Take the above image, for example. Even though everything pictured is fresh produce, it still comes in packaging. Nearly everything we buy at a grocery store comes pre-packaged, or plastic bags are provided for fruits and veggies. Glass and plastic bottles for juice and sports drinks, Styrofoam and plastic wrapped meat, plastic, plastic, plastic. In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments (like grocery bags, straws, and soda bottles) are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day. Plastic makes up about 90% of all trash floating on the ocean's surface, with 46,000 pieces per square mile. That's a lot of plastic! 1.5 million marine animals are killed by plastic every year - slowly upsetting the natural balance of oceanic ecosystems, and threatening some species to extinction.
So what can we do? There are some easy changes we can make to reduce our plastic footprint.
Reusable Shopping Bags - They're cheap to purchase, and you can use them over and over again. I keep a few in my car so no matter where I end up, I always have something I can use as an alternative to plastic bags. I noticed shopping at the grocery store how many little plastic bags I was using to put fresh fruits and vegetables in, without even thinking about it! Here, you can even find reusable produce bags very inexpensively on www.etsy.com
Use a Waterbottle or Thermos - Even Starbucks will put your drink in a Thermos if you bring your own! You can avoid plastic water bottles or Styrofoam cups by keeping a washable drinking container instead.
Reusable Sandwich Bags - I'm the oldest of three kids, and when my mom packed our lunches in grade school, we each had a sandwich, maybe some carrot sticks, grapes, and a few crackers. That's 4 plastic bags per kid, which makes 12 every day! It's more economical and better for the environment to have reusable ones.
Compost - Anything that rots can be composted. By composting our food waste, we keep it out of landfills. Organic matter doesn't decay cleanly when mixed with the trash in landfills - instead the layers of garbage pile up, suffocating the decaying plants causing it to produce methane gas which is extremely harmful to the Earth's atmosphere. By using compost, we also reduce the need for chemical fertilizers resulting in healthier soil. You can even buy countertop compost bins that are small enough to keep in the kitchen for all your vegetable peelings or trimmings. Visit http://www.hellawella.com/indoor-composting-for-the-backyard-challenged/7823 for more information on how to compost even if you don't have a yard or garden.. It's super easy and makes a big difference to how much trash we produce.
Recycle - Unfortunately, not everyone is motivated to recycle. It is one way of conserving raw materials, reducing the trash in landfills, and helping create a more sustainable planet. Most of us can't avoid all plastic materials, but most plastic can be recycled. http://www.wikihow.com/Recycle has some great tips on getting started or continuing to make a difference.
Shop Bulk Foods - Most grocery stores have a bulk food section, and they will let you use your own containers if you bring them from home. Everything from pasta, nuts, and beans, to chocolate, spices, and dried fruit can be found in the bulk food aisle. If you bring those reusable containers or bags, you can avoid plastic packaging all together, buy exactly the amount you need, and it's usually cheaper than purchasing prepackaged goods.
This is Lauren Singer - a young woman who has dedicated her entire life to living waste free. She is holding a mason jar containing the only trash she has produced in two years. Now, she has altered her whole life style and is extremely dedicated to living waste free. Not all of us can do this, and not all of us want to - it's a lot of work! But something about her passion for the health of the planet is infectious, and she has a lot of easy ways we can all make a change and a difference - even if it's just a small step, it's still headed in the right direction.
You can watch her interview with MSNBC and get some tips on sustainable eating here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BMWQZkBgsM