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Jack Johnson’s Plastic-Free Initiatives

Jack Johnson's Plastic-Free Initiatives

Plastic-Free Concerts

We’re so grateful for Jack Johnson’s dedication to eliminate single-use plastic, and honored to have been included at the Plastic Pollution Coalition table at his concerts in Berkeley and Los Angeles, among friends and partners working together to offer alternatives to disposable plastic. His recent tour supports local and national non-profits educating the public about our plastic pollution crisis. At the concerts, fans can speak with the different groups, see examples of plastic-free solutions, and take environmental action.

jack johnson and plastic pollution

Smog of the Sea Film

Jack Johnson is also raising awareness in the new film Smog of the Sea where he, 5 Gyres founder Marcus Eriksen, and other citizen scientists assessed plastic pollution on a week-long journey through remote waters in the North Atlantic. They took water samples they captured using a trawl and began to sift through the debris and separate the plastics from the sea water and plant matter. The results were stunning. They found that the term “garbage patch” is a myth: the waters stretching to the horizon were clear blue, with no islands of trash in sight.

smog of the sea

But as the crew surveyed the water and sorted through their haul, a more disturbing reality set in: a fog of microplastics permeates the world’s oceans, trillions of nearly invisible plastic pieces making their way up the marine food chain.

The culprit? Single-use plastic.

Watch the trailer here.

Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation and
Kokua Hawaii Foundation

Jack Johnson also created the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, a non-profit public charity supporting environmental, art and music education worldwide. In addition to funding environmental initiatives, the Foundation builds relationships with grantees offering music and arts education for youth, primarily in Hawaii and California. Music grants are given to support school- or community-based music programs, and art grants support a variety of visual and performing arts programs. Most recently, the foundation has supported environmental art projects that integrate sustainable local food and plastic-free initiatives.

Also founded by Johnson, the Kokua Hawaii Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports environmental education in schools and communities in Hawaii. Their mission is to provide students with experiences that will enhance their appreciation for and understanding of their environment so they will be lifelong stewards of the earth.

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9 Healthy Road Trip Snacks for the Whole Family

9 Healthy Road Trip Snacks for the Whole Family

Traveling is exciting but can be difficult with a car full of hungry kids. To keep everyone happy we like to get creative and pack an assortment of healthy road trip snacks. When we’re prepared with homemade real food snacks, we tend to avoid the overly processed stuff available along the road (and everyone feels better).

1. Wellness Energy Bars from The Wellness Mama

Wellness Energy Bars from The Wellness Mama

2. Roasted Chickpeas from Stuffed Suitcase

Roasted Chickpeas from Stuffed Suitcase

3. Peanut Granola Bars from The Healthy Maven

Peanut Granola Bars from The Healthy Maven

4. No Bake Energy Bites from Cooking Classy

No Bake Energy Bites from Cooking Classy

5. Baked Oatmeal Fruit Cups from The Wholesome Dish

Baked Oatmeal Fruit Cups from The Wholesome Dish

6. Savory Vegetable Terrine from Gourmande in the Kitchen

Savory Vegetable Terrine from Gourmande in the Kitchen

7. Blueberry Vanilla Greek Yogurt Bars from Half Baked Harvest

Blueberry Vanilla Greek Yogurt Bars from Half Baked Harvest

8. Parmesan Quinoa Bites from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition

Parmesan Quinoa Bites from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition

9. Easy Homemade Cheese Crackers from Living Well Mom

Easy Homemade Cheese Crackers from Living Well Mom

See more healthy road trip lunch ideas and snacks to make and pack. Happy traveling!

Post courtesy of our friends at Mighty Nest.

 

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Road Trip Essentials: What to Pack When Traveling with Kids

traveling with kids

Everyone looks forward to summer vacation: school is out, work slows down and it’s the best time to plan a few trips with your family. Whether they are short trips for a weekend away, or a long flight across the country, traveling with kids is a challenge, so here are some tips to help you prepare for your next summer outing.

Listen

With the pull of social media, it’s nice to find something to do in the car so that kids spend time looking out the window instead of staring at a screen. Downloading audio podcasts is a favorite of ours for long road trips. Look at Common Sense Media for age-appropriate recommendations. Find a biography, a book-on-tape (like the Penderwicks, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle or James and the Giant Peach), or choose from the seemingly endless list of riveting TedTalks (about everything from Bees to Creativity), and time will fly by.

