Tag: zero waste

Top 5 Ways To End Plastics in the Oceans

Top 5 Ways To End Plastics in the Oceans

Let?s be straight up here. It?s not realistic to imagine that we can end plastics in the oceans completely. It?s too cheap and practical to ever get rid of plastic unless someone invents something even better.

Do you really think your next economy car is going to have a wooden dash?

What we can do, however, is minimize the impact of plastics. We can do that by rethinking how we make, use, and reuse plastic.?Here are some of the best ways to keep plastic out of the waste stream and the water, and attack the mess that we have already made.

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1. Society Must Become Less Reliant On Plastic
(and save money along the way)?

Care about creating a greener world? Now invest in it.The only permanent solution to the problem of plastic in our oceans is preventing it from ending up there. The easiest way to do that is not to use so much plastic.

Of course, that?s only ?easy? on paper. Plastics are so much a part of our lives it would be challenging to eliminate them entirely. But, they can certainly be reduced.

Single-use plastic products are one of the most significant problems but should be one of the easiest to eliminate. Take drinking straws, for example. They aren?t necessary for the vast majority of people, and yet you can hardly order a cold drink at a restaurant without getting one.

It?s interesting to note that, traditionally, the only place you weren?t offered a straw was at a zoo. Most zoos ban straws because they know they end up as litter, and are a choking hazard for the animals. This should have tipped us off a long time ago.

Today, however, many municipalities are implementing, or at least considering, bans on the use of straws. Even without a ban in place, here?s a simple thing each of us can do: when you order a drink, say, ?no straw, please.?

The same goes for plastic water and soda bottles. You don?t have to go far before you find a flattened water bottle lying in a park or on a beach. In spite of being partially recyclable, many of them end up in the garbage or escaping into the wild.

As consumers we have options. That plastic bottle of soda you?re reaching for in the convenience store fridge ? is there a can or a glass bottle you could choose instead? And remember: if you replace your single use plastic with reusable containers, you’ll save money along the way.?

If you use plastics, take responsibility for their disposal.

Need water on the go? Take your home tap water with you in a reusable stainless steel container. (Don?t even get me started on the foolishness of paying a for-profit company for bottled water taken from the same aquifers as your tap water!)

We can also decide to avoid plastics when there?s an alternative. As an example, you can use your own shopping bags. Past that, try choosing consumer goods that don?t come in plastic. Instead, make a commitment to choose products that come in cans, glass bottles, and cardboard boxes, all easily recyclable materials.

Even shopping for clothes needs to be reconsidered. Synthetic fibers add to the problem, too. Choose natural materials whenever possible, like cotton, linen, and hemp.?If you use plastics, take responsibility for their disposal.

Simply by putting your own garbage in a proper bin ? hopefully one marked ?Recycling? ? you?re doing what you can to ensure that particular piece of plastic ends up where it should. Every piece helps.

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2. Make Plastic Producers Take Responsibility

While it?s easy to say, ?I?m going to use less plastic,? the end-user is only part of the problem. At the top of the plastic pyramid are the manufacturers who have decided plastic is the solution to almost all packaging and manufacturing problems.

To be fair, it certainly seemed like a great idea at the time when plastics first came on the market. Cheap, versatile ? it was a wonder product.

Fast-forward to today, and the use of plastics has become so ingrained in the manufacturing and consumer packaged goods industries, it would be difficult to change course now without a sudden and unexpected burst of corporate altruism.

Still, this really is the place to start. There needs to be a greater allocation of resources to developing plastic alternatives. Producers should also be held at least partially responsible for what happens to their products at the end of their life cycles. This could include producer sponsored programs that manage the collection, reuse, or where necessary, safe disposal of the plastics that they source.

There needs to be a greater allocation of resources to developing plastic alternatives.

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Some companies do seem to be at least paying lip service to the issue. But are they really taking action or just greenwashing? ?Increased consumer demand, however, can help convince even a major corporation to alter its course.

