Maybe our last article about plastic in the ocean scared you a bit, but now that you know what’s going on, it’s time to get motivated. The good news is that little changes in our day-to-day lives can have a big collective impact on reducing the plastic flowing into the ocean, and you’d be surprised how easy it is to form new habits. Here are some single-use plastic items you can easily swap out with reusable products so you’re not adding to the problem.
About a million plastic water bottles are purchased around the world every minute, and that number is growing. The convenience is hardly worth the cost: when purchased by the bottle, Americans pay about 2,000 times more for water than if they just took from the tap. The real shame is that most of these billions of bottles will not make it to the recycling plant but will be doomed to Davy Jones’ Locker instead.
Fresh water is an obvious essential when boarding a boat, but it’s high time to ditch hauling aboard cases of individual plastic water bottles wrapped in another layer of plastic wrap (cringe!). There are water tanks, water sacs, collapsible boxes, and refillable bottles of all sizes and styles for the whole crew. (And yes, many of these products are made of plastic, but long-term reusable plastic material is a start. Opt for something high-quality that is built to last.) Metal water bottles are lightweight and durable.
Cups, Straws, and Drink Accessories
Listen up, yacht-partiers: I don’t want to see another red cup on the deck, on the dock, or in the sand. You’re just going to set it down and forget it in five minutes anyway… was that sip of light beer worth a sea lion’s future stomach ache?
Every boat should be equipped with its own set of reusable cups and mugs, but don’t be afraid to show up to the party prepared with your own. The new trend is the functional yet fashionable metal pint glass, equipped with your favorite stickers and brands.
If you see a straw-sucker, please kindly inform them that America throws away upwards of 500 million of these little tubes every single day and that they are not recyclable. Straws have a tendency to find their way into some strange and very unfortunate places.
We don’t want to be party-poopers but straws, stirrers, plastic swords for olives and pineapple slices, and little plastic umbrellas are going to have to go. There are wood, metal, glass and paper alternatives so you can still sip in style, if you insist.
Bags and Packaging
It’s Friday afternoon and you’re racing to the store to get a case of water on your way to the marina. Your spouse calls and mentions that the group could also use some potato chips, a bag of hot dog buns, Dramamine, and a two-pack of sunscreen. As you’re checking out you get the text message, “OH! Toilet paper too. And a Snickers.” As you run back through the store to grab the T.P. you realize: Every single item I am buying is wrapped in plastic.To make matters worse, you left your reusable shopping bag at home. The convenience of a single-use bag is hard to say no to, especially as the clerk loads your goods into one or two without asking.
There are two parts to this: Firstly, challenge yourself to refuse the bag, even if you’re not prepared with your own. Maybe you have to take an extra trip from the shop to your car, or you play a reverse game of Jenga loading up the items into your arms. The inconvenience this time will act as a reminder for better planning next time. Secondly, do what you can to avoid heavily packaged items. This usually means less processed foods so your doctor will be happy. It also means less single-serve items like mini chip bags, which are extremely expensive compared to bulk purchasing. If you aren’t in a mad rush, consider moving packaged items like your hot dog buns into reusable containers to take onboard to avoid plastic accidentally blowing into the water.
You may start to feel daunted by the overarching plastic monopoly in our lives, but this is good! It means you are building awareness, and with awareness comes change. Take it one step at a time and don’t get discouraged when you make a mistake. We’re all in this together.
The sea thanks you.
Read other posts from Lauren's Learning To Sail SeriesASA 101, Part 1
Getting My Feet Wet ASA 101, Part 2
First Day of Sailing School ASA 101, Part 3
Sailing in the Clouds