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Sheila ShawWhen I first started learning about plastic pollution, I discovered that 80-90% of the plastic pollution in our oceans and landfills is made-up of single-use plastics (e.g., cups, candy wrappers, toys, utensils, plates, etc.).

I was shocked to learn that many of these common items are not recycled or recyclable in many programs. I was so moved by this new knowledge; I decided to challenge myself to 'go green'!

However, I soon realized I didn't know what 'going green' really meant. There was so much more to recycling than I had realized. I needed to simplify this process, so I developed a set of guidelines to help me identify ways to further reduce the amount of plastic I use.

The chart below captures some of the opportunities we all have to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in oceans and landfills. Each column represents a level of 'going green'. At first all of my own attempts at 'going green' barely landed me a merit award in the light green category. I now realize 'going green' requires a steady maturing of consumer decision making and a willingness to share information.

Note: Our 'green scale' is based on single-use plastic only and the purpose of the chart is to heighten awareness.

You are Light Green if you

You are Medium Green if you

You are Dark Green if you

Recycle plastic beverage/water bottles. Avoid purchasing beverage/water in plastic bottles. GIve stainless steel water bottles as gifts to friends and family.
Re-use plastic bags and find a location that will recycle worn or damaged plastic bags. Take your own canvas bags to the grocery store and replace other plastic bags with cardboard boxes or paper bags. Share, or give as gifts, fabric bags and other re-usable containers for storage and transportation.
Notice single-use plastic (e.g. straws, cups, cup lids etc.) litter by the side of the road. Avoid using single-use plastics when ever possible. Chat with your favorite merchants to find out if they would consider replaciing single-use plastic with environmentally friendly alternatives.
Place all plastic items in the recycling bin in case it can be recycled. Find out which items are recyclable and where to recycle them. Whenever possible, you avoid using products that cannot be recycled. Create a handy list, to share with friends and family, detailing items that can be recycled and locations of businesses that will recycle them.
Notice that merchants often use excessive packaging when shipping purchases to you. Re-use shipping materials whenever possible. You may also donate unused styrofoam ‘peanuts’ and other materials to local businesses. Chat with local landfill operators and recycling centers to find out if they will allow community members space  to drop off and pick up re-usuable packaging items.
Notice the number of items in grocery stores that are packaged in plastic for convenience. Purchase items from bulk store displays, whenever possible, using your own re-usable containers (e.g. candy, nuts, honey, peanut butter, shampoo, pet foods). Mention the quality, cost, and environmental advantages of using bulk products to friends and family. Ask your favorite merchants if they would be willing to offer specific bulk products of interest.
Learn that polyester clothing is made from oil (e.g. fossil fuel) that is chemically processed, spun into thread, and then woven into cloth. Avoid purchasing products made from polyester whenever possible.

Share with others the littte-known fact that polyester is made from oil.
how polyester is made

Read online websites or blogs to learn more about recycling.

Post questions and helpful tips to recyling websites or blogs.

Maintain a website/blog to raise awareness to help light the way for others.


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