CarbonFootprintI guess you could say that I made a huge leap being mindful of the effects of my choices on the earth a year ago when I stopped eating animal products. I purposefully made the choice to do my part to help the environment*. In fact, I’m pleased to report that in the last year I kept over 19,000 pounds of CO2 from being released into the air by not consuming animal products! Lightening my footprint on this earth, by eating a plant based diet, rewarded me too because I feel better physically, mentally and the 18 pounds I lost (and needed to lose) has been a wonderful reward! But in 2015 I’m going to be ratcheting things up……

A dead sea bird with plastic in its stomach.

A dead sea bird with plastic in its stomach.

In 2015 I’m going to make a concerted effort to reduce my use of plastic products and packaging, plastics especially. How can the photo the poor dead birds with plastic in their stomachs not make me want to be a better steward of the earth? I feel horrible.

Now that I’ve decided to stop taking the convenient route with packaging and products (notice I didn’t say lazy), I’m noticing that plastic packaging has skyrocketed everywhere! Here’s just one small example that I noticed the other day. The long French breads that come in a paper wrapper? The wrapper now sports a plastic window running its length! Why is that necessary? We bought the bread before it had a plastic window. The bread is sticking out of the top of the wrapper for heaven’s sake so it’s not like I’m being fooled. The fog is lifting from my consumer consciousness.

So when the fog cleared I started doing some searching. Consider a small sampling of some of the information that I found:

  • Over a million toothbrushes are thrown away in the US every year. We switched to toothbrushes made with bamboo handles. I can use the old handles as markers in the garden 🙂
  • More than 5 trillion plastic particles weighing 268,940 tons are estimated to be floating in Earth’s oceans.
  • It can take 400 years for a plastic bottle to decompose, but bottles made with Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) and styrofoam will never biodegrade.
  • Chemicals in food and drink packaging (that are known hormone disrupters) include: Formaldehyde, bisphenol A, tributyltin, triclosan, and phthalates. Altogether, more than 400 chemicals are involved.
  • China imported 2/3 of our plastic recycling every year, but due to China’s Green Fence policy, the amount of plastic exported has dropped. This will hopefully help stop the massive mountains of plastic and pollution from recycling that is polluting China, but will the US do with all of the plastic that China now longer will accept?
  • An example of where garbage goes in a neighboring county, the amount of garbage sent directly to landfills from Ramsey County has been on the increase: in 2010 about 140,000 tons of the garbage from the Ramsey County went to landfills. In 1995 that amount was less than 97,000 tons. In 2010, 10% of the garbage from the Ramsey County was delivered went directly to landfills in Iowa and Wisconsin; 7% went directly to landfills in Minnesota. In 2010, 32% of the garbage from the County was converted to electricity ‐ about 200,000 tons. The energy is used to power about 12,500 homes each year.
  • There are thousands of tons of garbage transported every day via truck, rail and barge across state lines as over stressed cities send their garbage to transfer stations in other states. One such truck overturned in our town once (what a stinky mess that was!) and I’ve smelled semi’s coming through our downtown in the summer (again – P U!).

What actions am I implementing?

  • Of course remembering (!) to take cloth shopping bags to the store is step 1.
  • I switched to stainless steel water bottles ages ago so that’s easy peasy.
  • We’ve switched to bamboo toothbrushes. We can use the old handles as markers in the garden!
  • I will continue to use glass refrigerator containers instead of plastic and plastic wrap. A plate works great on top of a bowl of leftovers!
  • I will be more diligent about reusing plastic bags, plastic containers and avoiding purchasing products that come in them.
  • I’m using cotton mesh bags instead of produce bags at the grocery store.
  • I’m making a more concerted effort to buy bulk and using glass jars, paper bags and smaller waxed bags instead of the plastic bags/containers that you can use in the bulk section.
  • I’m using handkerchiefs instead of tissues.
  • I’m choosing to not buy a product based on how it’s packaged. I’d rather do without, make it myself, or find a substitute.
  • I will bring my stainless steel coffee mug to the coffee shop instead of using their to-go cups (with the plastic tops!).
  • We will buy a steel razor with the old fashion steel razor blades.
  • I’m going to stop being lazy about composting!

For your reference, here are some resources that I’ve bookmarked that you might also find useful:

So, that’s where my head is at right now. I’m going to create a special section to this site called “Mindful Consumption.” There you will find posts on this subject. Whether it’s being mindful of the food I eat and it’s impact on the earth, or the products I buy, I want to be conscious of my choice and what affect it will have in the future. Heck, I might even start a Twitter feed so I can document my packaging dilemmas as they come up at the store.

How about you? What are your thoughts? Would you like to take this Mindful Consumption journey with me?

 

*Cowspiracy.com has done a great job of compiling the information and resources on the effects of animal production on the environment. These poop facts really grossed me out and are very worrisome. Click here to see more compelling facts:

  • Every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the US.
    This doesn’t include the animals raised outside of USDA jurisdiction or in backyards, or the billions of fish raised in aquaculture settings in the US.
  • A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
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