I did something that now seems a little crazy, but….I took a basket home. One of their shopping baskets home. I didn’t want to use a plastic bag and I didn’t have my reusable ones. I didn’t just want to buy a new one and I didn’t want to carry the things I had bought in my hands. So we just put everything back in the basket after paying and took it to my car. It was terrible, but I did prevent myself from using at least 3 plastic bags.
Now it’s just staring at me while I write this blog post…
In other news, I’ve successfully gotten rid of 1/3 of my closet (clothes and shoes), which for me is a great step in the right direction. I know it doesn’t really have to with plastic, but it does have to do with being less wasteful. I’m trying to reduce the amount of “fast fashion” pieces that I own, and stick with more basic pieces that could last a while. I have found some really good basic pieces in Target and thrift stores before, like jeans, jumpsuits, and dresses that will help me limit the amount of trendy fashion that I take part in.
SO now I have a Target basket, but I also have three paper bags filled with clothes to donate. I think that’s definitely a win. I definitely have a long way to go in terms of my closet, but I’m making progress.
I also, very aggressively, stopped my best friend from using a plastic straw at the restaurant we went to. I have to try and help those around me stop their bad plastic habits. And I did. Very aggressively.
I think on Day 6, today I’m going to just stay at home or try and go to my local bulk/zero waste store, Verde Market. It has been extremely rainy, but I will try to get out there and challenge myself to not use any plastic.
Are you taking part in the challenge? If yes, what have you been doing?
Hey guys! I’m finally back with another episode. I know it’s been quite some time since I posted one, but it has been a couple of crazy weeks for me. Nonetheless, I’m back with another episode and this time I’m accompanied by one of my fellow classmates, Adrian Figueroa. He is a senior, like me, at Florida International University studying Environmental Studies. We kind of talk a little about everything relating to our field and what it is like being environmentalists in this world and at our age. We touch on some issues regarding diversity within our field and things that we would do to help move that forward.
I hope you enjoy this longer episode and I will talk to you guys in a week (hopefully!).
That time of year where we have to discontinue our binge-watching and get our lives together for.
BACK TO SCHOOL!
I’m entering my final year at my university, but this year is different. I’m trying to be zero-waste this year, which makes shopping for school supplies a bit complicated.
I headed to Walmart with my brother the night before my semester starts, which was the worst idea I could have ever had, but we started to hunt for our supplies.
I then realized, that I have to be as zero-waste as possible. It’s really hard to do that when all of the pens, pencils, markers, and other writing utensils come in plastic wrappings. Sure, the backing is cardboard (which we can recycle), but the wrapping covering them is plastic.
One of the blogs that I follow for zero-waste inspiration and shopping is called Package Free Shop. In this store you can find all sorts of package-free items like razors, toothbrushes, shopping bags, and other such things.
For back to school, they added some school supply items that are package free and sustainable. They have recycled paper notebooks, binders, and folders. They also have 100% cotton pencil pouches and book bags. I also recommend if you already have pencil pouches or notebooks that are half filled, just keep using them. If they have a rip, just do some basic sewing and fix it. That is one way that we create waste: by just throwing things way because we don’t like the anymore. There are DIY ways to just revamp something that we do not like anymore. Try to find those ways. If you really don’t want to keep it anymore, but it is still a good item, then just donate it to Goodwill or other secondhand-stores around you.
If you can’t get your supplies from this website and Walmart is just closer, then try to find the least wasteful things.
Pilot has pens that are called B2P (Bottle-2-pen), which launched in 2010. The gel ink and ball point pens are made from 89% and 83% recycled plastic bottles respectively. They are all 100% refillable.
Notebooks are for the most part recyclable, but you can always try to reuse the ones from the last semester or school year. This way you can reduce the amount of waste you are causing. Always try to save things you used from the previous year so that you can use them for the following semester.
If you are in the market for a new notebook, there are these super cool reusable notebooks that I found out about last semester. They are called Rocketbook. It is a reusable, digital notebook. There is an app that the notebook goes with where you just upload the pages to and then erase it when you’re done.
