Love Your Lake is a series of 100 litter cleanups that takes place annually along the shores of Lake Ontario. This is our progress report for the Niagara region during our 2019 journey. This includes results from Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines, Lincoln, and Grimsby.
Kelsey King here, A Greener Future’s resident newbie and the person behind the blog posts you’ve been reading this summer. Before I delve into the nitty gritty content of today’s blog post, I’d like to introduce myself to you all in a little more detail.
I am a Fanshawe College graduate in the field of Special Events Planning, and am starting a postgraduate program in Public Relations and Corporate Communications in September 2018. I have spent time travelling, working in corporate environments, working in outdoor education and leadership, and grinding out that restaurant life. I joined the AGF team in May of this year, and it has been quite the eye-opening experience. As someone who follows a vegan lifestyle, I like to think that I am quite attuned to the environment and all the fauna that Mother Nature houses. While I certainly worked to use reusable water bottles, recycle, and make sure all the lights were off when I wasn’t using them, I was somewhat blind to the many other environmental impacts of my lifestyle.
In the span of a month, we collected over 40,000 pieces of litter (which is up by nearly 13,000 pieces at this time last year!), and a lot of the litter we’ve collected looks familiar to me: plastic straws, plastic tampon applicators, and food wrappers just to name a few. These are things that I am intimately familiar with in my own life, and thought nothing of. I would simply use what I needed and dispose of it. I was putting out two small kitchen bags of garbage and a very full recycling bin every few weeks! This may not seem like a lot, but that is just one person’s waste. Now multiply that by each person in a household, and it really adds up. While I have always been careful to ensure that any refuse ends up in its proper place, I have come to realize that that is only a very small part of our waste cycle.
We have picked up countless straws, plastic pieces, paper pieces, food wrappers, cigarettes butts, tobacco packaging, beer cans, plastic bottles, personal hygiene items, and we even picked up a full Bible that someone lost on the beach. There is always an interesting find, but what’s even more interesting to me is the sheer volume of litter present on our beaches and in our parks. For every one piece of litter we pick up, there are a million more still waiting to be collected, sorted and recycled or repurposed. It can seem overwhelming at times, and I have experienced extreme guilt and disgust when witnessing what we, as humans, have done to our environment. We treat everything as disposable, because it’s easy to do so; we simply put our household waste out on the curb, and it disappears. Out of sight, out of mind!
But that’s just not what happens. Our landfills are getting fuller, we’re flushing things we shouldn’t be flushing, and we are treating our world as if it, too, is disposable. But guess what? It isn’t. Mother Earth is struggling to survive and to sustain us, and we only get one planet! There is no Planet B, so we need to start taking better care of Planet A.
Because of what I have witnesses and learned, I am much more conscious of my decisions when purchasing groceries, clothing, and even going out to eat. I now carry a stainless steel reusable straw and a set of bamboo eating utensils, which eliminates the need for me to use a plastic straw or disposable cutlery when I’m out and about! Instead of putting all of my groceries in plastic produce bags, I am careful to use as little plastic as possible. I refuse all plastic bags from stores, and instead bring my own reusable bags with me. I always use a reusable water bottle or cup, and I have even gifted reusable straws and pocket ashtrays to many of my friends and family.
These are small, simple and easy changes to implement. It may seem inconvenient at first; I have to carry a straw? I have to carry utensils? I can’t use plastic bags? But friends, let me tell you…this is the easiest change I have ever made. It’s a breeze to tuck a straw into your bag or keep one in your car! They’re so small, you won’t even notice. The utensils are made to be mobile and pack easily! And we all have so many reusable bags that sometimes we don’t know what to do with them. Well, we should use them!
Please don’t feel as though you need to overhaul your life all at once. That’s something I’ve taken away from this experience; it’s not about being perfect and becoming Zero Waste overnight. Rather, implement small changes that act as catalysts for bigger change down the line. Educate your friends and family to help them be more aware of the impacts their choices have, and be supportive on their journeys from disposable to reusable!
If you, like me, are feeling enlightened and wish to make a change, I encourage you to take the plunge! There are an endless number of resources available to you online and in print. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to A Greener Future or to me. We’d be more than happy to help in any way we can.
I hope that this blog post was illuminating for you folks, and I’m looking forward to continuing to make lasting changes that will create a cleaner, happier environment for us all. May we stand together and show Mother Earth that we will not merely stand by, but instead will be agents of change.
Today, we’re going to touch on five simple and easy ways that we can all contribute to the reduction of waste, prevention of litter and protection of our lakes. There seems to be this perception that living a more reusable lifestyle is difficult, when in reality, it’s very easy and straightforward! So without further ado:
1. Go Reusable
Each year, millions upon millions of plastic bottles, straws, cups, utensils, grocery bags, and produce bags end up in our landfills…or worse, in our water supply. Plastic makes up more than half of what AGF picks up during our Love Your Lake project, whether it’s in the form of bottles, cups, straws, etc. Can you imagine the impact it would have if every person switched even one of these disposable items to a reusable one? Instead of using more than 200 plastic straws in a year, a person could use one reusable straw again and again. Instead of using flimsy plastic cutlery, a person could use metal or bamboo reusable utensils over and over! These are just a few examples of the way reusable items can easily be swapped out for their disposable counterparts.
2. Don’t Flush!
Now, we’re not saying don’t flush the toilet. You should absolutely flush the toilet as a common courtesy to the people around you, and even to yourself. However, what we can’t say loudly enough is DON’T FLUSH PLASTIC. Plastic?, you may ask yourself. Yes, plastic. 7% of the plastic that ends up on our beaches is coming directly from being flushed down our toilets. It is estimated that 1/3 of adults are flushing objects that should never end up in our sewage systems. So, that plastic tampon applicator and the little plastic wrapper it comes in? You got it: it doesn’t go down the toilet! Neither do Q-tips, wipes, syringes, condoms, or bags of drugs. Here's a great TED Talk to explain further.
3. Skip the Straw
Don’t feel like carrying a reusable straw with you at all times? Forgot your reusable straw at home? No problem. This one is simple. Just don’t get a straw with your beverage. Ask yourself if you really, truly need to use that pesky piece of plastic. Sip straight from the cup, or ask for a lid with a tab instead. Skip the straw. In just 25 litter cleanups our team has picked up 1,403 plastic straws off the shores of Lake Ontario. What's worse? There are millions more out there that are breaking down into microplastics right now.
4. Say No to Plastic
Money speaks volumes, and companies listen when their consumers use their spending to make a point. Avoid buying plastic whenever and wherever possible; instead, opt for metal, wood, bamboo, cotton and other natural materials. Need a new toothbrush? Think bamboo! How about straws? There are silicone and metal straws readily available! Even the polyester we find in our clothes is derived from plastic and releases microplastics each time it is washed! And let’s be real here…soft bamboo clothing sounds way nicer than scratchy polyester, don’t you think?
Are you up for a challenge? Visit Plastic Free July.
5. Pick Up As You Go
The last point is perhaps the easiest to execute. When you find yourself taking a stroll in the park or frolicking on the beach, take a minute out of your day and pick up a few pieces of litter. Can you imagine the staggering results if everyone did this? Make sure the litter pieces end up in the trash or recycling, instead of in our lakes!
We hope that these five methods of protecting your local environment have been enlightening and have helped to reduce some of the stress you may feel about reducing waste! We are always available for questions or concerns, and there are many fantastic resources available online. Knowledge is power, friends.