Read

Many schools have a summer reading list, so road trips and flights are the best time to get going on reading homework. If books aren’t holding your child’s attention, try checking out magazines from the library. Little kids will love Ladybug and Spider, and our all-time favorite is Stone Soup. Also try books with riddles or poems like Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein or science books like Exploratopia by San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

Play

Any version of Taboo is a great road trip game, and even the drivers can play without taking their eyes off the road. Similar to Password, one person tries to get everyone else to say a word by saying anything except the “taboo” words listed on their card. It’s tricky and encourages some creativity. And, there’s always the old-fashioned license plate game that can keep kids busy for hours. Everyone in the car keeps a list of all the states they can find represented by license plates on passing cars. It’s easy to change the game depending on the ages of the kids: after older children find a state, they can name the states that border it, or name the state’s capital. Also try homemade travel board games like travel tic-tac-toe or a marble maze. You could also pass the time by sewing your course on a map, then you can keep the map later as a souvenir.

Eat

Of course traveling with kids is never easy without snacks to help perk up weary minds and pass the time. Pack more than you think you’ll need, and include a variety of healthy snacks, dips and treats. Try these energy bar and bite recipes, full of protein, easy to make (many are no-bake) and store, and low in sugar. Cut fruit or a selection of veggies and dips are also great road-trip snacks. For a longer trip, try these healthy lunch ideas. Pack your snacks in easy-to-clean, leak-resistant stainless steel containers. Don’t forget to bring water in glass water bottles. It will also be handy to have your reusable bottles and containers at your destination for family outings.

Photo courtesy of SuperShuttle.

10 Tips to Help You Raise Eco-Conscious Kids

Tips to Raise Eco-Conscious Kids

To ensure that our planet remains healthy for future generations, it’s our responsibility to teach kids how to be eco-conscious. According to the EPA, Americans generate about 254 million tons of trash every year. That breaks down to 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day. And, we’re only recycling and composting about 1.5 pounds of that waste. Each bag of trash we roll out to the curb has to be collected, then taken to a landfill where it’s either buried or burned.

Unfortunately, neither burning trash nor burying it is good for the planet. According to National Geographic’s story Human Footprint: Where Does All the Stuff Go? burning trash releases gasses into the air, contributing to dangerous smog. Burying trash in landfills simply covers it up, and because the trash isn’t exposed to air and water, it fails to break down and instead releases toxins into our air, soil and groundwater.

Trash is just part of our environmental problem. Our carbon footprint also includes the cars we drive, the electricity we use, the water we waste and the food we buy. Almost every action we take somehow impacts our planet.

The good news is that we can lower our impact with a few easy changes, and we can teach our children to be mindful of their everyday behaviors to decrease their carbon footprint as well. Follow these 10 tips to raise eco-conscious kids:

Flip the switch

Don’t waste unnecessary electricity. Even very young kids can be mindful of their electricity usage and should turn off lights and other electronics when not in use.

Turn off the faucet

Another great way to help younger kids participate is to help them remember to turn off the faucet when they are soaping up their hands or brushing their teeth.

Don’t toss out food

According to the NRDC, “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions.” Don’t toss out food. Begin a family compost effort so that food can be used to help the Earth, not linger in landfills.

Start a family garden

The best way to help the Earth is to plant more green! Organic produce gardens, flower gardens or shrubs and trees all help the planet. Every bit of green adds more oxygen and eliminates carbon dioxide from the environment.

Leave the car at home

Driving creates pollution. Bike or walk with kids when you’re able. Encourage them to embrace more natural, eco-friendly forms of transportation.

Donate clothes, shoes and toys

It’s best to buy fewer clothes, and try shopping at consignment and vintage shops. If you do have items that you don’t need, don’t toss them in the trash. Instead, donate used items to a local charity or thrift store. Your older items may be someone else’s treasure.

Limit red meat

Red meat and carbon dioxide go hand-in-hand. According to the World Resources Institute, raising cattle for beef uses an incredible amount of resources like pasture and water, and “ruminants, of which cattle are the most common, accounted for nearly half of all agricultural production-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.”

Pick it up

Trash and litter pollutes our planet. Teach kids to not be a “litter bug” and encourage them to pick up trash when they see it lying around in parks, beaches or other areas.

Reuse

Saving the environment means reusing items when possible. Buy books and other items at thrift stores and donate them back. Use reusable water bottles and lunch containers so your kids limit single-use plastic and learn that everyday actions can have a huge impact.

