“If not me, then whom? If not now, then when?” My former principal encouraged my students to be good stewards of the environment by taking initiative to pick up litter they find when they are out hiking. Yesterday, my friend and I collected trash on our hike to the stunning Alamere Falls in Point Reyes National Seashore. A couple pieces of litter were paper, and the morning dew had begun to disintegrate them. The vast majority, however, was plastic. It baffles me that visitors to this remarkable national seashore who embark on a 10-mile roundtrip, strenuous hike would simultaneously be too lazy to carry their trash back to bins at their campsite or parking lot. Not only is it unsightly in gorgeous natural areas, but plastic does not decompose.
Our plastic-littered hike was a poignant reminder of how important it is to cut down, or better yet, eliminate, my use of plastics. Inspired by friends, I accepted the challenge to have a Plastic Free July by avoiding the top four plastics – plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws – and refusing other single-use plastics. Already my first trip to the grocery store was eye-opening, and so many items I wanted were shrink-wrapped, but I quickly started recognizing which versions of an item I could buy instead that had less packaging or non-plastic packaging. I encourage everyone to join in and take the challenge for a Plastic Free July! After all, as Anna Lappé said, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”