Sustainable Living "Off the Grid" with Madrone Hill Cottage (sponsored by Sol Organics)

I sat down with my mom- Karin Cantlon, of Madrone Hill Cottage this past week. 

At Madrone Hill Cottage, she and my Dad- Joe, live off the grid. When i say “off the grid” I don’t mean they just live in the middle of nowhere (which they do), I mean they live off of the electrical grid and they have no city plumbing or city water. No, this does not mean they are living like campers!

Instead, they power their home with solar, use a compostable toilet, and collect their own rainwater. 

They practice sustainable living in some very big ways. But I asked Karin, what about the small things? What are some ways they practice sustainable living in their everyday choices that the rest of us can reap inspiration from? 

Karin gave me 4 things she does to foster her environmentally conscious lifestyle while living off the grid. 

  1. Karin is mindful to purchase her linens and towels from companies that are sustainable and ethical. She, like myself, uses SOL organics! Sol Organics is fair trade, uses zero plastic in their packaging, and even donates $7.50 per sale to charity! SOL uses 100% organic cotton grown from non-GMO seed. They are committed to supporting better farming practices that reduce carbon footprint, conserve and protect drinking water, and keep us and our communities safe. Being certified fair trade, they have a commitment to no child labor- EVER, and they partner only with facilities that pay a LIVING wage and are committed to the wellbeing of the people who work there. (use code RFF20 for 20% off)


    Not to mention- how beautiful is this bedding bundle in their cottage?! 

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2. From day one, Karin was conscious of her interior design. I learned thrifting and antique shopping from my mom. She’s been popping tags since before it was cool. (haha- Macklemore anyone?!) Instead of buying new, most of her items are up-cycled! She has a whole blog post HERE dedicated to sustainable and affordable ways to design, but here are a few examples:

  • The “kitchen table. Karin and Joe used the top of of my childhood table that we’ve had since I can remember to create their island table. They simply cut off the legs and mounted it to the metal storage base that they wanted.  In her blog post, Karin says, “I was going to purchase hardwood lumber for our island table, which was going to be somewhat pricey. Joe realized that our current tabletop would fit perfectly, we just needed to remove the legs! I was super happy we could incorporate it, since it was the first piece of furniture Joe and I purchased as a married couple and both our kids grew up eating meals, finishing homework, and making crafts at this table.”

  • The green “pantry” door. A great score from an antique store!

  • The bathroom “vanity”. To create this lovely piece, Karin cut a hole in the top of an old dresser that she repaint and put a sink in it! The plumbing process was a more intensive than that… but you get the idea!

  • The kitchen sink. She found this old barn house sink from Craigslist. She looked for 8 months before she found the perfect one. According to Karin, patience is KEY in sustainable design.

The kitchen table.

The kitchen table.

The pantry door.

The pantry door.

An antique dresser from an estate sale.

An antique dresser from an estate sale.

The barn house sink from Craigslist.

The barn house sink from Craigslist.

3. She shops in bulk. 

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4. Karin is conscious of her water usage. When you live in Central Texas that is prone to droughts and you are responsible for collecting all your own water from the rain, you become highly aware of your water usage. This is true even in times of plenty. At this point, Joe and Karin have built up enough water supply that they really don’t NEED to “watch” their water usage, but water becomes more precious when you know where it came from and have a realization that it is a finite and valuable resource. This is a lesson we can all apply!! 

Use code RFF20 for 20% off @ Sol Organics.

Sustainably Supported by SOL Organics. As always, all opinions are mine & these are products I truly love!  #sponsored


Fermented Radishes with Garlic & Dill

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Pros of living in Florida — produce year around!

Pros of living in Florida — produce year around!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of filtered water

  • 1 tbsp of pink salt

  • 2 bunches of radishes

  • 1 handful of dill

  • 5 garlic cloves (you can use less.. I just really like garlic!)

  • Pint size large mouth mason jar

  • Smaller jar to use as a weight

  • Cheese cloth (or any cloth, really) & rubber band

Method:

  1. Make the brine by boiling 2 cups of filtered water with 1 tbsp of salt.

  2. Wash your radishes well with warm water. Remove tops and tails. Slice into thin quarters or halves.

  3. Add dill and garlic to the bottom of the jar. Add radishes. Pour in the brine - enough to submerge the veggies by a few inches.

  4. Weight down the contents with the smaller jar to prevent the veggies from rising above the surface. (They must remain submerged under the water!)

  5. Cover the jar with cloth and rubber band.

  6. Allow time to ferment- at least 3 days. Store in a dark, room temp location until desired flavor / texture is achieved.

  7. Store in the fridge. I personally love serving them with hummus and crackers! SO delicious!

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Calendula & Lavender Infused Salve

It’s winter in the states right now! And that means for many of us… DRY, CRACKED SKIN. Well, I have the antidote. And that is this recipe right here! 

I adore this herbal combination! It is healing, soothing, anti-inflammatory, and smells like floral heaven! Calendula is a super flower. It is most often used to treat scrapes, burns, minor cuts, rashes and bug bites. Lavender oil is great to combat acne, soothe dry skin, and reduce redness.

This salve is SO simple to make. The only bummer is that you have to wait 2-3 weeks in order for the oils to infused. But patience little butterfly! It is so worth it.

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried lavender 

  • 1/2 cup dried calendula flowers

  • 3, clean, empty 8 oz mason jars

  • 2 cups sweet almond oil

  • 1 ounce beeswax

  • double boiler

Part 1: Infuse your oils

  1. Fill one of the mason jars half way with dried lavender. Fill another 1/2 way with dried calendula flowers/petals. 

  2. Fill the jars with sweet almond oil- ensuring the herbs/flowers are covered completely by at least 1 inch. 

  3. Cap the jar and shake well!  Shake the herbs at least once a day.  At this time, also inspect them and ensure no herbs are traveling above the surface. If they do emerge, they will grow mold and your oil will ruin! After 2-3 weeks, strain through a mesh strainer.

Part 2: Make the salve!

  1. Prepare your double boiler with simmering water. (You can even make a make shift one at home if you don’t have one!) 

  2. Pour 1/2 cup Infused lavender oil and 1/2 cup infused calendula oil in the double boiler. Add 1 ounce beeswax and stir until the beeswax has complete dissolved. 

  3. Carefully pour hot salve into clean jar and cool completely before use. 

Fresh calendula flowers

Fresh calendula flowers

I infused this oil with fresh flowers- but I HIGHLY recommend using dry instead. Fresh goes rancid easily.

I infused this oil with fresh flowers- but I HIGHLY recommend using dry instead. Fresh goes rancid easily.

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Lavender & Citrus Infused Cleaning Vinegar

I’ll let you all in on a little secret… you don’t need a different type of cleaner for every crevice of you home!

The truth is, vinegar does quite well as a multipurpose cleaner! Especially when you spruce it up with things like essential oils and herbs. ;)

You may say- well what about the germs?! Will this kill the germs?! The truth is that our modern society has waged war on “bugs” when in fact, we can’t live without them. Just as we are waging war on our beneficial gut microbiome (the colony of bugs that live in your intestines) with antibiotics, we are waging war on the bacteria around us using harsh cleaning agents. In doing this, we are creating “superbugs”- bugs that adapt and survive and can’t be killed with antibiotics. This has been recognized by the CDC as a huge public crisis and they are now making steps to remove antibiotics from hand soaps and other cleaning agents. Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 people die. The truth is- we can’t defeat bacteria- we have to foster a symbiotic relationship! Okay, rant over. All to say, vinegar and essential oils clean and disinfect without disrupting the environmental microbiome and creating superbugs.  YAY MOTHER NATURE!!!

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My neighbor has an orange tree that’s making oranges like its her job. I’ve been collecting the peels from the one’s we’ve eaten and used some fresh lavender from my garden to make this lovely scene.

Ingredients:

  • half gallon mason jar (64 oz)

  • glass spray bottle

  • orange, lemon, and/or lime peels- as many as you want/have! The more you use, the stronger the infused smell will be! 

  • 3 bunches of lavender and/or rosemary leaves 

Method:

  1. Collect your citrus peels over a week. (Store in the fridge.)

  2. When you have collect an ample amount of peels, transfer them to your 64 oz mason jar and fill it up  3/4 high with vinegar. Add herbs.

  3. Cover with a cloth and rubber band. Let the peels infuse the vinegar for 3-4 weeks.

  4. Strain vinegar and compost the peels.

  5. To use, pour into a spray bottle until 1/2 full. Fill the rest with water. Use as you would any multipurpose cleaner. (Just avoid using it on stone countertops or wood as it can gradually wear down the sealant!)

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8 Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic in 2019

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1. Ditch single use grocery bags.

This is huge. Check out these stats from biologicaldiversity.org:

  • Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.

  • It only takes about 14 plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile.

  • The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year.

  • Plastic bags take 1000+ years to break down.

The best solution to single use bags is not to buy reusable plastic bags. While that is certainly better, these bags are still plastic and not biodegradable. They will eventually end up in landfills. So the best alternatives are those made of cotton or hemp or other compostable material.

When my cotton bags get dirty, I simply throw them in the wash.

Alternatives to plastic bags:

2. Ditch plastic baggies.

Yes, they are so so convenient for snacks. But a great and reusable alternative are reusable silicone bags, and beeswax wraps.

Alternatives to plastic baggies:

3. Shop in bulk

Think about it- essentially everything you buy is packaged. That is a LOT of packaging. You can easily reduce this dramatically by shopping in bulk. Bonus points- you save money and have a very spiffy and tidy looking pantry!

For shopping in bulk, take your own mason jars and/or small cotton bags for things like nuts and legumes. Ask the merchant to weigh the jars and write the tar weight on the lid so you are not paying for the weight of the jar. Most stores will have no issue doing this.

If they do, just use the bags/containers they provide and reuse them for next time.

Google search for a bulk store in your area! Of course, many grocery stores have a bulk section, but you’ll really hit the jackpot if you can find a store dedicated to BULK!

Some of my favorite bulk items are:

  • Oats

  • Pasta

  • Baking ingredients such as cocoa powder, flour & sugar.

  • Nuts

  • Dried fruit

  • Grains & legumes

  • Tea

  • Spices

  • Balsamic vinegar

  • Apple cider vinegar

Items for bulk shopping:

  • Eco bag produce bags

  • Mason jars

4. Make your own multi-purpose cleaner.

The truth is, you don’t need a different cleaning product for every crevice of your home! You can simply make your own multi-purpose cleaner to reduce money and waste.

(note: not for use on granite or marble countertops - the vinegar can damage the natural stone.. But it’s great for everything else!)

Cleaner Recipe

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar (I use this because I can get it in bulk- but you can use white vinegar as well. Both of these vinegars you can get in glass jars.)

  • 2 cups water

  • 25 drops essential oil of choice  (I recommend you choose a citrus or green oil, such as, lemon, orange, tea tree, or eucalyptus. They are super fresh and antibacterial as well.)  

Method:

Mix ingredients together and pour into a glass spray bottle. Use as needed. (You can grab some glass spray bottles here! Use code ROOTFORFOOD)

5. Switch to a safety razor.

Plastic disposable razors have a very short lifespan. Per the EPA, we throw away billions of razors every year. Where to these end up? Landfills and oceans never to decompose.

On the contrary, safety razors are meant to last a lifetime! Only the razor blades need to be recycled and unlike multi blade razors, standard double-edge safety razor blades are fully-recyclable.

Grab yours here! ( promo code ROOTFORFOOD)

6. Switch to a compostable toothbrush.

3.5 billion toothbrushes are sold every year. We can assume that the majority of these are not compostable or recycled. Need I say more?

Grab your own compostable toothbrush here. ( promo code ROOTFORFOOD)

7. Switch to a menstrual cup.

Ladies, how environmentally friendly are your periods?

It is estimated that over 45 billion products related to periods are thrown away every year. This includes tampons, pads and applicators. Sadly, the Ocean Conservancy collected nearly 30,000 used tampons and applicators on beaches in just a single day in 2015.  When tampons are flushed, they can end up in sewer systems and waterways. When they are thrown away, they go to landfill. Plastic applicators take centuries to biodegrade- cardboard is a better alternative.

Pads are majority made of plastic and therefore, are not biodegradable.

As an alternative, menstrual cups take a bit to get use to, but once you go to one, you will never go back! Seriously- this thing has changed my period experience. Grab yours here. You'll want a size A if you’ve never had children and a size B if you have.

8. Switch to Plastic Free Skincare!

My absolute favorite skin care line is Primally Pure. Not only do they use glass jars, they take their sourcing very seriously with ethical and sustainable standards! You can listen to their esthetician talk about their company, their product, and holistic skin care here.

Not to mention, this stuff has changed my face.

My favorite items are:

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Alternative Gift Wrapping Ideas

Instead of buying wrapping paper, I’ve been collecting any paper bags that I get. I love it because it is versatile, minimalist, and best of all, more sustainably conscious!

Instead of buying wrapping paper, I’ve been collecting any paper bags that I get. I love it because it is versatile, minimalist, and best of all, more sustainably conscious!

The holidays are often a time of heavy consumption. But with our daily choices and decisions, we can cut down on the stress and the waste during the holiday season.

Wrapping paper is designed to be single use and contributes to an enormous amount of wasted resources.

Here are some staggering statistics from  www.use-less-stuff.com:

  • Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!

  • If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. 

  • If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. 

  • The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. 

  • If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

  • While the United States celebrates the holidays, Americans produce an additional 5 million tons of waste (four million of the 5 million tons consisting of wrapping paper and shopping bags).

Sadly, MILLIONS of pounds of wrapping paper go to landfills each year. Due to the lamination and dying, recycling is difficult. It is estimated that approximately 50,000 trees are cut down annually to accommodate our wrapping paper needs! 

Consider the following alternative wrapping ideas to make the season more environmentally friendly. Plus, it’s fun to get creative with it! 

Alternative Wrapping Ideas: 

  1. Repurpose brown bags: Instead of buying wrapping paper, I’ve been collecting any paper bags that I get. I love it because it is versatile and minimalist.

  2. Beeswax wraps

  3. Old sheets or fabric pieces- cut into a square and tie up with a ribbon or twine  

  4. Make or buy fabric gift bags that they can then reuse

  5. Reusable shopping bags

  6. Baskets 

  7. Newspaper 

  8. Old maps


Don’t forget to embellish your gifts! Here are some of my favorite:

  1. Dried orange slices

  2. Twine or ribbon 

  3. Red berries

  4. Wooden spoons

  5. Tree trimmings 

  6. Gingerbread men 

  7. Eucalyptus 

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More Sustainable Holiday Tips - from you all!

I asked you all on instagram what you do to make YOUR holiday more sustainable.

And y’all delivered!!! I got so many great and inspiring responses. Of course, I had to make a blog post out of them. I think we can ALL take away some inspiration from this list!

Enjoy! If you have any more tips, leave them in the comments section!

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  1. I’ve been getting thrifted scarves and such to wrap presents in instead of paper!

  2. Aquarium passes for people with kids.

  3. Buy tickets to an experience or membership, instead of an item.

  4. Supporting local artists!

  5. Using re-usable wrapping paper & home-making gifts!

  6. Buy good, sustainable, local coffee beans from roasters near you!

  7. Donate to a cause that each person in your family would love!

  8. Sponsoring family events instead of gifts. Laser tag and bowling together.

  9. Making little zero-waste starter kits as stocking stuffers! With a mason jar + bamboo utensils + reusable straw.

  10. Giving homemade/local edible gifts!

  11. Carry chop sticks, reusable wear on the go! Making my own doterra gifts.

  12. Use Sunday color comics as wrapping paper. This is really a tip for next year. Save the comics from each paper for a year.

  13. I’m asking my family to not use wrapping paper.

  14. We’re having a homemade Christmas and I always wrap with / reuse paper bags and newspapers.

  15. Fair trade gifts (coffee, leather goods, jewelry, etc.)

  16. My husband and I thrift at local shops regularly so we plan on a thrifted Christmas!

  17. I’m pretty serious about using fair trade super & chocolate for all that holiday baking!

  18. Using the app Good on You to find sustainable fashion and jewelry brands to gift people!

  19. Making everyone essential oil rollers. Making the ladies face oils and the men beard oils.

  20. I’m gifting reusable bags in the shape of fruit to all my my family members!

  21. Instead of gifts, everyone is getting holiday spirit and cheer from me!

What are you doing to make the holiday season more sustainable?!

Tips to Creating a More Sustainable Holiday Season!

Like most people, I love the holidays! I love the fun and the festivities. 


However, it’s no secret that the holidays are also a time of… well… consumerism. Unfortunately, with all the festivities can come the excessive generation of waste and the consumption of natural resources. 

Yes, the holiday’s are about spending time with loved ones and making memories. It’s about embracing community and culture; but sadly, a lot of these intentions have been hijacked by the industry. I’m not saying we have to forgo all of our most favorite festivities, but I think you’ll see that with a little foresight, you can make this season less environmentally impactful without compromising the enjoyment of the holidays. (As is the case with most things in life!) 


Consider these revealing stats from Vanderbilt University:

  • Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

  • If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

  • About 35% of Americans have an unused Christmas present collecting dust in their closets.

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Our actions and decisions during this season really do make a difference! This is just a short list to inspire you and to get your wheels to turning.

Tip #1: Think Small Business Saturday, Instead of Black Friday

    1. Buy gifts that support your local community and entrepreneurs! Instead of going to TJ Maxx or Macy’s, consider your local makers and locally owned businesses! Not only is this practice supporting your local economy and merchants, but chances are, you’ll also be able to find something more unique and meaningful for your special someone!

      Some of my favorite Tampa Bay merchants are: 

      1. Jewelry: Fernweh Designs

      2. Holistic Bath & Body: Bodhi Basics

      3. Pottery: Kairos Ceramics

      4. Astatula Candle Co.

      5. Plant Based Skin Care: Bohemian Reves

    2. Antique and thrift stores: Shop at these places and you’re SURE to find something unique! Not to mention, it encompasses the word “reuse” in reduce, reuse, recycle. The very nature of it is sustainable. We are repurposing an already made item and therefore, not consuming additional  resources. I particularly love finding jewelry and old hand held mirrors at antique stores. Victoria loves finding old tea cups. 

    3. Purchase gifts that are hand made/fair-trade, or organically grown or produced, such as coffee, chocolate, scarfs, jewelry, totes etc. Several great places to shop for these items include:

      1. Ten Thousand Villages

      2. Scarlett Begonia

      3. Whole Body


Tip #2: Carry a reusable necessities kit!

This is something I always encourage, but during the holidays  it is even more important! We constantly find ourselves at parties, meetings, and other festivities that provide food and drink. Chances are, they’ll have single use utensils and glasses. But you can reduce your waste by carrying your own glass or mason jar (for drinks!), metal straw, and bamboo utilizes. Will you get weird looks? …. maybe… but being sustainable is cool! I carry a large purse and my items fit nicely inside. 

Tip #3: Keep it Fancy

Going along with the previous, if you are hosting a party, use real flatware and dish wear! 

Tip #4: Gift Wrapping

Wrap presents in reusable packaging such as baskets or reusable bags/totes! Instead of ribbons, look for raffia, twine, or yarn made from recycled materials. 

Tip #5: Find antique ornaments instead of buying new ones!

This is a tradition of mine that I have so much fun with! I frequent antique and thrift stores and finding old glass ornaments is such a treat! They are unique, beautiful, and timeless. 

Tip #6: Consider the Tree!

I LOVE decorating a Christmas tree- as most of us do! However, there are a few different things to consider to ensure it is as sustainable possible! 

The lowest impact choice is to use a tree that is already in your yard or that you cut down yourself. This reduces travel miles. Using a evergreen trees/foliage from your local area to decorate is the most eco conscious choice. 

Consider decorating an indoor plant (or even a rosemary bush!) instead of an actual tree. 

If you do purchase a live tree, try to find one that is sustainably grown. (Again, as always- the more local, the better!) Use THIS resource to find a lot near you!

Always recycle your tree after the holidays! Organic matter in landfills is a huge contribution to methane/greenhouse gases! With recycling, they are utilized again to produce beneficial things such as soil, mulch, etc. Here is a resource on recycling your tree.

Go with real over fake: Contrary to what you may think, fake tree are not necessarily a sustainable alternative. The growth of Christmas trees contribute to green space and carbon sequestration. Remember, all plants trap CO2 to reduce greenhouse gasses and therefore global warming. The production of artificial trees (typically from China) use non renewable resources and are made out of plastics and petroleum based products. At the end of their life, they are then dumped into landfills and will likely never degrade. 

Tip #7: LED holiday lights!

Growing up, my dad was ALL about energy conservation! And he certainly is still today now that he and my mom live “off the grid”! I remember when we got our first LED lights for the Christmas tree and for our house. We was so proud of them but I was sad because we didn’t get colored ones. However, we had those white LED lights for MANY years and they utilize tremendously less energy. 

Here are some other decorating tips:

    1. Instead of decoding with lights or plastic garlands, consider using stringed popcorn or cranberries! 

    2. Don’t leave your lights on all night! (use a timer to make things easier!)

    3. Candles are a HUGE part of the holiday season. Instead of buying toxic, mass made candles, consider buying a soy candle from a local craftsman.

Now tell me, what are you doing to make your holiday more sustainable?!

Being Uncomfortable & Sustainability

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently on the importance of allowing ourselves to feel … uncomfortable. Not physically uncomfortable- but mentally & emotionally uncomfortable. Staying in that space and not running away from it immediately. Acknowledging the feeling and working through it. Allowing it to propel us into growth, passion, and action

We live in a world that is fast paced and honestly, quite erosive. We are expected to be stressed out the wazoo and hustle for our worthiness. Many of us feel we hardly have the time or the mental/emotional capacity to feel uncomfortable. 

When we have an uncomfortable feeling, our knee jerk reaction is to immediately withdraw and remove ourselves from that space. We run from it.

And I don’t blame us. I’ve been there, I’m still there a lot of the time! It is a self preserving defense mechanism to run from negative feelings. 

Unfortunately, running from the uncomfortable can come at a cost. 

Knowledge of certain things IS uncomfortable. Even sorrowful. There is no way around that if you are a human with a soul. Unfortunately, this can cause us to live in ignorance of certain pressing topics. Ignorance truly is bliss, but it does not propel or drive change. Change that is much, much needed. 

This relates to sustainability in a huge way. It is EASY to live in our comfortable little bubbles of convenience. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that our actions and decisions can and DO have a negative impact on the earth. When we are faced with the facts, feeling uncomfortable is an understatement. At least, it is for me. My immediate reaction is to run and hide and to not think about it again- and I don’t believe I’m alone in this. 

