The No Plastic Holiday Challenge

BlogHer Original Post

Plastic is all around us. From our kids' toys to their sippy cups, from grocery bags to Tupperware bowls, from furniture to toothbrushes. That's not even including all of the plastic involved in packaging - from food to appliances to toys to clothing. Plastic is everywhere and while it's not good for our health, it may be even worse for our environment. So this holiday season I am challenging all of you to become more aware of your plastic consumption and make conscious choices to avoid plastic whenever possible.

Consider this information from Plastic Bag Free.com:

  • Plastic production uses 8% of all the world's oil production.
  • At the current rate the world produces 200 million tons of plastic a year. Less than 3.5% is recycled. In other words, 96% of all the world's plastic is not recycled.
  • The world plastic production is increasing at 3.5% per year. This means every 20 years the amount of plastic we produce doubles.
  • The world produces over 200 million tons of plastic annually. Around half of this is used for disposable items of packaging that are discarded within a year. This debris is accumulating in landfill and the problem is growing.
  • Plastics do not biodegrade, they photo degrade, breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil, waterways, oceans and entering the food web when ingested by animals.
  • The dawn of the plastic era was in 1950s. This was when we first started to use plastic for consumer goods on a mass scale.
  • Scientists estimate each plastic item could last in the environment anywhere between 400 to 1000 years.
  • In short, since the 1950's almost every piece of plastic that we have ever made, used and thrown away is still here on this planet in one form or another, whether its in our homes, in landfill or in the environment; and it will be here for centuries to come.
  • Worldwide, at least 143 marine species are known to have become entangled in marine debris (including almost all of the world's species of sea turtles) and at least 177 marine species (including 95% of all the world's sea birds) have eaten plastic litter.

Additionally, Plastic Bag Free.com reports,

People often ask, "What is the most concerning form of plastic marine debris? Is it discarded fishing nets (ghost nets), is it plastic bags, is it six-pack rings?"
The truth is it's everything plastic in the ocean. All plastic breaks down into particles. It does not dissolve; it just breaks into tiny pieces and stays there. At this size it is small enough to be ingested by every single organism in the world's oceans - animals as small as krill and salps (plankton feeders) right up to the great Blue Whale. These particles known as oceanic microplastics are now so prolific in the oceans that they outweigh plankton. In some large areas it is at a ratio of 30 to 1 (so 30 times more plastic than plankton) and the problem is growing fast.

Disturbing? Yes. Frightening? Sure. Hopeless? No. While we may not be able to do anything about the plastic that is already in the environment, the choices we make about our purchases today will affect our future as well as our children's and our grandchildren's. But this needs to be a collective effort.

Remember, we vote with our dollars and it's a case of supply and demand. The more we buy plastic products, the more plastic will be manufactured. Conversely, the more we buy sustainable products, the more sustainable products will be made.

The Challenge
I challenge all of you to do something about the growing plastic problem. When shopping for gifts this holiday season, try to find alternatives to plastic items AND look for items that don't come with excessive plastic packaging.

Of course I'm not going to tell you, "Plastic is everywhere" and then say "Don't buy it!" without giving you some suggestions on how you can avoid it, because I try to be helpful like that. Here are several suggestions to help you with this challenge.

Homemade Gifts
Kalyn Denny wrote 10 Great Homemade Food Gifts, and No Cooking Required for Some! with a wide variety from cookies and biscotti to meals in a jar and pet treats.

Over at Lighter Footstep there Ten Elegant, Inexpensive Handmade Holiday Gift Ideas including homemade bath salts, holiday wreaths, reusable fabric shopping bags and home-canned fruits.

Kit Bennett has tips for Making Gifts on a Budget over at Amazing Moms.

If you don't want to make the gifts yourself but like the idea of purchasing something homemade, check out Pledge Handmade where people can "Pledge to buy handmade this holiday season, and request that others do the same for me."

Of course, one great place to find homemade items is Etsy. I can't say that you won't find anything crafted out of plastic there, because that's just not true, but many things containing plastic have been upcycled. According to Wikipedia, "'Upcycling is the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value.' This process allows for the reduction of waste and use of virgin materials."

Buy From Women
Over at Tip Junkie, is the 2008 Holiday Mom-preneur Shop-a-thon, where "the challenge is to buy your gifts from women & fellow bloggers." "With so many struggling with the economy, we have the combined power and influence to make a difference in these women's lives and give their families a wonderful holiday. All while enjoying their fabulous products in our own homes and those of our loved ones." There are over 200 women-owned stores listed here in a wide variety of categories.

Also, over at Thoughtfully Simple is the Pledge to Buy Mom-Made challenge, where mompreneurs can leave a link along with a coupon code if they like to their store in the comments.

Eco-Friendly Gifts
Over at Green and Clean Mom, Sommer reviews the book Green Christmas which "gives some great suggestions on involving my family in the green Christmas movement. Suggesting ideas on cutting energy, reducing the waste of wrapping paper, recycling gifts and reducing the number of gifts given and received." She's also giving a copy of the book away.

At Modern Eco Homes, Kristen Banker wrote Top Eco-Friendly Charities and Fair Trade Gift Sites.

Give to humankind, and the betterment of life on earth, or to someone else’s life, which will make a mark on your own heart and soul. Giving charitable donations creates a feeling unlike any other. Buying from websites that give back to indigenous communities, creates a global unity. Just knowing that you are doing a small part to better this earth we inhabit makes all the difference in the world.

At Peekaboo, Caryn Bailey highlights some fabulously green gift ideas for moms and tots.

What do you think? Avoiding plastic doesn't sound quite so hard now, does it? Are you game to give the challenge a try? Leave a comment below if you will take the No Plastic Holiday Challenge. I'm going to give it my best shot and I hope you will too. Don't forget to take your reusable bags along!

Related blogs and posts:

Contributing editor Amy Gates also blogs at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

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