Climate Action Collaborative: Step away from the plastics | VailDaily.com

Climate Action Collaborative: Step away from the plastics

Susan Chipman
Valley Voices
Plastics have a very slow decomposition rate and therefore are sitting in our landfills and floating – islands of them – in our rivers and oceans.
Special to the Daily

It’s the holiday season which means parties, food, and fun. It also means you might run into an all too common frequenter at holiday events — plastic goods.

We’re all guilty when it comes to buying and using too much plastic. It’s hard not to. Plastic products are so widely used because of their low cost, versatility and water resistance, as well as their disposability. When hosting 30 people for a holiday party, we all have to make the choice: Do I want to do 30 people’s dishes, or would it be simpler to just throw it all out? Many of us face this choice and making the earth-friendly effort isn’t always what wins out.

Plastic comes in many shapes and sizes, including packaging, storage, furniture, and toys. It’s also used in construction, automaking, and in health care, among other industries.

But let’s look at the environmental impact of all this convenience. Plastics have a very slow decomposition rate and therefore are sitting in our landfills and floating — islands of them — in our rivers and oceans.  In some third world countries (and wealthier ones, too) plastic water bottles lay about wherever you look as if they were part of the landscape. 

There are other concerns with plastics as well. Some additives found in plastics are toxic and are seeping into our water and food chain. We have been told for years not to microwave in our plastic containers. Why?  Because of toxins from the plastic that will leach into our food. Also, it is estimated that only about 9% of plastics are recycled; the remainder lay about contributing to greenhouse gases. 

Solutions to the problem

What can we do as individuals? The answer is actually a lot. To begin with, buy a reusable water bottle and carry it in your car and on your person whenever possible. Buy washable mesh cotton produce bags and reusable grocery bags. Keep them handy in your car. 

Don’t buy single-use plastic bags of any kind — like sandwich bags. There are now many alternatives and several countries have begun to ban these along with grocery bags. Encourage your employers/employees to have a water station at the office where everyone can refill their water bottle instead of providing water in plastic. These are all things you can do today

There are reusable goods that now exist to replace all of the single-use plastic options we have come to know and love. Love plastic wrap — there are replacement products for that. Can’t get away from your sandwich baggies for lunch? There are washable, reusable products that easily replace these baggies, not to mention our trusty friend reusable tupperware!

It’s easy to think that making these simple replacements in your day-to-day life is a big effort, but in fact, all it takes is a glass of wine and an Amazon Prime account and you can order yourself all the goods you need to make the switch tomorrow (well the day after tomorrow). And with the gift-giving in the front of everyone’s mind this season, think what sort of gifts you can give that help your friends and family make the transition with you.

Finally, one last suggestion. Because it is the holiday season, let’s give our earth a present too by vowing to do one or two of these things and hopefully it will lead to more. Challenge yourself to see how little plastic you can buy this holiday season and throughout the year. Every little action helps our community achieve our Climate Action Plan goals of a 25% carbon pollution reduction by 2025.

The Climate Action Collaborative is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County 25 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.