The Movement. The Planet. Places. Products.
I think of myself as an environmentally conscious person.
I wholeheartedly recycle, have reusable bags for grocery shopping. I try to remember my coffee mug when getting coffee to go, and I drink the best-water-in-the- world right out of the tap. I use my water bottle in everyday life, all day when camping and traveling. My heart sinks when I see visitors buying cases of single-use water bottles at the local grocery store, such an unneeded expense, and waste. My children, now in college, were forced to use and reuse the same sandwich bags because I refused to buy more than one box of bags a year. They used old lunch boxes, Tupperware, and water bottles. It doesn’t seem like much, but my actions were done with love for my community and with hopes that it might make a tiny difference in the plastic that reaches our oceans annually.
Then I spent a month in New Zealand.
I’ll admit, the art, creativity, and beautiful landscapes of New Zealand inspired me. However, the people of New Zealand and their devotion to invoking an eco-friendly cultural transformation is what caught my attention. The everyday eco-friendly practices and low-key, lead-by-example attitude was palpable to me as a visitor. It inspired me to adopt their socially appropriate habits so that I would feel as though and identify myself as a short-term ‘local.’ Meaning, I chose eco-friendly practices because I wanted to feel like I was part of the New Zealand super-cool, eco-friendly club. And just like that, I’m hooked and inspired to do my experiment.
The Experiment (Part 1)
There’s a lot of press lately about local and global policy changes that are pro-planet and anti-plastic. The movement is finally getting some traction because it hits people where it counts, in their wallet. I’m all for eliminating plastic in my life. I’ve read the reviews, talk to experts, and figure out what plastic-free products I want in my home. For Part 1, I ordered my products from the links below. I will analyze the cost, track delivery, and product quality, then report back to you on the results.
- An estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris are in our oceans.
- Of that, 269,000 tons float on top of the ocean and in the legendary Pacific garbage patch.
- 500 billion single-use plastic bags are used by shoppers around the globe annually. Ocean Crusaders estimates thats roughly 150 plastic bags per person per year.
- Roughly 12 million barrels of oil are used annually in the US to make single-use plastic bags.
- More than 100,000 marine animals and 1 million sea birds die from plastic entanglement each year.
The stats go on and on, but there is a planetary movement in the works. There is a sense of urgency for a plastic-free planet. Every little bit helps. You, me, we can help change the world! The United Nations announced at the September 2019 Climate Change Summit that “Worldwide, 127 countries have taken actions on banning plastic bags.” Below are a few countries and towns that are leading-by-example and how they influenced the products for this experiment.
New Zealand making composting cool!
New Zealand is working toward a cultural transformation that earns looks of approvals for getting to-go coffee in a reusable travel mug or juggling armloads of groceries from the supermarket because you forgot a reusable bag. The transformation is inspiring people to be one of the cool kids who are saving the planet.
Richard Wallis, a composting innovator, says composting is joining the ranks of good habits, and here is why: it has the potential to reverse climate change and diverts “waste” from the landfill. Wallis adds, “laying compost on the earth not only allows natural carbon recycling mechanisms to take place,” but also “food grown in this carbon-rich soil is nutrient-dense and provides food security, something we need to prioritize.”
A Solution for You
It’s estimated that approximately half of what households send to the landfill is compostable material. 10% is garden waste, and a whopping 40% is from the kitchen. This food alone weighs in at about 90,000 tons each year. According to compostcollective.org, food scraps mixed in with trash in the landfill lose their valuable nutrients, do NOT break down, and when organic waste rots down anaerobically, it gives off methane gas (CH4) which is a significant Greenhouse gas. The SOLUTION: Instead of sending house and garden waste to the landfill, compost it at home. Start with a countertop composting bin; every couple of days, transfer the house waste to a larger bear-proof container outside (if you live in a warmer climate) or in the garage. More and more communities have composting programs available for citizens. In Summit County, Colorado, High Country Conservation Center’s Food Scrap Recycling Program has diverted more than 70,000 pounds of food scraps from the landfill with an easy and FREE drop-off program that takes away all the commitment of a backyard composting.
China’s landfill is full 25 years ahead of schedule.
In January 2020, China, one of the world’s largest consumer of plastics, announced single-use and non-degradable plastic bags will be banned in major Chinese cities by the end of 2020 and across the country by 2022. In addition, the policy will ban the sale and production of single-use straws, disposable plastic tableware, and cotton swabs by the end of 2020.
The ban followed China’s announcement that its mega-landfill, the largest in the country, is full 25 years ahead of schedule.
A Solution for You
Many are looking to switch from traditional plastic trash bags in the kitchen and bath to a more eco-friendly option. Still, it’s challenging to know what type or brand, and do you choose biodegradable or compostable? “Biodegradable bags hold together really well and are often cheaper than compostable bags, which can make them more wallet-friendly if you’re willing to sacrifice some eco-friendliness,” says Jacqueline Oshiro, MyBest Household Goods. “If you’re looking for something that will break down over (less) time, look for bags that are “compostable.” Unlike biodegradable bags, these bags are regulated and will decompose under basically any conditions.”
