Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Collective of Little Differences

The waters came with paper straws.

"Nice touch," I said to the waiter.

"I know," he said, smiling.

I drank two glasses of ice water with the one paper straw and it didn't disintegrate or make my water taste like newspaper. This experience was at the tail end of our family vacation in the airport in Orlando.

It's hard enough trying to do our part week to week when we're home, limiting the amount of single-use plastics that now account for 40 percent of the plastic produced every year, according to a recent National Geographic article.

That's 40%.

Damn. And 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations that can take hundreds of years to break down. Plus, microplastics are everywhere in our environment -- in our water and the air. Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. And eventually, even us.

So, what about recycling? There is some plastic being recycled, right? U.S. recycling rates of PET plastic bottles have historically been sluggish. In 2017 just 29.2 percent of PET bottles were actually recycled compared to the global average of 56 percent, according to the National Association of PET Container Resources. At least more large businesses like PepsiCo, Coca Cola and Walmart are setting bigger longer term goals of using more recycled plastic in their products. But we've got a lot more recycling of plastic to do to get there.

Today, there seems to be this backlash of "it's not that big of a problem; it's not my problem; nobody tells me what to do; I do whatever I want" mentality. It's absurd to us actually, the fact that we're metaphorically mimicking the movie Anchorman scenes where Ron Burgundy and his news team are walking through a park throwing trash on the ground. It's become such a partisan issue that the Trump campaign is selling plastic red straws to combat the evil liberal agenda of paper ones.

Wow.

Sure, plastic has made our lives easier and more convenient, especially when you have kids, and especially when you take kids on vacation. But my wife Amy wanted us to try and reduce our single-use plastic footprint on our trip (and everyday actually). So we brought refillable water bottles (some that have their own filters), reusable utensils, reusable storage containers for food, and metal straws -- all of which Amy just cleaned at the end of the day for the next day.

Nearly every place we went to eat and/or get a snack that wanted to give us single-use plastics -- lids and straws and such -- we politely declined every chance we got. We explained to both our girls what we were trying to do and why we were doing it. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando also offered paper straws as alternatives, which was a nice surprise, plus recycling for bottles and cans. Of course we couldn't get away with not ever using some single-use plastics, but we did the best we could.

In the end, it's not really a lot of work. A collective of little differences like this can go a long way in keeping our planet healthy.

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