Here’s how it works:
Choose a destination. You use symbols at the bottom of the pages that connect to your Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, iCloud, iMessage, or Email. Each symbol represents a course that you are taking or a specific destination.
Scan your pages.
To erase your notes, you just have to wipe them clean with water and a cloth. It’s really simple and can be used an endless amount of time.
It’s always a little difficult to be zero waste, but you just have to be conscious about the items you are grabbing and buying and how you can reduce your waste. Will it be recyclable? Can I refill it? Can I donate it when I’m done?
I’ve been away for around a week and for good reason.
This summer I had the chance to be an intern at Everglades National Park through a program called Latino Heritage Internship Program, LHIP for short. I was one of two LHIP interns at the Everglades. My job was to work with the education department and help them make their Nike Missile Site Program better.
I had the chance to explore new places in the park and around the park. Sadly, my internship has come to an end. To conclude it, LHIP hosted a conference in Colorado.
We started our conference in Denver, Colorado in the Intermountain Regional Office for the National Parks Service. We got workshops relating to USAjobs.com and federal resumes. We also had the chance to present to the other 42 interns about our projects or what we spent all summer working on or doing. After the workshop, we started our travel to Boulder, Colorado, where we would have dinner and drive to Estes Park to sleep. Estes Park is the town right before Rocky Mountain National Park on the east side of the mountains.
The plan for the Rockies was to get an exclusive tour of the park since only one of the interns within the program had been working there. We had three “breakout sessions” where the group would be split into three and each person was able to go to two sessions. The three were fire and rescue, llamas, and trail maintenance. I chose the trails and llamas (of course). We were able to see how the rangers in the park are able to keep the park clean and maintained. They use horses for trail work and llamas for the backcountry bathrooms since the park is composed of mountains and you can’t exactly get up there by car.
Here are some pictures of the llamas. We were able to walk them and be with the three llamas that the park leases for a couple of months. Their names were Dorito, Wilson, and Hector.
We were also able to make some stops before getting to the breakout sessions.
The park rangers that guided us took us to the highest peak in the park, where the altitude was no joke.
This trip was an incredible experience. I was able to connect with 41 other Latinos who were also heavily interested in working towards saving our environment. I had never been around a group as incredible as this. We all connected right away and still talk to each other every now and then. We’re already planning a reunion!
The point of this blog wasn’t just to talk about my trip, but to maybe persuade you to going to the closest national or state park. Get out and experience nature for an hour or a whole day. Disconnect and enjoy what this earth has provided you with. Get out there and find your park!
I think this question has a pretty simple answer: if we don’t, then we will seize to exist.
Morbid, but true. Our overall temperature is increasing. I remember sometime in 2014, scientists were saying that if we increased in overall temperature by two degrees Celcius, then we were all going to burn to a crisp. Here we are, in 2018, just a degree away from the two. If that doesn’t make you care about the environment, then I honestly don’t know what will. According to NASA, 2017 was 0.9 degrees Celcius warmer than average temperatures. THAT’S ALMOST A WHOLE DEGREE!! IN JUST ONE YEAR!!!
This video was from 2013, since I couldn’t actually save the 2017 one (which I linked in the above paragraph).
The Earth is warming up people!
Yes, using and throwing away plastic is awful because it ends up in ocean and in fish and eventually in our bodies, but there is another reason why single-use plastic sucks: it’s made from fossil fuels.
If that sentence didn’t just give you an epiphany, then let me break it down (see it what I did there? It’s punny) for you further.
Plastic in the United States is now most commonly sourced from the nation’s production of “abundant and affordable” natural gas. Natural gasses like ethane and propane. Do those sound safe? Because they’re not. These are also byproducts of petroleum. So, yes, both the oil and gas industries in this country are so happy that this nation makes so many single-use plastics. This is also why they have not been banned in our country. Sadly, everyone in this country and its politicians only care about one thing: MONEY.