Recycle

Even though recycling is not the answer to our waste problem, it is important to do if you have items that can be recycled. Glass, paper and aluminum can usually be easily and efficiently recycled. Check with your local waste-management service to find out which plastic products can be recycling in your county.

This is a guest post, with edits, from Uma Campbell.

Traveling Zero Waste – Tips from the Freid

traveling zero waste

Below is a guest blog post from Alex Freid at PLAN, who just wrapped up the Patagonia Worn Wear College Tour, and his attempt to travel zero waste for 14 weeks and 15,000 miles across the US, visiting 21 college campuses that are leaders in the Campus Zero Waste Movement. Impressive!

Traveling Zero Waste: Successes and Failures

We’ve been doing an annual college road trip for four years now, and during each trip, we’ve challenged ourselves to travel as Zero Waste as possible. Spoiler: It’s basically impossible. We have a lot of respect for the Zero Waste Lifestyle bloggers that can fit a year’s worth of waste in a mason jar, but seriously we just can’t figure out how to do it. That said, it is SO fun to try, and we kinda like celebrating the failures as much as the successes.

We don’t want to hide the places where we messed up, we want to talk about them. Living Zero Waste shouldn’t be about creating “no waste”, but about the process of learning how to reduce your personal footprint, and recognizing where industries have made it impossible to do so (more on that here). It’s a game, a personal challenge, but you can’t take it too seriously. If you let it get to you, you might end up waking up from stress dreams where a server stuffs your drink full of giant plastic straws.

We also want to share our challenges because the Zero Waste Movement isn’t about shaming anyone. We know that it’s a bit unusual to do what we’re doing, and we don’t expect everyone to join us. We do this because we find it fun to push the boundaries of society, and because we at PLAN work to constantly ask the big questions. Why is it totally acceptable to hand people trash with every meal? How do we get reusable food containers to be as accepted as the reusable coffee mug? As we work towards re-designing systems, we also face daily choices and do our best to live our values. Along the way, we do hope to inspire folks to think about their everyday impact, and where they can cut down.

Above is a picture of all the trash I created on the trip. For 14 weeks I avoided single-use disposable products whenever possible. I brought my own containers, asked for food and drinks without plastic straws, forks, or packaging, and tried my best to find alternative products when possible to avoid items with plastic seals or lids. In total, I came home with a little less than four pounds of trash.

I made some rookie mistakes along the way – like when we went out for food and drinks in a small town and I forgot to bring my To-Go Ware pouch of silverware with me, only to find that my one dinner option was a food truck with disposable plastic forks. Once, I asked for tea at a restaurant when I was feeling sick, and didn’t realize they were going to bring my tea bag sealed in a plastic disposable pouch. (Of course, if they throw out the pouch before serving it, that wouldn’t be MORE zero waste…but I digress.)

Many of the items in my trash, though, were simply unavoidable. I slammed my sunglasses in the car door and had to discard them when the frame broke. When I got sick, I had to live off Sudafed for a few days. Also, I was traveling, and without regular access to bulk stores or home cooked meals, I didn’t have the ability to stock up on some essential items the way I normally do. For the future, I’m definitely going to plan ahead and stock up on bulk items like peanut butter and granola bars. But when I took the weekends of this trip to go on long hikes, I decided that surviving the hike by bringing a few energy bars with me was worth the waste I’d have to carry for the rest of the trip. When it comes to health and safety, Zero Waste sometimes has to take a back seat.

And of course, there is the pile of straws for every single freaking time I asked for a drink without a straw and I got one anyway.

It’s also worth noting what’s not pictured.

We went to a smoothie place, and asked for smoothies in our Klean Kanteen water bottles. Not only were the servers pretty frustrated with our request, but they made our smoothies in Styrofoam cups, poured them into our kanteens, and tossed the cups.

I went into a sandwich place and asked for a sandwich in a reusable container, which they said they couldn’t do. I looked over and saw that they wrapped sandwiches in tin foil, which I figured I could recycle, and decided that would be okay. Then when I got the sandwich, I realized that the wrapper was tin foil on the outside, fused with parchment paper on the inside. The cheese from the sandwich melted into the parchment paper, and I couldn’t clean it off enough to justify taking that soiled tin foil with me in the car for the next 6 weeks, so into the trash can it went.

So what to make of all of this? We want to come out and say that sometimes, avoiding plastic packaging is impossible, and that’s okay. For medical concerns, for health and safety, or just because sometimes you have no other option, the Zero Waste Lifestyle shouldn’t come before your personal well-being. If you’re hungry, you should eat, and if you need medicine, you should take it. Zero Waste has to be accessible.

