“It’s Just One Straw” – Said 7 Billion People

Convenience and a fast-paced lifestyle are themes of modern day society that have always been happening in the background of my life – It’s not until a few years ago that this background has made it’s way to the forefront, and I’ll tell you why – Everything each one of us does has an effect on the entire world – the things we choose to buy, the things we choose to “throw away,” involve so much more than just us.

If you know me, you know I tend to get metaphysical real quick, but let’s just ponder something for a second:

The little red plastic stirrer I used to mix the sugar into my coffee 4 years ago on one of the mornings I was headed to work is somewhere on this earth today. Maybe it’s sitting feet deep in a landfill, maybe it’s sitting in the belly of a bird who mistook it for food, or maybe floating in the ocean along with the other trademark plastic disposables… either way, it’s still out there. My intention behind writing this is not to make people feel guilty, I don’t think anyone needs that emotion in their lives and I also don’t think it’s quite motivating, but what I can say, that I think should make us feel empowered, is that this scenario could be avoided every single day by our efforts and actions.

No one wants to cause harm to our streams, oceans, and atmosphere, except maybe a few who profit substantially from polluting them, although they would be smart to rethink their priorities for humankind and for business as it is unsustainable for both. Correct me if I’m wrong, but overall I think people would like to experience clean oceans and breathe clean air and would like for their babies to have that chance too. Going back to the idea of convenience and a fast-paced life, I think our entire socio-economic system creates an environment in which people do not have the time to consider earth. I don’t think people have the time to make enough home cooked meals, ultimately making people dependent on convenience items such as processed packaged food options. I don’t think people have the time to think twice about where their food, clothing, furniture and any other consumable comes from to decide if the company standards are environmentally sound. We are go go go all the time and that has led us into fast food, fast fashion, fast everything.

This leads me to my next thought – What is the price of convenience?

What happens when we are finished with our coffee?  Or when our mascara runs out? Or what happens to the forever21 clothes that are no longer trendy?

I like to think our stuff gets recycled, reused, repurposed, but the reality is, not nearly as much material does get recycled. According to a National Geographic article, “91% of plastic isn’t recycled.” The study also points out that, “Much of the growth in plastic production has been the increased use of plastic packaging, which accounts for more than 40 percent of non-fiber plastic.”

The U.S. EPA estimates that textile waste occupies nearly 5% of all landfill space. While the EPA estimates that the textile recycling industry recycles approximately 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste each year, this only accounts for approximately 15% of all Post Consumer Textile Waste, leaving 85% in our landfills.

More than 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry. The cardboard that envelops perfumes, serums and moisturisers contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest each year. 

If this level of consumption continues, by 2050 there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in landfills the equivalent to 35,000 Empire State Buildings. 

What at first was absolutely disheartening made me realize I can choose to be part of the solution to improve the planet every single day. Just by me bringing my own water bottle and utensils, metal straw, and Tupperware I am reducing a significant amount of waste. Taking it a step further we can all think twice before we buy and ask ourselves if we really need it.

Now imagine if each one of us made one change every day? Despite the hectic fast-paced days we humans experience, we can remember to slow down, to be mindful and make conscious choices that are more compassionate towards our earth.

I’m curious to know what challenges you face when you think of making greener choices? What would you like to see businesses do differently in the future in regards to environmental sustainability?

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