Remember the Styrofoam Big Mac containers at McDonald?s? Consumer pressure led to the major decision to do away with them in 1990. Prior to that, McDonald?s used 2% of all the polystyrene made in the US. 28 years later, McDonald?s have now committed to eliminating all foam packaging globally by next year, and using only recycled materials in every location by 2020. It took awhile, but sustained public pressure eventually makes a difference.

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3. Levy Taxes and Fees On Plastics That Pollute

Very little plastic is made from renewable resources. That?s because it?s still cheaper to make it from oil. By taxing ?fossil plastic? production to the point where renewable or recycled plastic becomes more economically appealing, governments can force plastic makers to rethink their process.

Can we tax plastics that pollute and allocate those funds towards researching plastic alternatives?

There are new plastic alternatives being developed, including bioplastics and biodegradable plastics. The former is made from natural materials such as cornstarch. These are commonly used for food recycling and compost bags. Some are even edible, should they happen to escape the waste stream.

The latter are more like traditional plastics but are made to break down more quickly. While this is good news for animals that might otherwise eat the bag, they can still leech hazardous chemicals. Clearly, bioplastics are still being developed and have their challenges, but they are at least a step in addressing alternative packaging sources.

4. Allocate More Money for Cleanup

Right now, most of the money for ocean cleanup programs and studies come from donations. For example, The Ocean Clean Up began with Kickstarter funding. Today, they still mostly rely on donations, volunteers, and profits from the sale of branded merchandise.

What if governments played a more significant role?

What if some of the plastic taxes proposed above went towards removing plastic from the water, and stemming the flow of ocean-bound garbage?

We tend to deride the ?throw some money at it and it will go away? approach to society?s problems. But, in this case, that could really help.

Mind you, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated in 2012 it would cost as much as $489 million each year just to run the boats needed to clean 1% of the North Pacific Ocean with a traditional approach (as in trawling for trash). You could view that as either pessimistic or realistic, depending on your point of view.

Yes, that?s a lot of money. Unless you compare it to the $610 billion dollars the United States spent on its military in 2017. Suddenly it?s a drop in the bucket. You could clean up the oceans for more than 1,200 years on that based on the NOAA?s assessment.

Of course, the garbage isn?t solely the responsibility of the US. I?m just using these numbers for illustrative purposes. The money is out there. Just imagine what could be done if it found its way to the right people?

5. Take On the Problem at the Largest Sources

There are certain countries whose contributions to the plastic garbage problem far exceed those of other nations. Unfortunately, all of the countries in the top ten are developing nations. Other than China, none of them have the economic resources available to tackle the problem single-handedly.

global plastic polluters by country graph

Data courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

Rather than solely concentrating cleanup efforts in the middle of the ocean, we must also focus on contributing waterways.

For example, 93% of all river-borne plastic that ends up in the ocean comes from 10 rivers ? eight in Asia and two in Africa. Simply halting the flow of plastic already in those rivers before it hits the ocean could cut the plastic problem by more than 2.8 million tons.

Raising public awareness is helping with the plastic waste problem in developed nations, but it is realistically much harder to engage those who have extremely limited choices in developing countries.

It would take an enormous international effort to educate people on the ground, fund cleanups, and establish effective waste management programs in both developed and developing countries.

Economic pressure applied by foreign governments could also play a role, but sanctions sometimes backfire and end up hurting the people they?re supposed to help.

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We Are All Responsible. We Can All Make A Difference.

Removing 100% of the plastic from the all of world?s oceans and waterways is probably impossible. What is possible is to stop more plastic from making its way there, and get serious about initiatives to clean up the mess we have already made.

This challenge is going to take a united and concerted effort, and not from just from a few forward-thinking organizations.

All individuals, companies, and governments need to play a role. After all, the oceans belong to all of us, and all life on Earth depends on them. When the oceans are sick, the planet is too.

Once you?re truly aware of a problem, you can?t ignore it any longer. Researching and writing this article was a genuine eye-opener for me. Once your eyes are open, all you have to do is look around you and see the differences you can make in your own life.

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This article is an excerpt from Plastic In Our Oceans.?

Guest author Wendy Kathryn is a fish lover who writes at It’sAFishthing.com.

