#TransformationTuesday is a popular hashtag used by people to show off what is usually a change in their body size, shape, weight or similar aesthetic. I am starting my own category of this trending hashtag by highlighting (at least several Tuesdays a month) a simple transformation you, the reader, can make in your everyday life to help sustain the livelihood of our natural world, especially contributing to the health of our land and oceans. Many of the posts I will make on this topic are personal transformations that I live by now but didn’t realize how easy it could be when first challenged to do it.
Today’s post will explore a topic that I have witnessed firsthand during my time motoring around in a small speedboat or by the power of my own paddle in a kayak off the coast of Catalina Island. Many days while chaseboating (following a group in the water on kayaks ready to assist for emergencies) a group enjoying their chaotic and exciting 2-hour kayak adventure on the open seas, I would idle over to a UFO – unidentified floating object, and swoop it into the boat to deposit back on shore in a recycling bin (or garbage, depending on the state it was in). 9 times out of 10 it was plastic trash!
Sometimes these plastics would be fully in tact, a lost item overboard with the gunning of an engine, something like a full bottled water (stay tuned for a separate post on this subject) or an empty container that picked up the right wind draft from the deck of a vessel and ended up overboard. On a lucky day I would find an item such as a plastic, 5-gallon bucket that was still in tact and could be added to our stockpile for aquarium cleaning and collecting resources. Mylar balloons, made from a derivative of nylon, also littered the seas–a bright, exciting glimpse from afar, but a sad reminder up close of how similar the balloons resemble pelagic drifters, such as jellyfish, which turtles and sharks mistake as their food. Single-use, white plastic bags with their repetitive “THANK YOU” or store brand name are so plentiful out there in the San Pedro Channel that one could troll for an hour and pick up at least 3 if you had a sharp eye and the right currents. Can I get a “No, THANK YOU!”?
Looping this all in with my adventure on E/V Nautilus, check out a story broadcast from the 2014 expedition: At first they thought this purple thing was sea garbage.
So, what happens to this plastic, this non-biodegradable material, after it floats and floats and floats? If an unfortunate creature looking for a meal doesn’t mistake it first as food and fill their belly with this garbage that will then fool them into thinking and feeling “full,” thus leading them to die from starvation of actual nutrition… this plastic can and will:
- fall into an ocean current known as a gyre and due to the Coriolis effect end up migrating to a patch where other UFOs have begun floating together (i.e. look up Great Pacific Garbage Patch – guesses and measurements of the actual size of this patch of trash in the Eastern Pacfic range from the size of Texas to larger),
- be picked up by a conscientious boater, paddler, swimmer or other ocean-going person,
- wash up on a beach to then be picked up by a conscientious beachcomber,
- or, begin or continue to degrade and break down over many millions of hours exposed to sunlight and become a microplastic.
Q: How can you transform this Tuesday in the world of microplastics?
A: Step 1. Inform yourself! This blog is a nice start but don’t just take my word for it – the enthusiasts and experts are out there and they have wonderful illustrations, videos and research to prove this is a real problem and deserves the world’s attention. One such organization linked above, Adventures and Scientists for Conservation, mobilizes in communities worldwide to gather and share scientific data, like this. Many cosmetic companies across the world have already committed to plastic-free products within the next 2-5 years.
Step 2. Be a conscious consumer. Read your labels, especially in the healthy & beauty aisle. Toothpaste, face wash, body wash, makeup products – all of these products can be likely sources to find microbeads made of “polyethylene” and no matter how small or ground up in the product they are, they are still an ingredient that will wash off your body and down the drain. And to the stream, lake or ocean in your backyard or halfway across the world. Here is a handy smartphone app to download and look up product ingredients as your shop to make sure your purchases are microbead-free!
Step 3. Tell your friends about microplastics. Choose to share a part or whole of the microplastics story. A quick lesson in the food chain and bioaccumulation tells us that we as HUMANS are even ingesting these plastics from food we eat from the sea. You’d be surprised how many people will react positively to your information and pledge to take real action in their own lives.
Step 4. Seek out and support sustainable businesses who are making a difference. I recently discovered the beauty of this jewelry company on the Big Island of Hawaii – Nurdle in the Rough. What is an eyesore and harmful to our environment gets picked up by this incredible jewelry designer and turned into beautiful, statement pieces sure to create positive conversation whenever worn. An acquired taste for the user and the pocketbook, Patagonia is a company firmly standing behind it’s pledges for environmental stewardship and responsible manufacturing. They even tell you NOT to buy their gear – how’s this for a campaign? These two companies are only the tip of the iceberg for consumers looking to leave a positive environmental footprint with their purchasing power. Leave a comment below about your favorite company that sells sustainably!
I hope you find a transformation in your own life to tackle this Tuesday, this week, this month. I will be back with more topics – writing this generated a scribbled list of future post ideas. Leave me a comment below if you want to share an idea for a topic you’d like to see in one of my next #TransformationTuesday posts.
Header photo courtesy of © Ferdi Rizkiyanto – 2011; European Commission on Marine Litter.