While living the lifestyle can be a fun challenge, our organizing efforts and tactical energy should be focused on the companies that make the plastic packaging in the first place. There’s no reason why, in this day and age, anything should be wrapped in non-recyclable or compostable or reusable packaging. Let’s focus on challenging the companies to redesign the system, rather than bending over backwards to avoid waste that didn’t have to be created in the first place.

All of that said, my trip was still a huge Zero Waste success. If the average American produces five pounds of trash per day per year, and I was on the road for 98 days, then I should have produced about 490 pounds. I produced 4. That makes my diversion rate somewhere around 99.2%.

My success wouldn’t have been possible without the system we’ve developed for Zero Waste travel, and the tools that make it possible. We wanted to solidify and share a few of the strategies we’ve settled on over the years. And so, **drumroll** … Here are our 5 tips for Zero Waste Travel on the go!

5 tips for Zero Waste Travel on the go

1. Bulk up

Find a bulk store or a bulk section and fill some containers with snacks. It’s the easiest way to avoid single-use disposables on the road. When traveling, it’s so tempting to stop at gas stations and convenience stores, but you can avoid that by bringing snacks with you instead. My favorite snack containers are from U Konserve…they’re durable, easy to clean, and stack away to conserve space when your’e not using them.

2. Keep sealable containers in the car for your “carmpost”

The idea of compost in the car is daunting to many, and rightfully so. The key, we’ve found, is to carry leftover food and organics in a fully, completely sealable container. This Life Without Plastic container with a lid that clips on is perfect for keeping food and liquids contained and doesn’t emit any smell. If you have access to a kitchen, bring the container in and put it in the freezer to slow the biogenic process down a bit.

3. Figure out your “on-the-go” kit

I prefer to use metal or glass containers when possible for take-out or food on the go, but I keep a small kit in my backpack of the essential back-up items in case something comes up while I’m out. For me, my essentials are:
a collapsible silicone food container
a to-go ware pouch of bamboo cutlery
a small container of organic soap with a people towel so I can wash dishes wherever I go.
water bottle and coffee mug

4. Pack the car with bins – bring containers that are easy to clean

We pack the car with bins and crates so that we can keep our food and containers in one place. Eating three or more meals a day, while traveling, requires A LOT of containers. If you don’t have time to do dishes every time you eat, they can pile up. Bins help you organize your containers and dishes. For me, one of my biggest pet peeves is washing dishes with annoying crevices and ridges that are hard to clean and harder to dry. I don’t have time to pick dried peanut butter crust out of my container, and neither do you. We find U Konserve containers to be super versatile and user-friendly, and Klean Kanteens are pretty great as well!

5. Don’t ask for your food “to go”

We found that a lot of places have reusable dishware when you ask for food “for here” but switch to disposable when you utter the words, “to go.” Sometimes it’s just easier to get your food “for here” on a reusable plate, and then transfer your food into your own container and book it. Every restaurant and region is different, so you have to feel it out when you walk in — we’ve started to develop noses for restaurants that are more than happy to put food in the containers we brought. But if you find yourself in a restaurant or café that seems less than receptive, just ask for food for here, and you’re good to go!

Four Reasons We Love Bulk Bin Shopping

bulk bin shopping

Buying food and personal care products in bulk is catching on as the zero-waste movement is becoming more mainstream. It’s becoming so popular that you can buy almost anything in bulk (just ask Bea Johnson) including dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, spices, olive oil, honey, coffee, wine and nut butter. Why we love bulk bin shopping:

1. Bulk ingredients are less expensive

Why pay for your food and your packaging every time you shop? One benefit of bulk bin shopping is that it reduces all the hidden costs associated with packaging. In addition to the cost of the actual packaging production and materials, packaged food costs more because of package design, marketing, and transportation costs due to packaging weight and bulkier sizes of packaged foods. Then there’s the waste-hauling costs we pay to throw the package in the trash or recycling. Considering the lifecycle of a food package, it’s pretty silly to pay for all these ad-ons when we can just buy our food unpackaged.

2. Bulk ingredients are better for you

Eliminating packaging also means that your food isn’t sitting in small plastic bags, plastic bottles or plastic-lined paper bags for months before you purchase it. The Environmental Working Group says some plastics contain “ingredients or additives we know are harmful, like the plastics chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) and the plastic softeners called phthalates.” Shopping in bulk using your own stainless steel containers, cloth bags or glass jars means less surface area is in contact with plastic at the supplier, in transit, at the grocery store, in your kitchen, and ultimately in your food.