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From Frugality to Financial Freedom: A Path for All

A Growing Shift in the Way Americans Think About Money and Life

When Kristin Hanes decided to move into her boyfriend?s car to pay off her debt, she said she felt a lot of negative emotions. ?I often felt ashamed and scared, not wanting to tell people I lived in a car and camped in the mountains.? But she didn’t let that dissuade her.?And when she later lost her job at a radio station and was unable to find employment, she moved into her boyfriend?s sailboat and began writing about experiences. Today her blog, The Wayward Home, which chronicles her lifestyle change, is a huge success and allows her to live anywhere. Though her initial goal was debtless financial freedom, the continuation of her lifestyle change resulted in much more. Complete Financial Independence (aka FI).

Escaping the Hamster Wheel

It may be an uncomfortable truth, but Americans are becoming increasingly aware that the days of working for a company for 40 years and retiring with a fat pension, or 401K, and a gin and tonic on the porch of your paid-for house are long gone. Dreams of retiring in debtless financial freedom seem further away. Millennials in particular are woke to this and many are taking matters into their own hands. There’s a growing movement of people who are seeking to completely disrupt the status quo and do things differently. They gather online to share their ideas, successes, and failures. Their goal? Complete financial independence.

More and more people are seeking creative ways to escape the hamster wheel. They are learning that they can do with less and not notice. And they are discovering an unexpected freedom in living more authentically. Add to this the DIY spirit of the internet and the gig economy, and you have a complete disruption of the lifeplan?story taught by the Traditionalists – the generation on the way out. Put simply, the idea of settling down, working for 40+ years, buying a bunch of stuff that sits in storage, then dying, doesn?t sit well with today?s generation. And they are actively seeking a different way to live.

Okay, by a show of hands, who loves working a stressful, hateful job for 30-40 years, to pay off a massive mortgage, only to die of a heart-attack?at your desk or be laid off without a pension??Anyone? Anyone? – Millennial Revolution


FI/FIRE stands for Financially Independent/Financially Independent Retire Early and is a movement of people who are focused on spending as little as possible, and hence needing as little as possible, while investing wisely so that they can quit working as soon as possible.

The birth and spread of the online FIRE community is especially reflected in the Reddit thread ?r/financialindependence. But it is also seen in popular blogs such as Mr. Money Mustache – Financial Freedom Through Badassity which explores ways to live a frugal lifestyle in exchange for freedom. He retired at 30 after saving most of his engineering income.

Remember this ? money is not for showing off or spending on consumer shit, it is for making you more money to buy freedom and happiness. – The Escape Artist

Who are these Trailblazers?

FI/FIRE enthusiasts come in all colors. Some are working high paying jobs, investing carefully, and have set an actual timeline for retirement. Others are more interested in working less, living more, and learning how to live below the material expectations of our consumerist culture. Highly focused spreadsheet geeks share how they are maximizing their retirement accounts. Families share how they cut their cable bills by negotiating. FI groups and blogs have a wealth of information on ways to maximize dollars.? ?

In the winter we wore sweaters around the house instead of jacking up the thermostat. We used bikes to get around town whenever possible and tried to use public transportation for our commutes. All of these little things added up and we were well on our way to saving for our goal! – Freedom With Bruno

FIRE and ALICE: Why it Matters (and why it doesn’t)

Meanwhile, there is another acronym popping up in the news – ALICE. This United Way acronym stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. According to the United Way ALICE project, 43% of American households, though employed, can?t cover a basic monthly budget for housing, food, transportation, child care, health care and a monthly smartphone bill. When we truly break down all of the expenses required in our country simply to retain a job that pays less than $20 per hour, it?s not impossible to understand how this can happen.?

It really doesn?t matter that the unemployment rate is low if employment doesn?t cover basic life expenses.

For the ALICE group, the old system doesn?t fit anymore, either. College grads are shocked to find out that their degree isn?t worth the student loan they owe. Middle-aged, experienced professionals who find themselves priced out of the market are working 2-3 part time jobs to make ends meet and be able to cover their health insurance. The ?American lifestyle? has become too expensive, too confusing, and too demanding. People who are struggling to find financial balance and get out from under consumer debt are looking at creative changes they can make in their life to simplify everything, just as Kristen Hanes did when she moved into her car. This, too, is reflected in social media groups such as Living in a Van where people from all economic levels share ideas on how to live rent, mortgage, or location free.

