I believe we as consumers can make simple decisions that reduce our contribution to climate change.

By Marsha Doucette

 

Last year, I stayed at an all-inclusive hotel, and what I experienced was an eye-opener. At the hotel, every drink came with a single-use plastic straw – the sheer amount of waste led me to better understand the potential impact, and I learned some disturbing facts. Five hundred million plastic straws are used every day in the United States alone, and most plastic is made from a petroleum product – a fossil fuel.

Manufacturing plastic creates billions of tonnes of carbon pollution, which is the key cause of climate change. As well, I learned the harmful effects that plastic has on our oceans, which made witnessing this careless decision of others even harder. The largest concern is that these plastics end up in the ocean. Once in the ocean, plastic breaks down extremely slowly into microplastics, which are often consumed by marine life, mistaking the particles for food.

With all of this information, I made the simple choice to stop using single-use plastics and started to educate anyone who would listen on why they are harmful to our planet. Eventually, I took it one step further and spoke with the manager of the hotel. When he didn’t take me seriously, I then called and emailed the head of the hotel chain to voice my single-use plastic concerns.

Upon my return to Toronto, I reached out to a few friends to see if they would be interested in learning more about simple things they could do for our planet, specifically relating to single-use plastics. With a variety of personalities and passions, a collective of Torontonians and restaurant-owners emerged to become Strawless Toronto.

As it turns out, we were not alone – many others took similar steps toward making this easy change, and the impact has been significant; indeed, most major hotels no longer serve plastic straws. I’m not saying that was my doing, but I do believe that each one of us helped, and hopefully, millions of straws will no longer be manufactured or disposed of in our oceans.

This is why I truly believe that we can all make simple changes to help fight climate change.

What can you do? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

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Reduce Your Single-Use Plastics

Why? In a nutshell, there is a lot of plastic. Every minute, one million plastic water bottles are purchased, and one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean.

Say no to plastic straws, and if you must use a straw, carry a reusable one. Bring a tote/reusable bag to the grocery store or anywhere you shop. Use a reusable coffee mug or enjoy your cappuccino at the café (coffee cups are not recyclable). Stop buying bottled water.

 

Eat Less Meat

Eating less meat is a step in the right direction. Greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture alone contribute to 24% of fossil fuel production globally. To quote Bill Gates, “Cattle are a huge source of methane; in fact, if they were a country, they would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.” Make the simple choice to have a vegetarian meal a few times a week!

 

Buy Locally When You Can

Have you ever thought of the path a product like clothing or food takes to get to you? Something made in Vietnam or China has to travel a lot further to you than if it came from Canada or the United States, and that produces additional pollution and a greater carbon footprint. While it’s not possible to buy everything locally, when you start to realize the carbon footprint of each item, it makes you think twice about what you are buying. Shortening the transportation of what we consume can help mitigate climate change.

 

Human activity is the main cause of climate change, and many of these activities can be changed with a simple choice. These decisions can either make things worse or better.

Which path will you choose?

 

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