There's something suffocating our planet. It's light, multipurpose, endemic to our modern lifestyles, and has a half-life of a few thousand years. It's called plastic and it's here to stay. Literally. Plastic products will live for anywhere from 1,000 to 1 million years. Let me give you a frame of reference for those dates. About a thousand years ago, paper and gunpowder were introduced. Europe moved into the Middle Ages. A million years ago, the Ice Age came to a close and Homo Erectus (our forefathers) started to walk upright and learned to use fire. So, if we calculate the life of plastic, who knows what our Earth will look like once all of the plastic we use is finally gone. I for one, certainly hope that we will still be walking on our back legs and using fire. But, we are smothering our planet in plastic waste. Couple that with our desire for Barbie-esque air-brushed bodies and who knows if we might start to be created out of malleable plastic.
But, this is Earth Week. This holiday's lifespan has been rather short. Just a mere 40 years, a blip on the radar screen of our planet. Despite this blink in our history, this date has galvanized many significant environmental landmarks, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the elimination of the catalytic converter. It's also an opportunity to talk about positive ways we can help our planet. Since plastic is suffocating our planet, I'm spending this week profiling anti-plastic heroes, as part of the Save My Oceans campaign. The anti-plastic heroes are artists, activists, politicians and even corporations who are offering inspiring ways to cut plastic consumption.
1. Fake Plastic Fish: Can you imagine reducing your plastic consumption to virtually nothing? Hard to imagine perhaps, but certainly do-able as Beth Terry has shown all of us. The humble Oakland, Calif. resident offers meticulous accounts of her monthly plastic use (a slim half ounce in March). She's so meticulous that someone suggested she should have corrective laser eye surgery, so she doesn't have to wear plastic contact lenses. Her heroic efforts should inspire, not deter you, because every little bit makes a huge difference.
2. Counting Crap. Yes, this is how Sara Bayless spends her free time. But she's counting our crap, namely all of the garbage that this Santa Monica, Calif. resident finds on her beach. She's been at it for over 110 days, has collected over 450 pounds to date and has a couple hundred more days left. This isn't a paid job for her. She happens to be a teacher. I must thank her because this is the beach that I happen to frequent and every plastic cup or bag that is now removed, from what could otherwise be a pristine beautiful landscape, is because of her. Even if you don't have time to start hauling trash from your local waterway every day, spend one day a year at a beach-clean up.
3. Plastic Bags Blow. One man, Ross Mirkarimi, was inspired by our global friends in Bangladesh who passed the first plastic bag ban worldwide. He brought the concept to the residents living in the windy hills of San Francisco. What better city than one populated with early adopter liberal activists to test the appeal of canvas instead of plastic. The city council member made national news headlines when he ushered through the passage of the first plastic bag ban in the U.S. It has since spread to all corners of our nation, home to both tea party activists, coffee party partakers and everyone in between. Get involved today to ban plastic bags in your community.
4. Canvas vs. plastic. When I was in college, if I wasn't in class, I tended to be marching across campus with a troop of activists and a bullhorn. Leslie Hartman has taken a different tact to improving the world with her meticulous devotion to eliminating plastic bags around the globe. This college student has studied plastic bag bans worldwide, wrote her college thesis about the topic, consulted with Chico bags about their tracking of plastic bag bans and has successfully implemented waste-cutting policies at her campus coffee shop. She cut usage of non-reusable coffee cups on campus by 90% by implementing a hefty usage fee. She doesn't just talk canvas, but lives canvas.
5. Rising Above Plastics. Although Jordan Howard is only 18 years old, her accomplishments are already worthy of a full-length book. As a senior at the Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, Calif., this young greenie is an anti-plastic crusader. Not only is she inspiring, mentoring and educating people of all ages, she is putting her words into action. Jordan trained students on the harms of disposable plastics, presented solutions to environmental problems in her city, talked to Google executives about plastics and is the editor of "Green My Parents." This media savvy girl has been featured on T.V. shows and in films, and is featured in the new book "Girls Gone Green." In between it all, she does her homework and adheres to her curfew.
6. Green Bag Lady. One bag at a time, Teresa Van-Hattan Granath is changing the world. She, and her cohorts, known as the Bagettes, volunteer their time to sew hand-made bags from donated materials. She's distributed bags to nearly 10,000 people. With the average person using a whopping 500 bags a year, this means that the Green Bag Lady has prevented the use of 5,000,000 plastic bags. The demand is exceeding her output, so she posted do-it-yourself instructions. No prior experience with thimbles or needles necessary.
7. Tears for Fears. Third-grader Nandita Raj was fearful of our all of the plastic destroying our planet. So scared in fact, that it drove her to tears. But rather than wallowing in misery, her tears drove her family to action. Her parents swapped plastic bags for canvas and despite the social chills this middle-class family endures from carrying reusable bags and containers with them, they're committed activists now.
8. Storyteller. Annie Leonard was already an anti-plastic cult celebrity with her international online success, "The Story of Stuff." The Stephen Spielberg of the activist YouTube world is now back with a second story about bottled water. Leonard's quirky and entertaining video, The Story of Bottled Water, will hopefully inspire all of us to just say no to bottled water.
9. Washington's In the Bag Man. Representative Jim Moran introduced legislation last Earth Day to add a $.05 fee to all plastic bags from grocery stores and other chains nationwide. In its first months, the tax both drastically reduced plastic bag usage and raised money for a local river clean-up project.
10. You! There's thousands of other every-day heroes across the globe who are just saying no to plastic. It's that simple. Join the anti-plastic movement today. Learn more about the Save My Oceans campaign.