Same Approach, Different Purpose

So we are seeing an interesting parallel across the board. Whether you are a 25 year old engineer, living in a box truck in the Google parking lot and trying to estimate when you can retire, or a 65 year old retiree, living in an RV and supplementing your Social Security with seasonal jobs across the country, your lifestyle adjustments have similarities, though your purpose is different. Lifestyle shifts are helping people realize they no longer need what they used to believe were necessities. And today, more than one type of person is looking for change for more than one reason.

This cross section between millennials focusing on financial independence and those merely trying to keep their head above water is unearthing a plethora of ideas that anyone can implement to help achieve personal financial goals. The?minimalism, sustainable living, and zero-waste movements are increasingly being interwoven into lifestyles in different ways by people from all walks of life who are searching for less stress, less waste, more time, and more freedom.

C?Mon, Isn?t Frugal Living a Wealthy Privilege?

But there is a difference in mindset between a person who chooses to elect a particular lifestyle choice (FIRE), and a person who feels forced to adopt a lifestyle change (ALICE). And that difference can make or break a person’s success. While there are plenty of reasons why clearing the clutter and materialistic focus out of your life can bring you both personal and financial freedom, adopting a more frugal lifestyle is best done out of choice than necessity. For many, it has become a fun game: ?how little can I get by on? ?But if you already feel deprived, the idea of having to go with even less isn?t inviting.

It doesn?t matter how much money you make if you spend it all. This is why we always hear about bankrupt NBA players and musicians. – Retire by 40

For example, if you’ve been struggling already and someone tells you that you now have to get down to $2 per meal, it may not sound like a fun game. Yet the $2 meal topic was so hot in one Facebook FIRE group that within one hour of the initial post, 138 responses popped up addressing this question: ??One of the hardest things to get on board with is $2 per person per meal. What is the community doing and how can we get better??

Of course, the realities of layoffs, healthcare emergencies and student loan bankruptcies are front and center for many.? But there are things that can be controlled and others that cannot be. So we might as well focus on what we can control. Spending is one of those things. People who are focused on the idea of financial independence experience excitement rather than deprivation when they discover ways to slice their overhead. And they are sharing their discoveries.?

Money Stories: How to Unlock Your Joy

Those who elect to adopt a more frugal lifestyle and make it fun have a better chance of making it work than those who do so grudgingly.?For those in ALICE, the $2 meal may feel more like a mandate than a choice, and this lays at the crux of the issue. The actual activity of shopping for, cooking, and eating the $2 per meal is generally the same.

Your mindset is one of the most powerful forces behind your decision-making process. – Think Save Retire

1. The Money Stories We Adopt Are Powerful

Part of this enigma lies in the stories we tell ourselves. Our ideas about money and possessions are integrated with our self-perceived value. It may feel pretty cool living in a van, eating a can of tuna, while socking away tens of thousands a year in 401(k)s, IRAs and other investment vehicles.

But in the van parked next to?you, you may find someone who’s lost his job and is in transition,?eating the same can of tuna, and feeling like a failure. While the former is finding joy in how much she’s saving, the latter is perhaps ruminating about how low he’s fallen. She feels free, he feels trapped. We empathize with him. They are both presently?eating, sleeping, and showering?in a similar fashion.

2. Our Cultural Money Stories Might Just Be… Marketing

If part of your story is that successful people drive expensive cars, you will equate older, cheaper cars with unsuccessful people. So, if you happen to be behind the wheel of an older, cheaper car, you’re going to feel like a loser. Meanwhile, another camp looks at expensive cars and wonders why anyone would spend tens of thousands on a machine that will depreciate as soon as they purchase it. According to their narrative, buying an expensive car, especially if you have to finance it, is the loser move.?

