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Single Use, Double Trouble

Preventing Plastic Pollution

Each year, more than 8 million metric tons of plastic debris enter our ocean, compounding the 165 million metric tons already there. Once afloat, plastics may break down, but they never disappear, posing a threat to every kind of marine life. That’s bad news! The good news is, you can help.

Eliminating single-use plastics from your lifestyle—the best way to prevent their eventual arrival in the ocean—is a perfect way to make an important positive conservation impact.

Many consumer goods we buy out of habit are designed for convenience but have dire long-term consequences. Fortunately, it couldn't be easier to make smart, simple choices that are good for you, your budget and our ocean. Let’s get started! Use these tips as your guide.

Take Stock

Think about the things you need and the purchases you make in an average day. Then, consider what types of plastic most frequently make their way to open water. Each choice you make presents an opportunity to choose reusable over disposable.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you fill a reusable metal or glass water bottle on your way out the door, or do you grab a single-use bottle from the fridge?
  • Do you pack lunch in reusable containers or grab pre-packaged things on the fly?
  • When you shop for groceries, do you bring a reusable tote or bag it in plastic?
  • When you buy a drink, how necessary is a straw? Does it still feel necessary when you consider that Americans dispose of about 500 million plastic straws every day?

Take Action

If you could create change in one month, would you do it? For each of the next four weeks, make it a priority to embrace and stick with a new ocean-friendly action that, while small, can make a big difference.

Skip the Straw

Straws are everywhere, but they are seldom necessary. Politely refuse straws at restaurants or whenever you find yourself faced with a choice. If you miss the straw—or if you or your loved ones need to use one—metal or glass reusable drinking straws are now widely available. Buy a few and carry one with you.

Bring Your Own Bottle (or Cup)

Fill a glass or metal travel mug or water bottle on your way out the door and keep it up all day! Whenever possible, visit coffee shops or convenience stores that allow you to fill your reusable bottle or mug.

Tote a Tote

Plastic shopping bags are a particular plague upon our ocean. They can be challenging to recycle, are easily airborne and, once in the water, they resemble jellyfish, which is confusing for marine mammals looking for food. Carry a reusable canvas or fabric tote with you at all times.

Recycle Like a Pro

We all do our best to make sure plastic, aluminum and paper products get recycled, but take a moment to really learn about what is and is not recyclable in your area. Ideally, everything marked as recyclable should be, but most municipalities have guidelines and exclusions for what their facilities can handle. Learn what isn't really getting recycled in your area and let this knowledge inform your purchases and habits.

Pack It Up

Meals on the go can be an opportunity to make real change—or a real drag for the environment. Convenience foods inevitably come shrink wrapped, encased in Styrofoam or snapped inside of plastic "clamshell" boxes. Start at home with reusable glass or metal containers and pack your own snacks and foods. You'll save money, eat better and eliminate the plastic packaging encountered when you grab stuff on the go.

Drink Local

When happy hour rolls around, check out the ever-increasing array of local breweries and distilleries offering reusable growlers that allow you to fill up in bulk at the tap and eliminate single-serving—and single-use—cans and bottles when you reach for a beer or cocktail. You'll get to enjoy high-quality, delicious, artisanal options while you're at it.

Take a Bow

Once you have taken a look at your actions and habits and made some of these important changes or swaps, congratulations! You’ve made a difference! But, don’t stop there. Make progress your new habit and keep looking for ways to keep “disposable” plastics out of your home—and out of the ocean! From your self-care routine, to your online shopping (or should we say shipping) habits, there is always another place to eliminate plastic waste.

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