The theme under which the 2018 Earth Day was celebrated, was ‘End Plastic Pollution’. It aimed at encouraging people to reduce their plastics consumption and to adopt more eco-friendly materials as a replacement for polluting plastics. With pollution and climate change endangering the very earth that we live in on a daily basis, each and every one of us have a responsibility to make conscious and more informed choices when choosing materials such as plastics for the various requirements in life.
More than a billion people are reported to have celebrated Earth Day which fell on the 22nd of April – last Sunday. Some of the more significant people included environmental campaigners such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Emma Watson – popular North American artists turned activists.
According to CNN, 5 key things that have happened since the last Earth Day are as follows:
- The world lost its last male Northern White Rhino – ‘Sudan’ who lived for 45 years at the OI Pejeta Conservancy surrounded by armed guards – in March 2018. Sudan’s demise has left the future of this valuable sub-species in doubt.
- Amsterdam unveiled the first ‘Plastics-free Supermarket Aisle’ in February 2018, directing shoppers to use more eco-friendly packaging material such as new compostable bio materials and traditionally used materials such as glass, metal and cardboard. Governments the world over, are making efforts to reduce and eliminate plastics consumption at a national level – Britain taking the lead in aiming to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the year 2042. Plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton swabs may be some of the first items to be eliminated in this drive. The British government will also introduce a deposit on plastic bottles, requiring customers to pay an extra tax when buying single-use drink containers that will be refunded when those items are recycled.
- The Mary River Turtle found just in the Mary River in Queensland, Australia got in at number 30 on the league table of 572 reptile species on the Zoological Society of London (ZSL’s) Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) Reptiles list. The Mary River Turtle (or the Punk Rock Turtle according to CNN) – Elusor macrurus – has a head crowned by vertical strands of algae that grow on its body. It also sports face furniture in the form of long fleshy barbels under its chin and has the ability breathe through its genitals. The 40cm turtle has gill-like organs within its cloaca – a multi-purpose orifice used by reptiles for excretion and mating – that allow it to stay underwater for up to three days.
- Leonardo DiCaprio signs up to save the Vaquita Porpoise. The dolphin-like species threatened by illegal fishing, has become endangered in its own home – Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. With less than 30 individuals left on the planet, the world’s smallest porpoise’s name means ‘Little Cow’ in Spanish. Last year, Leonardo DiCaprio made a public plea via Twitter to the President of the Mexican government, to do more to save the round-faced porpoise. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in response, signed an agreement on the 7th of June, with DiCaprio’s Foundation and that of Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim, to launch a major last-ditch effort to save the Vaquita. It’s a notable example of the kind of pressure star and corporate power can exert on politicians, to take right decisions on important matters such as the environment.
- The US left the Paris Climate Accord. President Donald Trump put the US at odds with nearly every other nation on Earth when he decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. The Paris Agreement on Climate Change is aimed at cutting emissions and keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Experts say the departure of the US would make that significantly harder, due to the country’s climate footprint.
The world being that, here are a few steps we as individuals can take to end plastic pollution for the benefit of our own selves and our environment:
- Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw or simply drink straight out of the glass or fruit directly.
- Use a reusable produce bag. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag. These could be made from cloth, jute or paper.
- Give up gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic.
- Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
- Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging.
- Reuse containers for storing leftovers or shopping in bulk.
- Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop.
- Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag since many restaurants use styrofoam.
- Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter.
- Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you’ll be eating fewer processed foods!
- Don’t use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
- Ask your local grocer to take your plastic containers (for berries, tomatoes, etc.) back. If you shop at a farmers market they can refill it for you.
- The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. Use cloth/bamboo diapers to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money.
- Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It’s healthier and better for the environment.
- Make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.
- Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. Don’t use a lunch sheet to line the container, it defies the purpose. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single serving cups.
- Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.
Developed in reference to www.dailymirror.lk, https://qz.com/1001606/leonardo-dicaprio-and-carlos-slim-are-trying-to-save-the-mexican-vaquita-a-tiny-porpoise-nearly-extinct-due-to-bureaucracy/, https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/22/world/earth-day-trnd/index.html and http://www.greeneducationfoundation.org/nationalgreenweeksub/waste-reduction-tips/tips-to-use-less-plastic.html.