OscarLeiva/Silverlight

The Earth Is a Pile of…Plastic, Food, and Fashion

Leti Bueno

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”Pope Francis

We all want to do our part to care for the Earth, right?

Well, consider this:

Humans purchase about 1,000,000 plastic bottles a minute.[1]

About 150,000 tons of food is tossed out in U.S. households each day, equivalent to about one-third of the daily calories that each American consumes.[2]

North Americans send 10.5 million tons of clothing to the landfill each year—that’s 30 times heavier than the Empire State Building.[3]

These are hard statistics that make us ask, What can WE do? In our efforts to be more conscious consumers, we are tasked to be more aware of where our purchases come from and where they go when we are done with them.

Plastic

Did you hear about the #PlasticFreeJuly Challenge this summer? To be honest, this summer was the first time I heard about this effort to cut out plastic use in our daily lives, and I am trying my hardest to be up for the task. Plastic Free July was started in 2011 by the WMRC Earth Carers in Perth, Australia. This global movement strives to dramatically reduce plastic use and improve recycling. Their vision is a world without plastic waste.

With our water bottle usage at an extreme, can we consider cutting back and joining in on a plastic-free lifestyle? Next time you’re out, bring a reusable bottle with you and fill it up where you can. Small steps will cut down our plastic pollution. If you do have to use a plastic water bottle, don’t trash it, recycle it when you’re done.

Food

Did you know that some supermarkets turn down fruits and veggies that are considered imperfect or “ugly?” That becomes food waste and can end up in our landfills, becoming a major source of greenhouse gases, mainly in the form of methane, a pollutant 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide [4]. A fruit or vegetable is considered ugly when it is misshapen, too large or too small. Then it never leaves the farm or goes straight to the landfill. There is nothing wrong with these delicious foods that still provide nourishment … they just aren’t consumer perfect.  Supermarkets are taking notice and making changes. Some are partnering with subscription services to get veggies and fruits not considered pretty enough into the hands of consumers. These are great efforts to cut back on their own food waste.

The truth is individual consumers waste more food than retailers. According to a 2010 estimate by the USDA Economic Research Service, each person in the United States wasted 290 pounds of food. That’s roughly $371 per person. Consumers waste about 18 billion pounds of vegetables to retailers’ 7 billion pounds a year. Fruit waste is 13 billion pounds of fruit, to retailers’ 6 billion. Waste is waste, and these statistics have to inspire us to do better.

Ways we can lessen our food waste can start with composting, buying less, avoiding bulk purchasing, creating a grocery list, checking in with neighbors (online or in person) to share excess food, and asking your food bank if they can use your extra fresh food for distribution. What are other ways you can lessen your food waste?

Fashion

What’s old is new again? Those high-waisted “mom” jeans were the thing in the 90s. Now they’re back again and fierce! It makes me wonder about all the other trends that are waiting patiently for their time to shine again.  Think about all that style that’s sitting in a landfill, contributing to more waste.

The reality of fashion waste can be mind-numbing to learn about. Fast fashion has become one of the biggest sources of pollution in the world.  Our clothes can take up to 40 years to decompose, releasing gases like methane, and harmful dyes and chemicals into our soil and water. [5]

What can you do? We need to learn to buy smarter. If you must purchase a clothing item, ask yourself, will I wear this at least 30 times? If the answer is yes, then go for it! Extending the life of your clothing will reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact. You can opt to thrift store shop, choose fabrics carefully, and host or attend a clothing swap. Repairing and caring for our clothing goes a long way for our Earth and your pocketbook. Shop environmentally conscious companies like Tonle for items that practice zero-waste or recycled methods for their clothing.

Making small changes in our consumption and taking responsibility for how we dispose of these items will have an impact on our environment. As a community, we can work together as caretakers of this beautiful planet.

Shop Consciously

[1] Forbes

[2] USDA

[3] Fashion Revolution

[4] UC

[5] PlanetAid