By: Amanda Laverty, Sea Grant Knauss Fellow for the NOAA Marine Debris Program
Happy New Year! Did you make any goals or resolutions for the upcoming year? Here at the Marine Debris Program, we are striving to reduce the amount of waste we produce annually. The EPA estimates that, on average, Americans generate 4.40 pounds of waste per person per day. Now that is a lot of trash and unfortunately, much of it becomes marine debris. The good news is that because we are the problem, we can be the solution too! By committing ourselves to one or more of the goals below, we can help move in the direction of a cleaner and healthier world. If we strive to reduce our individual impacts, we can make a huge difference together! Here are a few simple ways to get started:
1.) Switch to reusable coffee cups
Goal: Bring a mug for your morning coffee.
Result: At even just two drinks a week, you will prevent over 100 disposable cups, lids, and drink sleeves from entering the waste stream over the course of one year.
2.) Use reusable bags
Goal: Bring reusable bags to the grocery store or for any other shopping activities.
Result: If you use five bags every week, you will save over 250 plastic bags from entering the waste stream this year.
3.) Skip the straw
Goal: When you go out to eat, inform your server that you prefer not to have plastic straws in your drinks.
Result: Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. At every meal out, you can choose to reduce the total amount of straws that go to a landfill or end up in the ocean.
4.) Change to cloth towels
Goal: Consider using towels or washcloths rather than paper towels.
Result: By using reusable and washable towels, you will not only drastically reduce the amount of paper waste, but you will also save money!
5.) Shop in bulk and fill your own containers
Goal: Most of the plastic and waste we produce is from single-use packaging. Focus on unpackaged items when you shop and seek out stores with bulk goods where you can bring your own containers.
Result: You will generate less single-use packaging and save money to boot! In many cases, buying in bulk is less costly than individually-packaged items.
There are many ways you can reduce the amount of waste you produce on a daily basis! Challenge yourself this New Year to pay close attention to the amount of waste you produce over the course of one day or one week. The more attention we give this problem, the more incentive we will find to correct it. Try adopting one of the goals above and focus on it for a month. After you get the hang of a change in routine, it won’t be hard to meet your waste reduction goals this year.