3. Buying in bulk reduces waste

Almost one-third of the trash generated by Americans is attributed to packaging, and all of that plastic waste is on the Earth somewhere and always will be. Our reliance on disposable packaging is overwhelming our planet: By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight. Remembering reusable bags and containers when going to the market is a high-impact way to positively affect the health of the planet. Look for containers that have etched tare weights to make checkout seamless for you and the market (the container’s weight is easily deducted at checkout).

tare weight bulk bins

4. Buying in bulk gives you more control over quantity

Ever just need a teaspoon of an unusual spice for a recipe but end up buying a whole jar and never use what’s leftover? Ever want to try a new shampoo or coffee but don’t want to buy the entire bottle or bag? The NRDC says “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.” Bulk bin shopping is a great solution to help reduce food waste, as well as other household products. Buy as little or as much as you need.

Our favorite places to shop in bulk (and get inspiration):

Good Earth Natural Foods in Fairfax

Package-Free Shop in Brooklyn

The Refill Shoppe in Ventura

in.gredients in Austin

The Source Bulk Foods in Australia

Zero-Waste Market coming soon in Vancouver

Bepakt index of package-free markets

Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping Tips from Zero-Waste Home

Bulk Finder App, to find bulk locations while you travel, also from Zero-Waste Home

Where to Shop is a state-by-state guide for bulk shopping, package-free foods and household goods from Litterless

There are many more! Do you have a favorite to add to the list? Let us know at reuse@ukonserve.com.

Image from 3 Chairs.

Plastic Pollution and The Plastics BAN List

the plastics ban list

Thanks to research done by four organizations devoted to solving the plastic pollution problem, we now know the most harmful plastic products on the market in California—and the alternatives. The Plastics BAN List is a comprehensive list of the most common discarded plastic items with information about their impact on the environment. Most of the worst offenders are designed for our on-the-go lifestyle. Almost all of the products on list are related to disposable food and beverage packaging, like disposable takeout containers, coffee cup lids, plastic bottles and straws. “There will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050 if we don’t solve this problem. Eliminating single-use disposable plastics must be a priority.” – Anna Cummins, Co-Founder and Global Strategy Director of 5 Gyres

First on the list: Food Wrappers & Containers

It’s no surprise that disposable food wrappers and containers have the greatest impact on the environment. In fact, over 30% of the plastic collected fits this category. Recycling is not the answer because most of these products have no economic value in today’s recycling systems. The BAN List’s recommended solution is easy and becoming more mainstream in many grocery stores: Bulk purchasing with reusable containers. It takes some planning, but even with a few reusable items, you can have a significant impact on the plastic pollution problem. Also try Bee’s Wrap to cover a bowl, wrap a head of lettuce or wrap a baguette, and never buy plastic wrap again.

More ideas to help reduce plastic pollution

In addition to using reusable food-storage containers, here are a few more ideas to help you replace plastics you might be using from The BAN List:

Every year Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags. These bags threaten wildlife, pollute our waterways and contaminate our soil. Sea otters, turtles, seals, birds, and fish get tangled or suffocate inside bags, and they commonly mistake them for food. Take the first step in eliminating plastic from your routine by keeping a Flip & Tumble 24-7 reusable bag with you at all times.

Personal care products also contribute to a significant amount of plastic pollution on The Plastics BAN List. Reusable pads might seem gross, but just imagine a lifetime supply of used pads and tampons in landfills – now that’s gross. In addition to the environmental impact, there are plenty of reasons to switch from disposable feminine hygiene products to reusables. Inspired by the simple utility, earth-friendliness, and comfort of cloth diapers, try GladRags reusable options to help reduce your plastic waste.

Americans use enough plastic straws every day to wrap the Earth 2.5 times, so it’s not surprising that straws are one of The Plastic BAN List’s most common polluters. There is a strong movement to reduce their impact and many restaurants are adopting straw-free initiates, but there is still a lot of work to do. Committing to using just one reusable straw can eliminate thousands of disposable straws and can have a profound impact. Try U Konserve stainless steel straws and always say “no straw please” when ordering drinks.

Thanks to 5 Gyres (our partner and research-based non-profit focused on plastic pollution education), Surfrider Foundation, Clean Production Action and UPSTREAM.

Read the full The Plastics BAN List report here.

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!