How eliminating plastic in your life could save the Oceans and your own health

I’m addicted to adventure. It’s something that I’ll admit to anyone and to myself. No denial here. Nuh-uh. Whether it’s climbing a mountain or sailing an Ocean, I’m there. No questions asked.

But, it was through my latest adventure that I realised I had another addiction, one that I was giving into everyday and one that I was totally unaware of…I was addicted to plastic.

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It’s everywhere.

Plastic bags at the grocery store, plastic water bottles at the beach. How about that plastic fork to eat your takeaway and a plastic straw to wash it down with? Oh but wait, what about the plastic container your food came in, and the plastic top to your drink? And don’t forget the plastic packaging that your plastic utensils came in and the plastic container to hold your condiments.

Or how about the plastic container for your shampoo and conditioner that you used when you washed your hair this morning? Or the plastic handle on your razor? Oh and how about that plastic toothbrush you stuck in your mouth to brush your teeth, and the little plastic microbeads you scrubbed into your teeth and gums that was in your toothpaste?

It’s just a bit overwhelming when you start to think about it.

So what if we tried to eliminate plastic from our everyday?

It’s a big ask. Anyone who’s ever tried to live plastic free for a year, a month or even a day knows it’s a big ask. Chances are you never have because it’s become such a normal and “invisible” part of our daily, convenient life. In the USA alone, there are 60,000 plastic bags thrown out every 5 seconds. That’s after one use. Go to the grocery store, get your groceries, come home and throw out the bag.

That’s 12,000 every second.

Worldwide, the numbers are even scarier. We throw out 5 trillion plastic bags per year. That’s 160,000 every second and less than 1% of these are recycled.

Don’t get me wrong, plastic is an amazing invention. It is virtually indestructible and lasts forever…I mean that’s superhero stuff. Perhaps the biggest problem is our use of it, specifically our single-use.

This “throwaway” culture we seem to have developed means that of the 2.5 billion metric tons of waste we produce each year worldwide, 275 million metric tons is plastic. 8 million metric tons of this is making it’s way into our waterways – rivers, the Great Lakes and eventually out into the Ocean. Our garbage accumulates in “Gyres” – basically giant whirlpools of plastic, a garbage soup if you will.

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Sea Dragon trawl contents from the North Atlantic Gyre. Image from Pangaea Explorations.

Here’s the real kicker. Because plastic is so indestructible, it doesn’t disappear.

99% of the plastic we’ve made over the course of…forever…still exists on the planet somewhere. Instead of vanishing, it breaks down into smaller and smaller fragments called ‘microplastics’. These are smaller than 5 millimetres in diameter, and many are completely invisible to the naked eye.

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Example plastics and microplastics collected by the eXXpedition crew (2014).

On top of that these pieces of plastic act as sponges for toxics and chemicals (like PBDEs/flame retardants and endocrine disrupting chemicals) and are mistaken as food by marine life. Eventually, they make their way back to us through the food chain and have been proven to have extremely negative impacts on human and wildlife health. We are at the point now where 93% of North Americans aged 6 and over have the plastic chemical BPA in their bodies.

Yuck.

So, are you currently thinking about all the plastic you used today?
Realising that you’ve got an addiction you didn’t know about?
Suitably depressed?

Well, don’t be.

Yeah, it’s a big problem.
Yeah, it’s global.
Yeah, it’s an issue entirely created by humans. That’s right, we are the bad guys in this story. Drink that reality in, soak in it until your fingers get all pruney.

Feeling guilty?

Cool.
Don’t stick your head in the sand.
Don’t try to “unsee” it, trust me…you can’t.

Instead, just do something about it.
Because you can.

By changing your consumer choices, you can save not only yourself – but you can also save the Oceans.

Now, that’s pretty cool.

It’s your time, stand up for your own health and the health of the planet.
Want a simple start?
How about trying to live your life by the mantra “Bring Your Own”?

No matter where you’re going, what you’re doing, bring your own.

Bring your own shopping bag.
Bring your own mug, a thermos, and stainless steel water bottle.
Heck, bring your own fork, spoon & knife!

Many of us are already do that.

So, do you want to take it further?

Ditch the plastic wrap and Ziploc bags.
Replace instead with glass and fabric containers.
Don’t buy exfoliators and toothpastes with microbeads.
Instead, find products that use natural exfoliators like oatmeal and sugar.

I have a good rule: if I can’t pronounce it, and I wouldn’t eat it?
I’m probably not going to put it near my body.
Doable right?

If you start with decisions like that, you’ll be surprised how soon you can achieve a plastic free lifestyle.

“Now what about adventure?” I hear you cry!

Last year, I had the chance to sail across the Atlantic Ocean with a team of incredible women from all different countries, walks of life, and areas of expertise to explore the issue of microplastics in the Oceans. You can learn more by watching my documentary here: www.eXXpedition.com/thefilm

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Jen standing at the mast of Sea Dragon as they set sail from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. This was the starting line of a 19-day Ocean crossing to Martinique in the Caribbean.

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Jen filming at the bow of Sea Dragon in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

If you are female, and ready for the adventure of a lifetime, apply to go on an eXXpedition here: www.eXXpedition.com/apply

If you are any gender, any age and passionate about the health of the Great Lakes of North America and want to join in my mission – contact me on jen@eXXpedition.com

Above all, just get out there, act to reduce or eliminate your use of plastic and speak up when you can…for a healthier future.