In the US alone, producers of polyethylene are expecting to increase production capacity by as much as 75% by 2022. Why? We don’t need to do that. This is why I’m trying to encourage everyone I know to stop using single-use plastic. All we’re doing is releasing awful toxins into our ozone layer. An ozone layer that is already being extremely polluted by our cars, our businesses, factories, trucks, and anything that releases carbon dioxide.
But carbon dioxide isn’t even the worst chemical we are releasing into the ozone. Methane! Cows release methane every time they go to the bathroom. So by eating less cow meat and products, you are decreasing the supply of cows needed to produce the products. Hence, you are already helping the environment so much.
Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, in terms of its contribution to global warming. I’m not telling you to become a vegan, because God knows I can’t do that, but maybe try eating more fish or find alternatives for meats. Veggie burgers are delicious. Almond milk is way better than cow milk and it makes you feel better. Chicken meat is just as versatile as red meat.
I’m not here to try and force you to do anything you don’t want to, but I am here to try and make you more conscious about your decisions and how it will affect the rest of the planet.
Sure, it’s easy to just say “oops forgot I can’t use this spoon” when you get one in your delivery, but it’s also easy to just use your own utensils and write in the Special Instructions box that you don’t need a plastic fork or a straw.
I’ll leave you with this image by www. bezero.org that I think helps.
I personally believe in all of you. If my posts make every one of you make a small change, I will have been successful. It’s hard, I know, but you can do it!
Well, some garbage, mainly plastic, has been drifting onto their beaches. I’m not talking about some garbage, I’m talking about A LOT of garbage!
Let’s talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch first, then we’ll get into what is happening in the Dominican Republic.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is this awful idea that some terrible humans had. They said “Hey! We have no more space for unrecyclable plastics in our landfills. Wait! There’s plenty of space in the ocean!” The GPGP is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s ocean. It’s between Hawaii and California. They estimate that 1.15 to 2.14 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Sinc plastic is less dense than water, the plastic just kind of floats on the top and creates a patch.
The GPGP really sucks because of its size. The big plastics that are in the ocean will eventually deteriorate into microplastics because of the sun exposure, waves, marine life, and even temperature changes. These microplastics are literally the worst thing ever because they’re so incredibly hard to remove and the marine animals confuse them for food…
So now that you know about the patches of plastic in our oceans (still the worst idea ever), let’s talk about the Dominican Republic.
This is what it looks like right now:
Beautiful? Nope. Depressing? You bet.
For a country that thrives on tourism of their beaches, this is probably a nightmare right now. So far, sixty tons of garbage has been collected on the beach since last week. Yeah, that’s only what they have collected. The garbage being collected has been mostly plastic bottles and Styrofoam takeout boxes. The worst two unrecyclable things in the world.
Apparently, they love to throw garbage in their rivers, which eventually ends up in the ocean and then it’s not their problem anymore, right? Wrong. It comes back in the form of garbage waves. It happens quite regularly actually. I just found this out through this New York Times article. Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley for the Oceans, says this happens especially when there is a strong rainstorm.
Single. Use. Plastic. Sucks. Guys!!!!
Now let’s talk about how to really stop using single-use plastic. Sure, you don’t get a straw with your drink anymore! Great! But what about your detergent bottle that you just threw out? Or the plastic bag you just took from Walmart? Or the tons of toothbrushes you throw out every year? And don’t even get me started about the Chinese takeout box that you just threw away…
It’s so hard to change something you’ve been doing your whole life, but it could really make a huge difference.
Be more conscious about what you use, accept to take, and then throw away. I know everyone has heard “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Those are steps: (1) Reduce the use of anything that you know won’t be recycled or reused, (2) Reuse that awful take out box and reuse that plastic bag, don’t just throw it away, (3) The last step, if you’ve done everything you can to not throw that detergent bottle away, recycle it.
Not every type of plastic can be recycled and that’s the biggest misconception. Everyone tries to recycle every plastic, but you can’t recycle all of it, hence the PATCHES OF PLASTIC IN THE OCEAN.
Your plastics have this the little recycle triangle with a number in it. The number is super important.
