“There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard, Founder, Story of Stuff
Check out what’s right before your eyes, in your hands and around your space. How much of what you see has been created by humans? How much will be obsolete by tomorrow? By next week? By next year?
We tend to think that the lifecycle of possessions begins when we make a purchase and ends when we throw any given item away, but that could not be further from the truth. Stuff – “matter,” if we’re being scientific – never really goes away. It may decompose and turn into something else, but more likely than not, your stuff is destined to sit in landfills or waterways forever, polluting our atmosphere and planet.
According to the 2017 Global Waste Management Conference, global waste is estimated to rise to 2.2 billion tons by 2025. In the U.S. alone, the average person produces 4.4 pounds of waste per day. Collectively, the U.S. produces around 258 million tons of waste annually, a quantity that would cover Texas TWICE!
More than negative environmental impact, plastic is hazardous to human health. New studies find that microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic resulting from degraded plastic debris, are in our water and food. A 2019 study found that humans ingest around 5 grams of plastic a week, the same amount of plastic as a credit card. Microplastics contain chemicals that have been linked to cancer and a multitude of other health concerns.
Have you ever thought about plastic’s impact on climate change? Plastic pollution is a major factor in the extraction and release of fossil fuels that contribute to the climate crisis. The entire lifecycle of plastic is fossil fuel-intensive, from petroleum extraction to production to eventual disposal. It is estimated that by 2050, global plastic production will emit 2.75 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants.
Waste has unfortunately become a negative byproduct of our daily lives, but it doesn’t have to be! According to 5 Gyres’s Plastic Ban List, the top six sources of plastic pollution (food wrappers and containers, bottle and container caps, plastic bags, straws and stirrers, and take out containers) can be easily eliminated from everyday life. Companies like today’s partner, Klean Kanteen, offer reusable alternatives that make it easy to transition to a low waste lifestyle.
So, how can you start reducing your waste consumption right now?
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.You’ve heard these words since you were a kid, and they ring truer than ever today. But here are a few more important “Rs” to throw into the mix:
REFUSE. As Plastic Pollution Coalition reminds us,”plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest. Refuse single use plastic.”
ROT. Make it your business to keep food waste and other biodegradable materials out of landfills by starting a compost!
A low waste lifestyle is possible and far more cost effective in the long run. Buying in bulk, exploring DIY options, and purchasing direct from farmers and ranchers are all choices that help to lower monthly bills and ecological footprints.
Think about the full lifecycle of a single-use product. How was it created? How did it end up in your hands? How will you dispose of it? The answers to these questions all have serious implications for people and planet. Remember that every piece of plastic ever created still exists in one form or another.
Upload your responses in a PDF document. Include a screenshot of your social media post. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Since landfills are often hidden from view, it can be easy to overlook just how much waste we produce and its negative impacts on our shared planet. Check out this video made by our partner Klean Kanteen. Ever wonder how much waste you actually produce? Well, you’re about to find out!
For today,carry a bag everywhere you go and collect everything that you would otherwise throw away. Don’t hide it! Carry your bag of waste proudly and invite conversations with classmates and community members. Show us the story of your day and include:
Conversations with 2 people. Who did you interact with? What did they say? How did they react?
A photo of everything you collected at the end of your day, separated into recyclables, non-recyclables and food waste/compost. Check out your local guidelines for recycling to make sure you properly sort items.
Next, consider reusable options. Pick two items and tell us how you could avoid creating that waste in the future. What is one small change you can make today to contribute to a less wasteful world?
Upload a PDF document with your photos and responses. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Schools produce massive amounts of waste. In the cafeteria alone, students use and dump countless plastic utensils, styrofoam trays, single use plastic water bottles, cups, straws, and more every single day!
Make a list of wasteful practices you notice at your school and outline solutions to these problems. Think about the cafeteria or dining hall, classrooms, sporting events, and more.
Next, choose one issue that you listed above and design an action plan for reducing this waste at your particular school. Need inspiration: consider recycling, composting, reusables, water, to name but a few starting points. Use this toolkit designed to help students reduce waste on campus from the Post Landfill Action Network as a resource. Answer the following questions:
Upload a PDF document with your responses. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
5 submissions will be randomly selected to receive:
Each time you submit a challenge, you get an entry. Complete Green, Greener, and Greenest to triple your chances!
Extended deadlines and extra credits do not apply.