Taiwan’s to phase out plastic completely by 2020.
In 2018, Tawain announced it will ban all plastic bags, straws, and utensils, and all single-use plastic must be phased out by 2030. “We aim to implement a blanket ban by 2030 to significantly reduce plastic waste that pollutes the ocean and also gets into the food chain to affect human health,” said Lai Ying-yaun, a Taiwanese Environmental Protection Agency official, in a statement. The first part of the ban kicks in for chain restaurants and retail stores in 2020 with fines for those who do not comply.
Similar bans are in place around the globe and in my own backyard. In 2019, the town of Frisco, Colorado imposed a fee of .25 for a single-use plastic bags handed out by grocery and retail stores. Breckenridge is considering a similar increase to .25 for each single-use bag. Breckenridge’s initial 2013 measure levied a .10 fee on single-use plastic bags that resulted in a 40%-50% reduction in the number of bags that needed to be ordered by the grocery store.
A Solution for You
For yourself or as a gift, this eco-friendly starter kit is a perfect way to erase your carbon footprint for a new zero-waste way of life. The ZERO WASTE STARTER KIT reduces plastic waste with reusable products. Stainless steel straws, biodegradable Travel Cup, Bamboo Toothbrush and travel case.
Natural and organic: Our beeswax wraps are an eco-friendly food wrap, 100% natural and made from organic cotton fabric, beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil. Our produce bag is made from organic natural cotton.
In May 2019, Maine became the first state to ban styrofoam containers.
Styrofoam can take a million years literally to breakdown. The ban goes into effect in 2021, and the restaurant industry is struggling to address the issue. Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, and New Jersey all have similar bills in the works. Restaurants can opt for easily recycled or made from recycled materials or compostable containers. Those options aren’t without challenges, but most consumers are willing to pay more to help the environment.
In a Nielsen survey, 48% of Americans said they would change their spending habits to reduce their environmental impact. With the current crisis at hand, Maine may want to learn from Zimbabwe’s example. In 2017, Zimbabwe banned all takeout containers made of the styrofoam-like plastic, expanded polystyrene (EPS), which was also controversial among food vendors. Still, the threat of fines up to $5000 got them to comply. The following year, Zimbabwe outlawed all single-use plastic.
A Solution For You
You can still order your favorite Chinese food and take it home too. With a little planning, bring your own storage bowls with lids when picking up your order.
The 15 pack has 6 different size silicone stretch lids, large storage bags that are reusable, and recyclable. There are three different sized Beeswax Wraps which are made of organic cotton, beeswax, and Jojoba oil. A natural seal for your food, keeping your takeout, lunch or snacks fresh for longer.
Vanuatu has one of the strictest bans in the world.
Vanuatu is a small island nation in the South Pacific. There is an open-air market in Port Vila, the island’s central food-shopping hub, where locals hunt for seasonal produce. Bananas, avocados, and pomelos are all for sale, but there are no flimsy plastic bags to be found. Vanuatu banned single-use plastic bags, drinking straws, and styrofoam in July 2018 in an attempt to curb the flow of trash from the coast into the ocean. Violators face hefty fines between $75 and $900 an offense. The ban on plastic bags has had a positive effect on the sale of traditional woven bags, and totes made local women who call themselves the “mamas.”
But there is more to be done, single-use plastic bottles are not part of the ban and although there is a small recycling program, most plastic trash still ends up in the landfill. “The problem with plastics is not simply a litter problem, it is a pollution problem created by corporations and mismanaged by governments, and it should be treated as an inherently dangerous substance,” Mirjam Kopp, a global project leader said, “The only way to make sure throwaway plastic does not end up in the environment is to tackle it at the source and stop its production.”
A Solution for You
Replacing single-use produce bags in the grocery stores is easy and smart. There are many alternative solutions available. Flip & Tumble’s produce bags reduce or eliminate your use of disposable plastic produce bags. These bags are reusable and machine-washable so you can use them daily and keep them for years to come. Each reusable mesh produce bag measures 12×14 inches and is translucent so that contents are visible.
In Part 2, I’ll share with you the results of my findings on the purchases from online vendors as well as my experience using our local Free composting program. In my mountain town, there currently is NOT a local retailer that sells the products or equivalent products like the ones listed above. My understanding is that may change in the coming months. There are a couple of eco-friendly product retailers regionally (40-60 miles) that I will visit and report back on how the brick-n-mortar experience compares to the in-home online sales experience.
Feel free to reach out to me with any suggestions or ideas on this experiment. I’d love to hear from you!
Enjoy the Climb
I send out a monthly update with my favorite finds, experiences, stories and tips from interesting places around the world. Join me!