This month MWR are celebrating World Ocean Day.  Why? Because a thriving ocean, marine life and ecosystem is critical to our own survival. Every year, World Oceans Day helps shine the light on why we need to protect and conserve the 5 oceans on Planet Earth (Atlantic, Arctic, Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans).

The ocean generates most of the oxygen we breathe with 70% produced by marine plants, rainforests are responsible for 28% and 2% of Earth’s oxygen comes from other sources. The ocean provides food and a myriad of medicines for us whilst also regulating our climate and being a limitless source of recreational enjoyment and inspiration.

But we are polluting it with plastic.

Every year, we produce over 300 million tons of plastic with 8 to 12 million tons of plastics entering our world ocean every year on top of the estimated 165 million tons already in our marine environment. This plastic comes from waste we throw away in the streets and leave littering our beaches, fishing nets left behind as well as the personal care and household products we use and synthetic clothing we wash, containing microplastics.  

Microplastics are less than five millimeters long. When these particles from our makeup or synthetic clothing get rinsed down the drain, they end up in the sewer system. They are too small to be filtered out in water treatment plants so are released into our waterways, contributing to the pollution of rivers, lakes and oceans.

Marine animals die from being caught in plastic or mistake plastic as food with it ending up in our food chain. There is microplastics in the food we consume, in the water we drink and even in the air we breathe.  It’s not only the health of the marine eco-system and sea life that is at stake, but our own health as well. Each of us; businesses, governments and consumers all need to be more aware and more accountable for our behaviour and actions.

What can you do to help
make a difference:

Avoid synthetic material

Natural fibers such as cotton (or even more sustainable is organic cotton), merino wool, silk and linen eventually break down in the environment versus synthetic fiber such as rayon, nylon, polyester, acrylic, and spandex that contain plastic that never breaks down as well as the use of
hazardous chemicals during the  manufacturing process.

SHOP: Phoebe Merino Raglan Top, Flock by Nature

Wash clothing less

If you do wear synthetic clothing, try to wash them less often and on shorter cycles as up to 9 million plastic fibers go down the drain every time you wash your clothes.  Additionally, use liquid laundry detergents instead of washing powder as it releases fewer microfibers during a wash cycle. In a recent report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature they estimated 35% of all microplastics in the world ocean originates from machine-washed synthetic textiles, making this the largest source of microplastics.  Making this simple change helps reduce the amount of plastic fibers ending up in the ocean and in our food.

Buy less & buy better

Stop to think if you really need it and if you do, instead of spending money on low costing latest fashion trends that aren’t made to last, invest in fewer quality timeless pieces that wear and wash better saving you money in the long run.  Or, buy secondhand clothes as clothes release the most fibers the first four times they are washed.

Avoid microbeads in personal care & household products

Did you know that your cosmetics and personal care products may contain microplastic or microbead ingredients? What exactly are microbeads? They are tiny plastic pieces designed to remove dry cells from the surface of the skin. Microbeads can be found in shower gel, soaps, face washes, sunscreen, deodorants, nail polish, lipsticks, eyeliners, toothpaste, and other care and cleaning products for their abrasive qualities.  Exfoliating products need small, hard particles to rub debris from the skin. These particles can be found in natural materials or they can be manufactured products like microbeads.

Microbeads are commonly made from the following substances, so look for these ingredients on the back of the product:

  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
  • Nylon (PA)

Or alternatively buy from brands who manufacture only 100% natural and organic products.

SHOP: 100% plant based organic skincare, PAAVANI Ayurveda

Switch to a bamboo toothbrush

3.5 billion plastic toothbrushes are sold worldwide every year, ending up in landfill or polluting oceans and beaches.  They are not only an issue in their disposable but also in the manufacturing process, containing a myriad of harmful plastic by-products including petroleum and crude oil.  One plastic toothbrush takes over 400 years to decompose!

Take reusable bags to store

We use 1 trillion plastic bags per year, that’s nearly 2 million each minute!  Only 1% are recycled with 10% ending up in our ocean and never degrading. Single use plastic bags are responsible for killing over 100,000 marine creatures.  Often fruit and vegetables are also wrapped in plastic, disposed off instantly.

There is an easy solution to all of this by carrying your own reusable bag to the supermarket, markets and malls and reusable produce bags to buy and store plastic free loose fruit and vegetables wherever possible.

SHOP: 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, The Organic Company

Use reusable food storage

Plastic containers can be used and reused, but by storing your leftovers in glass, stainless steel or ceramic, the containers are not only reusable but 100% recyclable, they are also the best non-toxic food storage containers.  And if you do use plastic containers, never use them in the microwave. When exposed to heat, plastic can leach out harmful chemicals into your food which may cause cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, arthritis, impotency and even harm babies in the womb.

Take your own reusable coffee cup to your favourite cafe

Disposable plastic coffee cups have a plastic liner that isn’t recyclable.  These on-the-go coffee cups may make our busy lives easier but one of these disposable coffee cups a day equates to 23 pounds of waste per year. Reusable glass coffee cups not only reduce your plastic consumption but they are also recyclable at the end of their life.  

And if you find yourself without your reusable coffee cup, then make sure that you at least refuse the plastic lid and plastic stirrers.

Carry a reusable plastic bottles

50 billion plastic water bottles are consumed every year, for every 10 bottles we drink only 2 end up in the recycle bin.  Instead, carry your own reusable drink bottle that you can refill over and over again. And mostly importantly when choosing a reusable drink bottle the number one factor to consider is that the water is stored safely without chemicals from the container leaching into it such as non-plastic reusable containers made of food-grade safe materials like stainless steel, aluminum (with BPA-free linings) and glass.

Say NO to plastic straws

We use 500 million plastic straws every day, for only a few minutes.  Straws are too small to be easily recycled so they end up in our rubbish and often in the ocean, staying on our planet for centuries leaking toxins and harming marine life.

It’s easy to avoid using them by simply refusing a plastic straw but if you really need a straw there are now metal, paper and bamboo ones available to buy.

We consume too much plastic. There is evidence to now prove that plastic is in the food we eat, the water we drink and even the air we breathe. It is commonly known that when plastic enters the world ocean it destroys the eco-system and marine life but not only that, research shows that it also affects our own health and well being.

While it may be difficult to completely eliminate plastic from our daily routine, there are steps we can take to limit its impact on the health of our oceans and ourselves through reducing plastic consumption and waste... but it takes each and every one of us to make a significant and lasting impact.

For more tips on how to make a positive impact on the health of our planet, take the MWR 31 days of sustainable habits challenge.

Photo: Jeremy Bishop & Brian Yurasits, Unsplash

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