World Cleanup Day x Climate Week NYC
We celebrated World Cleanup Day this year during Climate Week by organizing a beach cleanup! We may be socially distanced, but millions of people from 180 countries came together to glove up, pick up, and stand up for a cleaner planet. So, what’s going on with waste? Why is this even necessary? We’ll give you the quick and dirty (literally) on some of the environmental issues we are facing before sharing more about World Cleanup Day and how Terra&Co. got involved.
War on Waste
Nearly everything we do produces waste in one way or another. What we eat, how we dress, and even how we brush our teeth normally results in something ending up in the trash can. Even worse, it might not end up in the trash can and instead becomes the litter we see in our neighborhoods, in our oceans, and alongside our roadways.
If you’re already feeling guilty about that one time you didn’t pick up your accidentally-dropped piece of trash, don’t worry, you’re not alone. 75% percent of us have admitted to littering. What’s worse, we’re all pretty lazy litterers, too. Most of the litter that’s found is within just 16 feet of a trash can. Researchers have discovered that Americans will only walk 12 paces before our intentions to dispose of trash responsibly fail and we end up littering. It may seem like that single wrapper or plastic bottle won’t have a big impact, but it does—especially in our oceans.
Waste that Ends Up in the Oceans
For those of us who don’t live by the ocean or travel by sea, we might not realize that our oceans have become rather large trash cans. It’s estimated that more than eight billion tons of litter ends up in our oceans each year. Why don’t we see this when we go on vacation? Most of the litter ends up circulating in what’s called a gyre. The ocean currents bring all of the plastic trash together, forming massive concentrations of debris.
You’ve probably heard of this being described as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—which is just one of five in Earth’s oceans. Located between California and Hawaii, this garbage patch spans more than 1.6 million square kilometers—roughly twice the size of Texas. The impact that this has on marine life is pretty grave—and we don’t even know the full extent of it. Many sea turtles, sea birds, fish, and marine mammals mistake plastic particles for food, which ultimately takes up room in their stomachs and causes them to starve to death. Recently, a dead whale was found to have a stomach full of more than 220 pounds of plastic bags, gloves, cups, and packaging.Even when they’re not eating it, plastic still has a deadly effect on wildlife. Scientists have found that there are around 700 species  that have been known to get trapped in plastic bags, nets, ropes, and six-pack rings—which ultimately kills them.
How Can We Fix This?
Plastic is all around us. It’s what most of our clothes are made with, it’s wrapped around what we eat, and it makes up most of the consumer goods that fill our stores. It’s unlikely that we’d ever be able to completely get plastic out of our lives, but there are a lot of ways we can make easy changes that have a significant, positive impact. Cut down on single-use plastics. Single use plastics are the things like bags, cutlery, bottles, coffee cups (yes, most of these contain plastic), and wrappers that are typically just used once before being thrown away. Bring a reusable bag, have a cutlery set with you at all times, and use a reusable coffee cup. You can even start with just one day a week (check out Plastic Free Fridays).
Shop at bulk stores. Food packaging makes up a lot of the plastic waste we see in landfills and as litter. You can improve your impact and your health by buying things like nuts, seeds, grains, coffee, tea, flour, and oils in bulk. Head to a bulk store or local organic grocery store to see if they have all of your favorite healthy foods with all of the plastic.
Check out zero waste brands. Many brands are producing products that have minimal plastic (or even none at all!). See if you can make some changes to the products you normally use by switching to a shampoo bar, zero-waste deodorant, plastic-free mouthwash or biodegradable toothbrush and toothpaste. Clean up your closet. Having an ethical wardrobe has never been easier. You can shop with brands who use natural fabrics instead of plastic, or those who even make their clothes with recycled marine plastic waste!
Participate in World Clean Up Day Everyday
As one of the biggest civic movements in history, there’s nothing quite as inspiring and impactful as joining people around the globe in World Cleanup Day 2020. We participate in beach clean-ups every year, and we encourage you to plan your own throughout the year. We should all do a Digital Cleanup every once in a while because around 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from our internet and data usage (plus, it feels soooo good to delete those old emails!). So, delete some apps, get rid of some of those saved photos, and clean your mailbox up. You’ll feel so much better afterwards (and so will the planet).