The image above is super helpful and provides some examples based on the number of the plastic. Save it to your phone and the next time you want to buy something that comes in plastic, it might help you decide whether or not to take it. If the plastic is not recyclable, maybe if you really need the product, you have to find something that it can be used for after you don’t need it anymore. Plastic 1 (PETE) is recyclable, but 25% of the bottles in the U.S. are recycled. So, yes, they are recyclable, but that does not mean that your country will recycle all of it.
My point is: if you can avoid buying it, then don’t do it. Sure, it can be more convenient to go to Publix and buy your detergent in the plastic bottle, but you can take a big mason jar to your local zero-waste store and you won’t feel guilty. Just think about that DR beach. You won’t want to buy it anymore.
You can shop from brands that support reducing plastic waste and actually act on it. Take Adidas, for example.
They partnered with Parlay for the Oceans to repurpose the millions of pounds of plastic currently polluting the world’s oceans. Instead of remaining waste, Adidas found a really cool way to use recycling to their benefit (the shoes are pretty cool, too). They actually are aiming to ONLY use recycled plastic when making their shoes by 2024. It’s already 2018, so yeah it seems far away, but come on…they’re trying. They are the only ones (at last shoe company) trying for real.
Be more aware and be more conscious about what you spend your money on. It might not affect you directly, but any day now we could have Garbage Beach here in the U.S. or in your country.
One of the hardest things to adjust to is bringing my own reusable bag everywhere I go. It’s so hard to not forget it, especially because we are so accustomed to just conforming to the norm of receiving plastic bags. Well, it’s time to break that terrible habit.
For starters, oceans. Everything about the oceans. The animals, the actual water in the ocean, the reefs, everything. Sea turtles eat jellyfish and jellyfish look very similar to plastic bags. We might be able to tell the difference, but the sea turtles can’t. When they digest them, it causes blockages within their digestive system and eventually, they will die because of it.
On the left, a plastic bag. On the right, jellyfish.
Plastic bags are petroleum-based and so they don’t biodegrade. According to the EPA, Americans use more than 380 BILLION PLASTIC BAGS! BILLIONS!!!! A 2015 study estimated that there are more than 15 TRILLION pieces of plastic trash in the ocean.
Now that you know all of those super depressing facts, let’s talk about how to change our habits and thus using less plastic.
If you shop anywhere, you can find reusable cloth bags. Walmart sells them for a dollar. H&M sometimes has them on sale for $0.50. Ross has the big ones for $2. You can find them anywhere for less than $5 each. They sell them in different sizes so you can use them wherever and for whatever.
When you shop for groceries, think about how many produce plastic bags you use….it’s probably a lot. What you can do is just bring your reusable bag or you can spend $5 on a pack of 5 reusable produce bags from Target. You can use one bag for more than one vegetable or fruit and so you won’t need many.
You can also try to stop buying cherries in plastic bags. Cherries don’t need to be in plastic bags. They have this super cool natural skin that protects their insides. Wow, nature is great! But seriously, you don’t need to have cherries in a plastic bag or grapes or strawberries in a plastic container. Try to go to farmer’s markets where they don’t put their produce in plastic containers.
If you can avoid it, try to not buy things that are obviously not supposed to be in plastic containers. Did you ever read that article about the peeled oranges in a plastic container? It was from Whole Foods….so people make mistakes? Sure, but sometimes those mistakes end up with animals being found on the beach with dozens of pounds of plastic in their stomachs.
You can also avoid plastic bags through buying in bulk or at package-free stores like Whole Foods. They have a section in their stores where you can bring your own container (I love using mason jars since they’re glass and serve many purposes), tare it (zero the weight), pour your food in it and then pay by the pound. I think most Whole Foods only have things like oats, chocolate covered almonds, quinoa, possibly rice, trail mix, and other such things. Just by doing this, you can already reduce half of your plastic waste when shopping.
I could talk about this for days, but I will leave you with what I have written for now. If you have any questions, comment them down below!
