A few days ago, I received a shocking email from my dear friend Burning Man campmate, art teacher Ann Clark.
You may remember Annie from the Plastic Footprint Project that she organized with her students to bring awareness to the problems of plastic pollution through art. After retiring from teaching, Annie made several trips to Haiti, first to help build a school and next, to do art therapy with abused/neglected children. During her stay, she became aware of the huge problem of plastic waste in that country.
This month, she returned to Haiti to continue her art therapy work and also help solve the plastic pollution problem. We had a great Skype chat all about her plans, and she sent me lots of pictures to share on this blog from previous trips. But life intervened, and I hadn’t had time to post those pictures and tell you about her latest project. Then, a few nights ago, I received some very sad news. After arriving in Haiti earlier this month,… Read the rest
13-year-old Cambria Bartlett contacted me last year to do a phone interview about living plastic-free. She and a group of other homeschoolers, calling themselves Heirs to Our Oceans, were creating a video about caring for our oceans, and Cambria’s personal focus was on plastic.
Since then, I’ve met Cambria in person and learned what exceptional kids she and her friends are: committed, passionate, and dedicated to preserving the planet for future generations. I asked her to write a guest post to describe what they are doing and how you can help. Please read and enjoy!
Beth Terry is such an inspiration! In being aware of the changes she made to better our planet, I have come to care too and have made changes in my own behavior. Seeing Beth live her life with only one bag of plastic waste in a year made me realize that making change is possible. She is such a great role model! Beth’s blog and book have helped me so much in the last year. I have… Read the rest
I’ve been away from blogging and social media for a few months, needing time to recuperate from the onslaught of attention-grabbing, anxiety-inducing posts that had hijacked my “news” feeds. Taking a break to be in silence for a while helps. So do walks along the red dirt trails or the rocky coastline of Moloka’i, Hawaii.
In the end of March, I went on my annual silent meditation retreat to the center of the center of the center. (The retreat center is in the middle of Moloka’i, which is the middle of the Hawaiian Island chain, which is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.) It just so happened that the week of my retreat was the same week as Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii’s first statewide beach cleanup event. And the cleanup event planned for the island of Moloka’i happened to be scheduled on our only day “off” from silent meditation. There’s more serendipity in how I even found out about… Read the rest
A month ago, a reader named Ida left the following comment in the “100 Steps” section of this website:
For your Clothes section you never mention that the plastic clothes we have release high levels of plastic microfibers in every wash! This is pretty new knowledge, but hugely important as we cannot as of today find a way to remove from the sea. So when asked, I usually tell people to stop buying fleece, acrylic etc, but also to handwash what they have, which at least might lessen the problem… :)
I was as surprised as she was. I thought for sure I’d blogged about microfiber pollution. So I checked. As it turns out, I addressed the topic in the updated edition of my book, but I never posted about it on this site. Fortunately, the Story of Stuff Project has not been slacking like me. They have just released a brand new video and campaign called The Story of Microfibers. It explains what happens when we launder synthetic clothing… Read the rest
This post might be controversial, but sometimes you have to admit when you might have been a little bit… wrong? Anyway, five years ago, I wrote a pretty depressing blog post about why we cannot solve the problem of ocean plastic pollution by focusing on cleanup schemes.
2010- 2013: My Doubts
My point was that as long as we continue to consume vast amounts of disposable plastic, any effort at cleanup would be, to quote Captain Charles Moore, “like bailing water from a bathtub with the spigot still running.” So, in 2012, when I started hearing about a Dutch teenager who had designed an expensive contraption to clean up the gyre within 5 years, I dismissed the story as just one more distraction from the real issue. Here’s then 18-year old engineering student Boyan Slat at a TEDx event in Delft explaining his idea:
Since he first conceived the idea of a passive collection device into which ocean currents would deposit plastic… Read the rest
Photo Restaurante Praia Arrifana ©
Michelle Cassar is a long-time reader of this blog and committed anti-plastic activist, although I’m not sure she would actually call herself an activist, nor anti plastic. She’s also a surfer, photographer, and world traveller who has been living in Portugal for quite a while. Back in 2011, she sent me a list of the over 10,000 plastic items she had refused since beginning her plastic-free life. And now, she’s helping others to refuse plastic by working with a local restaurant to eliminate plastic cups. Here is the story in her own words. Read, enjoy the beautiful photography, and be inspired!
(Por favor, vá para baixo para a versão Português.)… Read the rest
I’ve seen this picture of Kamilo Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii a million times in the past six years. It’s shocking. But not as shocking as seeing a plastic-covered beach up close live and in person like I did yesterday during Kokua Hawai’i Foundation’s Coastal Cleanup Day event at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Oahu.
When I first entered the area, I didn’t see much…
Then I looked down and started noticing microplastic particles in the sand…… Read the rest
Six years ago, I posted a rant about the fact that many commercial facial scrubs contain tiny plastic (polyethylene) beads meant to exfoliate the skin. These beads are too small for water treatment plants to filter out, so they end up in our waterways and eventually the ocean. In the ocean, tiny plastic pieces mix with the zooplankton to enter the food chain. What’s more, plastic in the ocean acts as a sponge, absorbing and concentrating toxic chemicals. It’s one thing when plastic ends up there inadvertently, but it’s inexcusable for companies to produce plastic products intentionally meant to be flushed down the drain.
Now, it turns out, plastic particles aren’t just in facial scrubs, and they aren’t only made of polyethylene. According to a recent position paper (PDF) (PDF) published this year by a coalition of ocean advocacy groups lead by 5Gyres:
Microplastic particles and microbeads can be … Read the rest
Dr. Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres, an organization dedicated to researching ocean plastic pollution, has said, “If you want to clean the gyre, clean your beach.” He meant it literally, since “if we stop adding more plastic to the ocean, in time the gyres will kick out the plastic pollution they currently hold.” But I choose to think of the statement metaphorically. Spending a morning cleaning plastic from a beach or river bank or roadway doesn’t just remove a fraction of plastic trash from the environment, it heightens our personal awareness of the problem and gets us in touch with the physical reality of plastic pollution — both beautiful and terrible. We understand how vast the problem is compared to our tiny efforts at mitigation. Sure, we might feel overwhelmed. But hopefully, the exercise can our revitalize our commitment to reducing plastic at the source.
Yesterday Morning at Damon Slough
… Read the rest
Hey, remember my rant last spring about the plastic Turtleback cup holder meant to be used at the beach? And how I thought it was so ironic to name a product for a sea animal that is routinely harmed by ocean plastic pollution? A bunch of green bloggers created quite a stir on Turtleback’s Facebook page back then, and after initially being taken aback by it all, the owner, Ryan Housley, listened. In fact, he had an open mind from the very start.
Switching to Biodegradable Material
Yesterday, Ryan emailed me a link to the company’s new Kickstarter campaign. The campaign is to fund the development of Turtleback 2.0, a version made from biodegradable plastic (Mirel), a plant-based plastic that is certified to not only biodegrade on land but also in sea water. In fact, it is the only bio-plastic certified to break down in the ocean, as far as I know, and it has also been tested by the folks at the Algalita Marine Research Institute, whose mission… Read the rest