The first week of September was when my son started 100% online learning and I returned to work at my elementary school. I have to admit that, back in March when school campuses were closed and we went to distance learning, those months were a lot easier. There were hardly any homework and grading changed to credit or no credit. Now, with 2020-2021 school year starting off with online learning and grading is back to normal, it is becoming a huge learning curve for the both of us. But, just like life, we all have to learn to adjust. And I honestly believe that kids having to adjust to something this new and unusual will be a great learning lesson for them.
However, as the pandemic is still going around the US and other countries, convenience has also become the new norm. That is, the convenience of plastic bags, store bought chips and cookies in bulk, and dumping masks and gloves all over the streets, beaches, and parks. We still have to be responsible for the environment because we still need to be responsible adults (and children).
So how do we continue to care for the planet? I could give you tons of data and research on how oceans and landfills are overflowed with trash. But I think we all know that there are already tons of trash in our oceans and landfills. But if you do want to know the shocking and sad data, here are some very interesting info:
More than 8 MILLION TONS of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year! This number continues to grow because of how many single use plastic items are used in the US every year. Here are some of the top contributors:
Those are catastrophic numbers! And it’s no wonder that diseases and illnesses run rampant in certain areas of the world where trash is more prominent. But we can do something about it! And this year’s back to school is the perfect time to start if you haven’t already started to reduce your single-use plastic dependency. With most schools going online, you can still perform the following steps to live a life less plastic. There is really not much to lose when you reduce the intake of single-use plastics. Single-use plastics are plastic products that you use only once and throw away. Most of the times, these plastic entities end up in the landfill instead of properly recycled or sorted. We might even have high hopes that our careful recycling efforts are being met appropriately. But when our landfills are already filled up, we can see that our recycling efforts aren’t really being met.
If you consider that in the US alone, every American sends 1,646.15 pounds of solid waste to landfills annually, that’s astronimically higher than the data from 20 years ago. Or even 5 years ago. It seems the trend to creating more waste only gets higher with big oil companies and the plastic industry making false claims to consumers. According to Scrap Metal, a materials collecting platform, the US generates nearly 7.3 billion pounds of PET containers and packaging every year, out of which only around 1.9 billion pounds are recovered for reclamation. And considering we live in a wasteful society, we must really do better for now and for the future.
I always say let’s start in our own homes and let’s teach our children, who are the future generations, to care more about what we buy, what we use, and what we support as a community. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to what we don’t see or hear about. It’s easy to just say,”well, that’s someone else’s problem.” And it’s easy to ignore the scientific data that is carefully researched and compiled every year. Consider that what we buy affects everything in our lives. Consider that what we eat affects our own health. And consider that what we do now will greatly affect our future generations.
This year, let’s take some extra steps for back to school learning. The tips below can be beneficial for remote learning (online learning), on campus learning, and a hybrid learning sytem.
Tips for back-to-school eco-friendly style:
Make a list of school supplies that you need. Check off what you already have saved over from the previous year. There are many supplies you can reuse.
Buy quality supplies. Even if you’re trying to save money on supplies, buying generic, cheaper quality products will result in them breaking sooner and end up in the trash. Check out these wonderful companies that makes high quality products and gives back to the planet: www.plaineproducts.com, www.mermaidstraw.com, www.lunchskins.com
Buy a few high quality back to school clothes. Better materials and construction results in longer lasting wear.
Choose companies that give back to the planet. Look for labels such as: 1% for the Planet , Beauty without bunnies, Leaping Bunny, Plastic Pollution Coalition, and Certified B Corporation
Choose organically grown and made products. Certified organic ensures that the raw ingredients and materials are not treated with toxic chemicals or pesticides.
Buy locally whenever possible. This reduces your carbon footprint and helps with the circular economy.
Look to support environmentally and socially responsible companies.
Don’t buy bulk when you don’t need to. We all want to save money and reduce waste, but unless you plan on using these bulk products right away or are donating them, they will likely end up forgotten or wasted.
Buy a few daily use resuable products. These include a glass or stainless steel resuable bottle, glass or stainless steel lunch container, reusable straws in glass, stainless steel, or bamboo, and reusable lunch bags.
Reduce your intake of conveniently made food. While at home, we can actually be more conscious of what we eat. Make fresh food and snacks to munch on throughout the day rather than depend on convenient snacks packaged in single-use plastics. Try fresh fruit, fresh sanwiches, and fresh veggies with healthier dips.
For more in-depth resources on the environment, data collecting, and everyday eco-living tips, be sure to check out Earth911.com’s website: https://earth911.com/
Hope you all have a very successful school year!