The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, where 20 million Americans organized to demonstrate for a healthy environment. Today, nearly fifty years later, Earth Day is celebrated by over one billion people worldwide and continues to serve as an awareness and activation tool that drives individual behavior and policy change.
Most of us have a general understanding of the many threats our environment faces today. The production and consumption of plastic alone paints a grim picture. It’s everywhere and, as the Plastic Pollution Coalition puts it, “plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest.” Reading statistics like “one billion plastic bottles are made every minute” and “18 billion pounds of plastic are dumped into our oceans each year” is disheartening. What can any one person realistically do to turn this thing around?
Instead of burdening you with an overwhelming laundry list for ways you can make an impact, we’re taking a bit of a different angle. Today we are sharing a select few environmental resources we have found to be both useful and practical, beginning with awareness and following through to activation.
- Understand your plastic pollution footprint and create a plan to reduce it
Earth Day Network, a 1% for the Planet nonprofit member whose mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide, believes “that people care about their communities and will act to resolve problems when they have access to relevant information and tools to help them.” Their plastic pollution calculator is a place to start, to both visualize and understand your plastic pollution footprint and create a plan to reduce it.
- Reuse, reuse, reuse
If math isn’t your thing, skip the calculator and take a straightforward approach. From water bottles and coffee cups to shopping bags and straws, commit to replacing single-use containers with reusable ones (MiiR can help you with that!). For one day, take mental inventory of the plastic you reach for and ask yourself if you could do without or swap it for a more sustainable material. Any small change does add up over a lifetime, so make commitments you can maintain over time.
- When making a purchase, consider supporting businesses who are a part of the solution
Companies like Bureo and Everlane are innovating products that give new life to old plastic. Like MiiR, Bureo is a B Corp and 1% for the Planet member that creates skateboards and sunglasses from discarded fishing nets from the ocean. Similarly, online retailer Everlane’s ReNew collection recycles discarded plastic bottles (“about three million of them”) into timeless puffers, fleece and parkas. As part of their #ReNewToday campaign Everlane has also created a "No New Plastic Guide" with stats and simple suggestions for reducing plastic consumption.
- Commit to local involvement
MiiR partner Patagonia built Action Works, an online platform that connects “committed individuals to organizations working on environmental issues in the same community.” From posting events and petitions to volunteer opportunities, Patagonia Action Works makes it easy to get involved in your area and make connections with others who share similar passion and concern for the future of our planet.
Surfrider Foundation has been tackling plastic pollution head on for over a decade, and with chapters across the country, they make it easy to participate in beach cleanups and even locate ocean-friendly restaurants. As part of their Rise Above Plastics program, they also list ten ways to reduce your plastic footprint.
In Seattle? Washington Wild is hosting an Earth Day Community Clean-Up along the Burke Gilman trail on April 28. Learn more and register here.
Sources: Earth Day Network, Plastic Pollution Coalition