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Plastics

The Plastic Invasion

It's everywhere. What can we do?

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Challenge: A Plastic-Free Grocery Shop

Can it be done? We found out.

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How Does Plastic End Up in the Ocean?

Up to 13 millions tonnes of plastic every year!

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Spotlight: Lizzie Carr

She kicked cancer's butt then quit her corporate job to pick up garbage.

Photo: Lizzie Carr

Lizzie's Story

Have board, will paddle.

Photo: Lizzie Carr

I want to pursue experiences that give me a sense of purpose and meaning. I want to feel alive.

Lizzie Carr

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Paddle for the Planet

Multi-tasking at its finest: get out on the water AND help the environment with these top tips.

  1. Stay Local

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  2. Gather While You Go

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  3. Bring a Friend

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  1. Stay Local
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    Staycation, Anyone?

    No need to travel to Mexico to get your paddle on. SUPing can be done on any body of water: lake, ocean, pond or river. There's no place like home after all.
  2. Gather While You Go
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    Trash Talk

    Take a cloth bag with you and pick up a piece or two of garbage while you're out there. Every little bit helps. That six-pack ring you pull out of the water could save the life of an ocean creature.
  3. Bring a Friend
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    Sharing is Caring

    Some people just have no idea how incredible the water world is. Every person who knows is a person who cares.
Photo: Lizzie Carr

Just Do One Thing

Making this simple swap = making a difference.

Ditch the Disposables

Stop using these four things tomorrow.

  1. Straw

    Plastic Straws

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  2. Plastic Lids

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  3. Plastic Wrap

    Toodles

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  4. Plastic fork

    Plastic Cutlery

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  1. Straw
    Plastic Straws
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    What the Suck?

    Make "no straw, please" a standard part of your drink order. Can’t go without? Use your own stainless-steel, glass, bamboo or paper straw instead.
  2. Plastic Lids
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    DisNOsable

    Say "no thanks" to disposable cups and lids. Take a reusable to-go mug or thermos to your local coffee shop. That’s a big fat "yes please" to a plastic-free daily caffeine fix!
  3. Plastic Wrap
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    That's a Wrap!

    Packing a lunch? Steer clear of single-use cling wrap, sandwich bags and plastic Tupperware. Go eco-friendly with a stainless-steel lunchbox; most even include optional dividers to keep your sandwiches in place (phew).
  4. Plastic fork
    Plastic Cutlery
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    Fork Off

    There's loads of affordable alternatives that won’t end up in our oceans. Keep a stainless-steel, wooden or bamboo set in your bag at all times so you’re never caught unawares when there’s food about.

Here's How: Body Scrub

Make your own ocean-friendly exfoliating body scrub (it's simple, we promise).

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Could a Cow Fart Be in Your Plastic Bottle? 

The weird, wonderful, complicated world of alternative plastic.

Photo: Hadi Haggins / flickr
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The Plastic Pledge

I promise to...

  1. Be "That Person"

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  2. Remember My Reusables

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  3. Give "Useful" Gifts

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  1. Be "That Person"
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    You Know the One

    "That person" who asks stores why they're still using plastic bags, who nags friends still using disposable cups and who's SAVING THE OCEANS.
  2. Remember My Reusables
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    For Reals Though

    Let's face it: anyone who actually remembers their cloth bags every time they go to the grocery store deserves a damn medal. Be that hero. Live that hero life.
  3. Give "Useful" Gifts
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    Ooh What a Treat

    Homemade exfoliator? Check. Stainless-steel lunchbox? Oh yes. Set of bamboo straws? YOU BET. Holidays and birthdays just got eco.

Clean It Up

Get involved in a shoreline cleanup today!

Photo: picccus / flickr

Want to help? Share this with your friends and spread the word

Can You Do Better? Take the Challenge!

Go grocery shopping and buy as little plastic as possible.

Photo: Caden Crawford
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What is Plastic?

Hint: it involves fossil fuels.

