Have you ever noticed just how many plastic bags walk out of grocery stores? Or thought about all the school lunches that are packed with multiple Ziploc bags meant to be thrown away after a single use?  Or what about when your kids take unnecessary straws from waiters at restaurants, just because.

I see all of these things, and so much more, and I can’t help to think about where it all ends up.  Countless rolling bags in fields and roads, straws floating in seas, bottles and cups overfilling trash bags.

When did we decide that someone else should care for the place we live in?

When did we forget that plastic does not decompose?

We all know plastic is bad for the environment, but somehow we all choose to ignore it based on the convenience and throw away culture we live in. Every piece that has ever been made is still with us today, though, as it was designed to last… And it does last, for hundreds of years. Isn’t it mind blowing to think that if Michelangelo had drunk out of a plastic cup while painting the Sistine Chapel, it would still be here today?

Plastic seriously harms the ecosystem and eventually our health. It causes soil pollution and sewage blockages. Land and marine creatures mistake plastic for food, blocking digestion and causing starvation.

And if you think you are doing your part by recycling (just as I did), you might be appalled to learn that only two types of plastic are widely recyclable. And after those have been recycled once, they cannot be recycled further. So even if you routinely recycle, most plastic eventually ends up in the landfill or ocean.

It’s time we wise up when it comes to plastic, making big changes by reducing the amount of “single use” items in our lives:

1. Don’t drink bottled water. Get your own bottle, wash and refill it every day.
2. Bring your own cloth bags every time you shop. If you forget, ask for paper bags.
3. Think paper cups and plates before plastic. And avoid plastic cutlery and plastic tops.
4. Vote with your dollars, buying products that are sold in recyclable containers.
5. Reuse as much as possible. For years, I have washed and air-dried Ziploc bags, extending their use as much as possible.
6. Choose glass instead of plastic food containers for your home.
7. Ask the dry cleaner to not wrap your washed clothes. Provide a reusable garment cover instead.
8. Drink from the glass, we don’t need straws to drink!

It’s about being aware of what we are consuming and how it is affecting not only our lives and our surroundings, but the whole planet and its many magnificent species, large and small. I want to invite you to pledge to cut down the amount of plastic used in your household, share with us what steps you are taking now. A difference can be made with daily, simple actions.

Next time you are buying something, remember this mantra: “I do not need a bag, thank you!”

Written by Monica Kerik