I?ve always been a bit disturbed by the American consumerist mentality. We live in a disposable society. Some people will trade in a perfectly good car just because they want a new one. – 1500 Days

3. Which Money Narrative Do You Choose?

Everyone?s got their own money narrative. Mr. Money Mustache?s narrative incorporates a bit of?stoicism when he says that overcoming one?s own insatiability will lead to a good life. He makes a clear distinction between happiness and pleasure. He says that by??focusing on happiness itself, you can lead a much better life than those who focus on convenience?(and) luxury.? But to do this, you can?t follow the ?lead of the financially illiterate herd that is the TV-ad-absorbing Middle Class of the United States (and other rich countries) today.?

Happiness comes from many sources, but none of these sources involve car or purse upgrades.?MMM

Whether you are trying to escape ALICE or going for FI/FIRE, the practical application of frugality and minimalism is the same. If people who are struggling can learn to look at frugality as a lifestyle choice rather than a necessity due to perceived lack, it could be a game changer.

The Even Bigger Benefits of a Simpler Life

The benefits of simpler living go way beyond financial freedom. People from all demographics and for all different reasons are learning to shed their super-consumer lifestyle for a simpler, easier road, regardless of where their particular road is going. And many are finding solace in realizing that, by needing less, they are rewarded with more than a sense of financial freedom.?

With frugality, there?s often a double or triple benefit. It?s not just saving the money. You?re going to reap an advantage in some other way. – Mr. Frugalwoods

1. How Not Giving a F**k Brings us More Joy

So, how do we get from always thinking we need more to learning to need less? For Mr. Money Mustache, the key to this transformation is a technique called Negative Visualization. By imagining that you have less than you already do, and that your life is more difficult than it actually is, you can train yourself to be grateful for what you already have. By practicing voluntary discomfort, such as experimenting with how long we can last on a hot day without the AC, we can work on “broadening our comfort zone while eliminating our fear of discomfort.”

The other tip: learn to stop worrying about things that are out of our control, and focus instead on those that we have a direct effect on.? For example, instead of stressing out about potential health problems you may run into in the future, throw that nervous energy into taking better care of the body you are in today.

2. The Other Weight Loss:? Having Less Stuff

Those who have given themselves permission to withdraw from the ?new shiny thing? addiction of the status quo are experiencing levity across the board.?Instead of “I can’t afford it,”? they say “what can I do differently?” For example, many save thousands because they no longer consider a high-end cell phone upgrade every year a given and have opted for a used model and a budget sim.?For FIRE, these thousands may go into their retirement fund. For ALICE, these thousands could free them from the slavery of consumer debt.?

When you stop caring about whether or not you appear to be in poverty, and cleanse your brain of the notion that your value is reflected in your possessions, you find more freedom, more time, more money, and more joy.?

3. Bonus:? Creating a World that Doesn’t Suck

Our motivation in buying as little stuff as possible this year has less to do with money than it does with wanting to be environmentally responsible …?and with recognizing that we already have everything we need. – Our Next Life

And, as it turns out, needing less also helps to create a world that we would actually want to leave to our children. For another uncomfortable truth is that our addiction to products and services is hurting our planet. And we really can’t afford to ignore this fact anymore when it comes to our daily habits. It’s not someone else’s backyard, it’s ours.

So think about the stories we tell ourselves. How can we do things differently? It’s not about depriving you of what you need, it’s about learning to need less. In the long game, our personal, financial, and planetary health all depend on us changing our stories from ?he who dies with the most toys wins? to something more like:

Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one?s self? -?Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo: Tommy Lisbon

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Hairy Legs Are Sexier Than Disgusting Disposable Razors

Spring is here. It?s almost time to bare our legs. What do women do? We shave, of course. And so I began, but one leg into the process, I stopped suddenly.

“What the freak am I doing? Using this disgusting, disposable, deadly plastic thingy?”

In my haste earlier in the day, I had purchased a pack of disposable razors without thinking. Now, I stood in the shower and stared at the razor. This thing will never decompose. And as I stared at it, I gagged. I couldn?t help but imagine swallowing it. For that is what happens to these things. They are swallowed by the earth. They are swallowed by animals.

