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Plastic Free July.

Yes, I’ve heard of it before. No, I’ve never participated. Why? Well, I’ve always been one to use semi-sustainable options anyway. I reuse containers, I recycle whenever I can. I can’t remember ever throwing something out my car or left garbage behind when camping.

But. Some of those containers have been plastic. I have been known to use plastic utensils when I’m not at home. Coated one-use coffee cups with plastic lids. Plastic straws. I am guilty. It is so easy when you have 5 kids and 2 adults in the car to just swing through a drive through and pick up unhealthy food with plastic lined wrappers and plastic lined cups with plastic lids and plastic straws.

So why am I participating this year? There are so many reasons. The growing garbage patch in the ocean. The garbage on the side of roads - even in nice neighborhoods. The turtles with the straw stuck up its nose. The birds and whales dying from plastic in their stomach.

There was a picture that's been floating around social media of a very sick looking animal in what appears to be a run down zoo with the phrase “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” That sums up so much of what I am feeling about the Earth and animals right now. We cannot keep creating and using plastic one time then tossing it expecting that someone else will clean up after us or that it will magically disappear. It is killing the animals. It is killing the Earth. In the end, it will kill humans.

Did you know that if the entire world stopped producing plastic right now, there would still be at least 8.3 billion tons of plastic on this world? To put this into perspective, that's roughly the weight of 93.8 billion U.S. adults. There's only 325 million people in the U.S. as of 2017.

Did you also know that it takes around 1000 years for most plastic to start breaking down? Which roughly means that 30 generations from now (or your kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids) will still be cleaning up OUR mess. Think about that for a second. I’ll wait.

Now take a moment and think about your own garbage. You probably have never thought about it before, have you? Most people don’t think about it once it leaves our homes. I didn't until recently. I never gave much thought about the trucks that come take our garbage 12 or so miles across town. Or the boat the garbage is piled onto so it can be shipped 80 miles upstream only to be put on another truck and drove an additional 100+ miles into the desert (in another state) where it is then buried. Our garbage that comes out of our home is shipped more than 200 miles away and buried. Out of sight, out of mind.

So this year, we will be participating. The entire family. We will be refusing plastic utensils. We will refuse coffee cups lined with plastic. We will not use plastic straws. We will not be buying products from the grocery stores that have plastic.

We have kids, so to make this easy on ourselves and them, we set 3 easy to follow rules.

  1. We will NOT BUY anything at all in the next month that has plastic. No prepackaged food. No eating out with plastic utensils. And of course, no single use coffee cups. *gasp*

  2. We will continue to use anything plastic we already own such as cups, our phones, glasses, vitamin bottles, any food already in the house, etc.

  3. We will allow one plastic bag for any food scraps that cannot go into the compost. This one small plastic bag will be put into the freezer until garbage day - allowing us to put any other garbage we have directly into the can without a plastic trash bag.

I hope that we can make this work for the whole month. I hope, in fact, that this small adjustment will become part of our regular lives. I hope as a family we can end our use of plastic forever. And I hope that you will join us for this experiment. If you're not sure you can actually cut out plastic yourself, I get it. It seems daunting at first. Especially with a family as large as ours. But hopefully you will at least follow our adventure and maybe pick up some tips to help you along in your own journey. And hopefully we can stop the Earth from looking like this: