Posted on Jan 06, 2020

EcoEducation: One Bottle, One Straw, One Bag at a Time: Reducing Use of Single Use Plastic

An energized group of EcoRotarians and guests filled the meeting room to hear from Angelina Amerigo, current Miss Heart of the Lakes, about her social impact passion of reducing our use of single use plastic.  Boy was this a topic that resonated with everyone in the room!  There was lots of interactive discussion and sharing of experiences and strategies to tackle this issue.  
We first heard some of the bad news:  not only is plastic a huge pollutant in our waterways, but as this plastic breaks down (yes, it takes a long long time, but it does breakdown) the resulting micro-plastic is now in food and water supplies. We heard about predictions that soon there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.  Much of this plastic is in the five massive garbage patches in the world's oceans, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  A surprising take-away for many in our group was how much of the garbage patches are comprised of netting from commercial fishing.  Supporting sustainable, ocean friendly fishing practices is key to reducing the inflow of plastic into our oceans.  One way to do this is to encourage local restaurants to register as an Ocean Friendly and Great Lakes Friendly Restaurant. There is specific criteria to qualify.  (Yes, the Great Lakes. It's estimated that 22 million pounds of plastic enters The Great Lakes each year.) 
We also learned that activity in and around the ocean is hardly the only contributor to sea pollution.  Much of the plastic waste that finds its way to oceans comes from far inland.  In fact, 40% of the plastic pollution in the Gulf of Mexico comes from the Mississippi River.  So while we don't have an ocean view, our personal practices as Minnesotans do have an impact on the health of our oceans. 
This is Angelina's message - One person one day at a time makes a difference.  Personally reducing your use of single use plastics will contribute to stopping the inflow of plastics into our oceans.  It's not enough to recycle because more and more plastic is produced.  Curbing your usage in the first place is the key.  Just think, if the 1.2 million Rotarians world-wide simply refused to use plastic bottles it would be a significant start to altering what has been accepted as the norm. 
We spent the remainder of the time in a facilitated exercise to take the information and inspiration we received from Angelina and decide on our EcoChallenge for February 2020.  Check out all of the EcoChallenges and commit to participate!