individuals who advocate for evidence-based policy, education and research to protect our planet. If you’re not near Washington D.C., find a march closer to you here.

5. Participate to connect

Beach cleanups and tree-planting parties can seem cliche on Earth Day, and sometimes these one-time activities seem less authentic and less meaningful than doing something with a more lasting commitment. However, these activities can actually be incredibly beneficial for the environment because you’ll be connecting with likeminded people to work for a similar cause. This kind of experience can be empowering and can help solidify your appreciation of the planet. If there’s an Earth Day event near you, try it! A one-day activity can often lead to wonderful long-term commitment and have a lasting effect on your dedication to protect the environment.

Photo credit cdm_photo.

Guest Post: Six Things You Didn’t Know About Plastic

six thing you didn't know about plastic

Think you know what’s in your coffee cup… or closet? Think again—it could contain a type of plastic that’s polluting the environment and/or endangering your health. With nearly a decade spent committed to the fight against marine plastic pollution, The 5 Gyres Institute shares these tips on discovering hidden plastic—and going #plasticfree.

1. Your faux-fur jacket is plastic. So are your workout pants.

All materials shed fibers. But unlike wool and cotton, which biodegrade, microfibers from synthetic clothing never biodegrade—because they’re made from plastic. When these garments are washed, the tiny plastic microfibers slip right through sewage treatment filters and into our waterways: One recent study found a single synthetic fleece jacket released as many as 250,000 microfibers when washed in a machine. When these fibers are eaten by small organisms and fish, they can work their way up the food chain and onto our plates.

Solution? Avoid acrylic garments, which are particularly harmful and can release as many as 700,000 microfibers during the lifecycle of one item of clothing, and if you do own synthetic fabrics, wash them less. Oh, and if you’re buying a new washing machine, choose a front loader—it releases fewer microfibers.

2. Much of the plastic dropped in recycling bins isn’t recycled.

In 2014, 22% of PET plastic collected for recycling was exported out of the United States. Why? Our facilities can’t keep up: Plastic production surged from 15 million tons in 1964 to 311 tons in 2014—an increase of more than 2,000 percent. Also, as oil prices fluctuate, so too does the price of plastic. When those markets are depressed, virgin plastic becomes far cheaper to buy than recycled. Without a profitable market in which to sell it, it’s not cost-effective for many recycling companies to process plastic—so they sell it to other countries at a loss. In 2011, China imported nearly half of America’s plastic waste.

Solution? Use less disposable plastic! Refuse the top five sources of single use plastic: plastic bags, water bottles, to go containers, takeaway cups and straws, and switch to reusable solutions.

3. Most coffee cup lids are made from the same type of plastic as Styrofoam.

Starbucks sells 400 billion cups of coffee annually—each with a polystyrene lid. Toxic styrene—the primary component of polystyrene, and expanded polystyrene foam better known as Styrofoam—is proven to be carcinogenic to animals, and is a probable human carcinogen. It can migrate from containers into food and drinks when it comes in contact with fatty or acidic foods, and when heated—like for your coffee or take out. While some cups are recyclable; typically, the lids are not. Billions of coffee cup lids are landfilled and/or littered daily.

Solution? Request your coffee without a lid. Or better yet, bring a reusable insulated stainless steel coffee cup and avoid the plastic waste altogether.

4. Straws are not recyclable.

Americans use more than 300 million plastic straws each day. Straws are too small to be easily recycled. So they become trash—often in the ocean. In fact, plastic straws are one of the top polluters on our beaches and can be harmful to animals. More than 600 species are impacted by small pieces of plastic—like straws—in the ocean, either through ingestion or entanglement, which can sicken or even kill them. Birds, fish, turtles, dolphins, sharks and even whales can be poisoned or trapped by plastic waste.

Solution? Ask for your beverage “straw-free” or try reusable stainless steel straws.

5. You might be washing your face with plastic.

Many exfoliating products contain plastic microbeads—tiny round beads look innocuous but are actually pretty evil. When we use products that contain them, plastic microbeads go down the drain. Because they’re too small to be filtered—smaller than a grain of salt—they end up in our rivers, lakes and oceans. In the United States, we release 8 billion plastic microbeads into the environment each day.

In 2013, research conducted by 5 Gyres and SUNY Fredonia found a high concentration of plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes, which inspired a movement that culminated when President Obama signed The Microbead-Free Waters Act into law. However, at the current rate, more than 7.3 trillion microbeads will enter the marine environment before the Microbead-Free Waters Act becomes effective in 2018.

Solution? Avoid exfoliating beauty products that contain “microbeads,” or show polyethylene, polypropylene, polylactic acid (PLA), polystyrene, or polyethylene terephthalate on labels.

This was reposted, with edits, with permission from 5 Gyres.

 

The Turning Green Waste-Free Starter Kit

turning green waste-free starter kit

Our New Waste-Free Starter Kit

New this month, we’re teaming up with our partner, Turning Green, to offer our first waste-free starter kit with four of our most popular reusable essentials. When transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle, preparation is half the battle. Most people see the benefit and have the motivation to change habits, but they just don’t know where to start.

The Turning Green Starter Kit includes an insulated stainless steel Coffee Cup, a stainless steel Divided Rectangle Container, a stainless steel Round Medium Container, and a Bamboo Utensil. A thoughtful gift, the waste-free starter kit will make it easy to reduce single-use trash every day: work lunches, travel, morning coffees, and trips to the market. It’s easy to stash in your bag and have on-hand when on the go.

Our Partner: Turning Green

Turning Green inspires students all over the world to make conscious choices and become advocates for issues that directly impact personal and environmental health. Their work encompasses a wide spectrum of advocacy platforms and initiatives including Project Green Challenge (30-days of environmentally themed challenges providing students with mentorship, advocacy and leadership skills) and The Conscious Kitchen (transitioning school dining from pre-packaged, processed food to meals prepared with fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO ingredients).

And Turning Green is on the road right now on their annual seven-week trip to sixteen universities across the country where they’re educating campus communities about conscious living and developing collaborative student-led initiatives. The Conscious Campus Road Tour inspires students to rethink mindsets, practices and actions, while working together toward developing intentional and sustainable campuses. They have worked directly with 50,000 students on more than 2,000 campuses around the world.

$10 back for every kit

Turning Green is quite a force, and a natural partner for us to align with on our first waste-free starter kit. To honor their impressive work, we donate $10 per kit back to them in support of their mission for environmental change. Get The Turning Green Starter Kit on our website. You’ll be giving back to Turning Green and you’ll never be without your reusable essentials again!