Honestly, I’d prefer not to think [know] that my choices actually contribute to rainforest deforestation, plastic in our oceans and starving children … but I choose to not live in ignorance and to take responsibility for my actions. 

This is not to be confused with SHAME. I’m not saying we should all shame ourselves into change - but we should empower ourselves with knowledge! It is straight up empowering to know that our choices can and do make a substantial difference! None of us can or should carry the burden of the world on our shoulders, but knowledge and awareness is CRUCIAL for change. When people KNOW what is happening on a global scale, only then can they make informed decisions every day that make a difference. 

The climate crisis is not going to be solved by activists and non-profit organizations alone. The foundational purpose of these are to raise AWARENESS. Awareness begets action and a societal movement for the greater good. What matters are the countless choices each of us make every day. These are not choices that compromise our quality of life- they just take forethought. 

For example - remembering reusable bags- this is HUGE. And it doesn’t cost you or me anything but the development of a new habit and a few bucks for a reusable bag. 

We- those in developed countries, seem to have a huge disconnect with the environment and the earth that sustains us. We think that if we throw something away, it simply disappears. Unfortunately, just because something is “disposable” doesn’t meant it is disposed from the earth all together. 

Sadly, plastic takes many many years to decompose- if it does at all. The things we  throw away end up in land fills, and worse, in our waterways and oceans. 

We cannot take back much of the damage that has been done to the environment globally, but that does not mean we should just give up and continue with the status quo! We CAN lessen our impact, stop the progression, and make actions that are healing to us all. But this takes ALL of us to educate ourselves and to not run away from the uncomfortable and quite frankly- the sad feelings that come with reality.

Being uncomfortable and saddened by something challenges us and enables us to grow and evolve- both individually and collectively. 

COLLECTIVELY, we can make a difference. Whose with me? 

Why The "No Straw, Please" Campaign Matters

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Let’s start with some statistics:

  • 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. This number grows exponentially every year (1).

For some perspective, plastic production since the 1950s equates to (7):

    • 822,000 Eiffel Towers

    • 25,000 Empire State Buildings

    • 1 billion elephants

  • By 2050, they estimate that 12 billion metric tons of plastic will have been produced.

  • Of the 8.3 billion, 76% of it has already gone to waste. Since plastic does not naturally degrade, this means is has been incinerated, poured into landfills, or dumped. (Dumped typically means it goes into the ocean) (3).

  • Global, 32% of the annual plastic production ends up in the oceans. To put this into perspective, this equates to pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. This number is only projected to increase at the rate we are going (4).

  • Every second in the US, 1500 water bottles are consumed (2).

  • Australian scientists Denise Hardesty and Christ Wilcox estimate that 7.5 million plastic straws are lying around America’s shoreline (5).

  • According to the Sea turtle Conservatory, 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean (6).

  • Last factoid: plastic doesn’t really “break down” or “decompose”… it just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. This actually makes it more damaging.

I don’t believe statistics should be used to fear monger, but I think they should be used to spread awareness, empower, and create a sense of urgency and responsibility in us all. 

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I was talking with someone the other day and the plastic conversation came up. Here in St Petersburg, Florida, the “no straw please” global campaign has taken root and has spread through the community like wildfire.  As a result, you see more and more people pulling out their reusable, metal straws and more restaurants only offering them upon request.

The friend I was talking to said, “Well I’m not throwing my plastic straw into the ocean, so I don’t see how it matters”.  

Touché. But also, let’s dig into this a little more. Can this movement and the simple action of refusing a straw really make a difference?  

These are my own personal thoughts on the matter. A list of potential, systemic benefits I see of the “no straw, please” movement.

1. It connects actions with consequences. Contrary to popular belief, throwing trash in the garbage (or even the recycling) does not make it go away and disappear for the earth. It doesn’t even ensure that it gets to the landfill or recycling centers. Heck, humans have produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since the 1950s, do we really believe that all of the discarded plastic has conveniently ended up where it is “suppose” to be (landfills) and not in our environments? That would be foolish. There is SO much trash to manage and therefore, there are flaws in our waste management systems and the garbage disposal process.