Billions and Billions of Disgusting Disposable Razors

How many used, disposable razors are tossed every year? The most cited figure is 2 billion and the source is the Environmental Protection Agency. But here?s the thing, that source is a booklet called The Environmental Consumer?s Handbook which was published in 1990. In 1990, the population of the US was roughly 250 million. Today? Add at least another 70 million. And since these things do not decompose, it would be fair to say that there are currently well over 60 billion in landfills in the US alone.

Why Recycling Disposable Razors is a Pain

What about recycling? Turns out disposable razors?are not easy to recycle. Think about it. Who has time to take out the blades from their plastic casing? While there are some programs specifically designed to drop off or mail disposable razors, sticking to it is inconvenient and time consuming.

How we Became a Disposable Society

What?s really disturbing is that the EPA called us out on being a ?disposable society? almost 30 years ago. Their 30-year-old warning was that the country was facing a solid waste crisis because there’s too much trash and not enough places to put it all. And their #1 tip? Source reduction.

Simple right? Just stop making the damn things. But there?s a problem, and we are all part of it. Many products are designed to be disposed of, and we’ve all become programmed to accept this. There isn?t reduction at source. And there won?t likely be any time soon. Companies will not stop manufacturing disposable products. It?s how they make money. The only thing that we can do is to stop buying them.

Design for disposability is a tragic practice that has seen many negative impacts on the planet, from the excessive use of natural resources to the horrendous impacts that hyper-disposability has had on the world?s oceans. – Leyla Acaroglu, PhD

Your Wallet Doesn’t Like Them, Either

Over a lifetime,? you’ll spend $2,240 on disposable razors and produce 8,960 pieces of plastic. How did we come up with this number? We figured $1 per twin blade razor (more if you go with the fancy kind) X 4 uses per blade X 1 blade per week X 52 weeks in a year X 40 years of shaving.? That’s $2,240 and 8,960 pieces of plastic for one person. When you think about the power of compound interest, that money could be working for you in better ways.

Solution: Sexy Hairy Legs?

So, with one shaved leg and one hairy leg, I found myself jumping out of the shower and emptying the bag of disposable razors I?d purchased on the floor. I put them in a pile and took a picture, sent it to a friend and texted, ?I?m done with these deadly disposable razors. Let?s start a sexy hairy legs trend!?

?I?m in!? she responded. ?Let?s make T-shirts!?

Sexy Hairy Legs Club

While I would love for hairy legs to be considered sexy, I doubt it would go over well. In our culture, smooth legs are sexy legs and it doesn?t look like that is going to change on a grand scale anytime soon. But I?m not so much interested in exploring how women got here as I am in exploring what we can do about it now. So, what did folks do before the crappy plastic disposable razor hit the market?

Our Future is Our Past

The straight razor was invented sometime in the 1800?s in England. A straight razor, if properly cared for, can last a lifetime.

Straight Razor

I know what you?re thinking. ?There?s no way I?m gonna use that on my legs.? But it?s actually quite doable. And some believe it gives the best shave ever.

The safety razor, which uses replaceable razor blades, was first invented by King Camp Gillette around 1900. The razor blades are made of steel and can be recycled. There really isn?t any reason why we can?t go back to using safety razors and recycling the blades. This type of razor is actually becoming more and more popular with the zero waste and minimalist movement.

Safety Razor

Small Change,? Big Impact

The plastic disposable razor was invented by Bic in 1975. It cannot be recycled. It was designed to be disposed of after use. And thus it sits in landfills polluting our planet and endangering animals forever. Are we really so dependent on disposables that we can?t change?

Since it’s Earth Day, let?s look for obvious ways we can change our behavior to stop adding to the destruction of the environment. It?s been almost 30 years since the EPA suggested we stop using disposable razors. Are we ready to listen yet?

Seriously, these things are disgusting. Just imagine billions and billions buried in the earth. If we stop buying them, perhaps they?ll stop making them, and we can push beyond mere reduction at source towards complete elimination at source.

Used disgusting disposable razors

No matter how you decide to tackle the problem, whether by using a more sustainable option from the past, or perhaps from the future, stop buying these things. Even hairy legs are sexier than disgusting disposable razors.

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