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Ask yourself: what matters in life? Are you doing what you love every day? If you aren't, why not?

Lizzie Carr

Photo: Lizzie Carr

If you're interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed

Lizzie Carr

If you believe you can, you can.

Lizzie Carr

Photo: Lizzie Carr
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This DIY body scrub really couldn’t be easier — you just need these three simple ingredients.

2 Cups of Granulated Sugar
Hint: icing sugar will not work, unless you want less ‘scrub’ more ‘paste’.

1 Cup of Oil
Coconut oil, to be specific.

5-8 Drops of Essential Oil
Available from most drug, health or cosmetics-based stores, and in a vast array of scents. Lavender’s great for a relaxing vibe, or why not try eucalyptus for some fresh-smelling zing?

And that’s it! As easy as one, two, exfoliate.

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Photo: Ari Jónsson

Rather than change how the world uses plastic – a difficult, perhaps impossible task – innovative engineers and entrepreneurs are trying to solve a different puzzle: what if plastic came from harmless ingredients that decomposed naturally?

Welcome to the world of feedstock: industry lingo for the fodder used to create plastic. The typical plastic feedstock is by-products from the oil and gas industry. They’re handy because they’re cheap, plentiful, and they create plastic that is moldable and durable. You never have to worry about your plastic wrap suddenly dissolving around your sandwich when it lasts forever.

But what’s good for your sandwich is not necessarily good for the marine environment. If plastic bags dissolved harmlessly into the ocean, rather than drifting around like jelly fish, sea turtles would stop eating them and dying a slow painful death when the plastic blocked their digestive tracts.

Sea lions would no longer get tangled up in plastic packaging straps. Sperm whales would stop feasting on plastic they can’t digest. This is the real-world difference biodegradable plastic could make if it went mainstream.

Alternative feedstocks have to be better (read: cheaper) if they have a hope of replacing fossil-fuel plastic. The best brains around the world are coming up with some pretty wild replacements.

“What’s good for keeping your sandwich fresh and tasty is not necessarily good for the marine environment.”

In Iceland, product-design student created an algae-based bottle that holds its shape when full and biodegrades when empty. In Indonesia, inventor Kevin Kumala dissolved a cassava-based plastic bag in warm water and drank the strange brew on camera to prove that, not only is his plastic biodegradable, it’s edible, too.

In California, Newlight Technologies has spent the last decade perfecting a plastic made from methane – one of the worst greenhouse gasses to go atmospheric.

The company’s founder came up with the idea after reading about the hundreds of quarts of methane cows fart every day. Newlight traps methane on farms, at landfills and water-treatment plants. They recently signed a 10-billion-pound production deal with IKEA.

Researchers at Egypt’s Nile University and the UK’s University of Nottingham created an eco-friendly plastic out of chitin, a material in shrimp shells. Egypt doesn’t have the resources to support plant-based plastic, but its food industry pumps out a surprising amount of shrimp shells.

Photo: Natalie Maynor / flickr

Next-generation plastic often comes from two sources: plants, like sugarcane, wood and even mushrooms, and what would otherwise be called garbage, things like methane, shrimp shells and even human waste (hopefully not for water bottles). This is great news – blast the trumpets! Unroll the flags! But hold on a minute, say the critics. There are still a few kinks to iron out.

Food-based plastic sounds like a good idea environmentally, but on a humanitarian level is it ethical to use sugarcane and cassava for plastic in an age of rising food insecurity? Waste-based plastic seems like a win-win for the environment, but skepticism lingers around whether it truly disappears in the ocean.

So, what about disposing of these brave new plastics? Many bioplastic products claim to be compostable or biodegradable without mentioning the fine print: they have to be processed in a high-heat, aggressive industrial-composting facility. If they find their way to such a place – great! If they end up in the ocean instead – who knows?

Creating ocean-friendly plastic is far more challenging than it seems on first blush, but the best and brightest are on the job. Until that perfect product arrives, let’s get creative in hacking plastic out of daily life.  

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