But, just because we don’t intend for our trash to end up in the environment, does not mean it absorbs us from all responsibility.

Every time we use a plastic straw (or single usage plastic of any sort), we run the risk of that item ending up somewhere where it can cause damage or harm, albeit unintended. 

The plastic straw moment has brought attention to this. The concept alone has empowered us all take responsibility for our actions and with one single choice, taken partial ownership as stewards of the environment. 

That brings me to my next thought… 

2. It’s a starting point. For many people, the potential negative consequences of straw usage wasn’t even a thought prior to this movement. The “no straw, please” campaign sparks a movement and a conversation within each of us individually. A call to action within our own lives. If we can make a difference by merely refusing plastic straws… what else can we do to make a difference? Perhaps take our own reusable cup to the coffee shop? Take reusable bags to the grocery store? Shop at farmer’s markets? Buy fruits and vegetables that are not wrapped in plastic. As consumers, we vote with our dollar and we make a difference with our decisions. 

In a culture that can be so disconnected with the environment and is addicted to connivence, plastic straw usage gives us an easy and manageable place to start. Trying to tackle and remedy every “unsustainable” part of our lives at once would be overwhelming for anyone. And not just overwhelming- impossible and unnecessary.  “Going green” is not a destination- it’s a process. It is important to start slowly. Straws make starting our individual journeys easy, manage, and rewarding. 

3. Being part of a community movement is rewarding. Some people may roll their eyes and think that the “no straw, please” movement is just a trend. They might feel that people are just “jumping on the bandwagon”. Well, this might be true… but that is the point in a lot of ways. Being a part of a communal movement is empowering, fun, and rewarding for everyone. We all instinctually want to be part of our tribe. We want to play a role and be a part of something bigger by contributing to the greater good. Grass-root campaigns help to grab people into the sustainability movement who otherwise, would never have even glanced this way. 

4. It starts a conversation. Yea, we all know that banning plastic straws is not going to save the planet. It is not going to reverse climate change or save all the sea turtles. But it starts the conversation by getting people to ask questions. What is the hype around plastic straws? Why is their usage being discouraged? The answers to these question provide AWARENESS around issues that are astronomical in size and cannot be tackled by activist and non-profits alone. These issues requires us ALL to be participants. 

This movement is just as much about education and awareness, as it is about the environmental benefits themselves. The biggest missing piece in individual environmental mindfulness is…. education. People can’t make informed decisions if they are not informed. 


5. The animals. My final point is just an example of why straws themselves, can be devastating. They can be devastating to the creatures who comes across them. That matters to me. Online, you can find countless videos of straws being removed from animal noses, and stomaches.  Due to their small size, straws are often mistaken for food by animals and because of their cylindrical shape, straws can cause suffocation and death to the animal. This weighs heavily on my heart and is enough reason alone for me to quit straws. 

As my last point, I want to say- I am not ignorant or an extremists and I recognize that straws are often needed in certain situations - such as for the disabled. In this case- by all means, let’s use a straw! But let’s re-thing straw usage when it is out of habit and convince alone. 

Let’s be empowered, one “no straw, please” at a time and let’s allow this momentum to propel us to more environmentally conscious lives!

References: 

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/climate/plastic-pollution-study-science-advances.html

  2. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/village-made-of-plastic-bottles-in-panama/

  3. https://qz.com/1033477/the-worlds-plastic-problem-in-two-charts

  4. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/10/every-minute-one-garbage-truck-of-plastic-is-dumped-into-our-oceans/

  5. https://phys.org/news/2018-04-science-amount-straws-plastic-pollution.html 

  6. https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-threats-marine-debris/ 

  7. http://gizmodo.com/the-staggering-amount-of-plastic-we-ve-produced-and-wha-1797055823