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Solving Our Big Plastic Problem One Small Act at a Time.

  • 3 min read

By Tammy Estrada

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

(A quote that was apparently used often by our 44th president. So, I’m in good company.)

Here we are on the verge of another year (adios, 2020!), and many of us, myself included, might be reflecting on what we would like to change this year. For some, that might be a switch from pajama bottoms to actual pants in 2021. Well done, and whatever works is what I say after the year we’ve all had.

Over the past several years, I’ve decided to do away with sweeping, life-altering new year’s resolutions. I’ve had one goal at the start of each year: to drink more water. Sounds doable, right? Wrong. Every year I’ve failed to hit my 64 ounces a day target. The almost unanimous advice was to get a large (reusable) water bottle and have it at the ready. And the bottles kept getting bigger as I consistently failed in my efforts. I couldn’t seem to get past 24 ounces, or maybe 36, on a good day. Until I switched to a much smaller container.

You see, the problem was just too big when I stared at that huge bottle every day. By switching to a smaller one, it didn’t seem so intimidating. Before I knew it, I was chugging down, 4, 5, and eventually hitting my target of 8 glasses a day. A smaller effort yielded a much better result.

The same might be said about the plastic pollution problem.

Plastic pollution can seem completely overwhelming as you start to understand the scope of the problem. When I started working with BRINGiT last year, I was stunned by how much plastic was making its way into our landfills, our oceans, and our bodies. I had always considered myself environmentally conscious, but the more I learned, I realized that the problem with plastic was far greater than I ever imagined. It was easy to see how people would just give up.

However, as a former business associate of mine once said, “When you first start out, you shouldn’t try to boil the ocean.” Well, bad environmental analogy aside (I’ll get there, stay with me), how is it possible not to aim high when the oceans are literally heating up? I’m going to propose something radical – you don’t. At least, not at first.

At BRINGiT, I’m able to work with our team on solving one aspect of the plastic pollution problem – single-use plastic produce bags (SUPPs). SUPPs were overlooked as part of the plastic shopping bag problem, yet billions of them were thrown away every day. BRINGiT’s co-founders decided to focus on SUPPs and solve that part of the problem first; we’ll build from there.  

I’m going to suggest you start with something small.

Something sustainable. Something that will lead to more success. Have you completely given up plastic straws? Maybe you could buy some more reusables (Simply Straws has some great ones) and stash them around the house, in your car, and in your bag. Everyone is getting take-out now, so perhaps you could place an order without plastic utensils every time? Or request that your favorite restaurants switch to reusable containers. You could also store those leftovers in glass containers instead of plastic. If you feel like you’ve run out of ideas, Sandra Ann Harris’ book Say Goodbye to Plastic is full of eco-hacks for getting rid of plastic in your home.

Whatever works, and whatever resonates with you, is where you should start.

You don’t have to be perfect to do something good. Collectively our small acts create big momentum. More importantly, that momentum creates hope. Hope that we can make a difference. And hope that we can solve this big problem one small act at a time.

On that note, I’m going to wish you a healthy, hopeful 2021! I’m more optimistic than ever that we can overcome these challenges. We all need to start somewhere.