Since working at the Everglades, I have made some new friends who, like me, are very aware of their waste. We talk a lot about how we always get side-eyed when we tell the Publix cashier that we don’t need plastic bags.
It looks something like this:
We talk about starting our own composts and how difficult that could be depending on your living situation.
We also talk a great deal about zero-waste supermarkets because if there is one thing we really hate is pasta inside a plastic bag. Or cherries inside a plastic bag. Or grapes or anything that has a natural shell, inside a plastic bag.
Yes, Whole Foods has things in bulk where you bring your own container and fill it up, but I live in Kendall and the only Whole Foods in Miami is in Coral Gables (approximately 45 minutes away with traffic). Sure, Wynwood is not any closer, but a new store of this kind opening up gives me hope for the future of zero-waste stores in Miami.
Verde is owned by two Latina women, one from Mexico and one from Colombia (like me!). They were tired of having to make such an effort to live waste-free and so they dwelled on starting their own business for two years until they finally decided to go for it! The store is not the biggest, but they do have some things that Whole Foods don’t.
They have SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER IN PUMPS!!! Let me explain why this is exciting. I have thick Latina hair and those Lush shampoo bars are not cutting it. Their shampoos and conditioners are all organic and made of just the right stuff. They also have bulk dish soap, all kinds, too.
They have metal straws, every type of wooden brush you would ever need, their own plant spices growing right there. OH! and they have a nut butter-making machine! They have all of the nuts you would want to but in your nut butter and then you just make it (One of their employees gave me a great tip on making nature Nutella…)!
Since today was my first visit, I only purchased the things I was looking for originally. I still have some shampoo left, but I needed some conditioner. Their conditioner is $1.12 per oz. I purchased some Castille soap, which works for everything, but mainly as a body soap. This was $0.45 per oz. The last thing I purchased and created was my very own trail mix. I think this must have been the most expensive item that I bought, but it was still relatively cheap. The only price I can remember were the peanuts, which were $4.99. I obviously did not buy a pound of just peanuts, but my trail mix did fit in my 1/2 gallon mason jar. My total for everything ended up being $22.56.
Thinking about my regular conditioner, body soap, and trail mix (that all come in plastic containers), I would have spent around the same, if not more, but this is guilt free.
OGX Coconut Milk 25 oz. bottle = $11.99
Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap – Unscented 32 oz. = $15.49
Planters Nut Trail Mix (for only 6 oz.) = $5.99
Total = $33.47
Tell me you see the difference…
In conclusion, stop making excuses. If you live in Miami, FL and want to start removing plastic from your life, this is a great way to start. If this is too far, then find your nearest farmer’s market, grab your reusable grocery bag, and get to reducing your plastic waste.
Two years ago, I was still using those awful single-use straws. I was drinking Starbucks three times a week and each time I would use a new cup. I wouldn’t even bother recycling it. Not because I didn’t want to, but because there are no recycling bins at Starbucks.
I saw a video one time…you know, the one where the turtle has a straw in its nose and there’s blood everywhere? That one. (I’ll link it for those of you who don’t know which video I’m talking about). It’s a terrible video and I cry every time I watch it.
We are doing this. There is no one else to blame. Elephants don’t use straws. Chimps don’t use straws. No other animal uses straws except for us. And the problem isn’t even just the straws. It’s just plastic, Styrofoam, non-recyclable items that are the problem.
I know we all live very busy lives and we are not always aware of home much waste we are creating in a day, but trust me, it’s a lot.
Here are some eye-opening facts that might help you stop the use of plastic.
– Over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement and ingestion.
– In the United States, we throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour – about 42,000 per minute, and about 695 per second.
– It takes 500 years for average sized water bottles to fully decompose.
– According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year. To put that in perspective, it’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year.
It’s not easy, I know. I am still struggling. I could watch 60 videos on the people who have achieved the zero waste lifestyle and still forget to reject a plastic knife for my bagel at Starbucks.
Hopefully, this blog will help you reach some of your person zero-waste goals. I know I still have a lot to go so this will be a learning experience for both of us.