The world has a trash problem

Yeah, I know you know, but we’re still going to talk about it.

Majority of the places I have visited, especially developing countries (lmk if you have a better word than “developing”), have an undeniable trash problem. It’s usually right in your face, screaming “HOUSTON, WE HAVE A TRASH PROBLEM!”

Between the beaches of Vietnam, Cambodia and Mexico, the best dive spots in Thailand, the surf spots of Bali and the side-of-the-road trash dumbs in Guatemala, trash is everywhere. Hell, it’s even on the beaches here in California. It’s litteredeverywhere. It’s inescapable.

A common side-of-the-road site in Bali.

There’s quite a few factors that go into this, but a huge one I have noticed during my travels is single-use plastics. Whether it’s little packages of shampoo and conditioner, travel-size tooth paste, floss sticks, or even snacks, there’s a ridiculous amount of plastic that’s thrown away after a single use.

So, how do we avoid this? Well, it’s nearly impossible to fully avoid plastic as it’s the center focus of our packaging and general way of life. Obviously, there needs to be a systematic restructure of consumerism, but blaming our problems on an intangible idea won’t solve our problems. That’s like blaming society for your problems–sure, “society” may be stacked against you, but blaming this intangible idea won’t make anything better.

So, what can you do?

I’ve heard the argument, “it doesn’t matter what one person does because change requires everyone to participate.”

Well, yeah. But, not doing anything until everyone is on board is basically a way to 100% deflect responsibility. To be frank–this is the worst argument in the history of arguments. If any of the great figures of our history waited for everyone to be on board, we wouldn’t get anywhere. If this were the case, then slavery would still be legal and women would still be barred from voting. Those are just two very basic examples to prove my point. If you’d like more examples, just use that noggin and think about it.

So, it’s time to take ownership and responsibility for your own life. Not to mention, leading by example is a very powerful endeavor. If you start making environmentally conscious decisions, then those around you will, too.

To start your environmental revolution, check out these tips that you can apply to your daily life and when you’re traveling to lower your plastic waste output.

  1. Use a reusable water bottle – this one is simple. If you haven’t invested in a reusable water bottle by now, then it’s time to open up that wallet and buy one. Think about the turtles!
  2. Use a reusable coffee cup half a TRILLION single-use coffee cups are manufactured annually! That is RIDICULOUS. If you’re an avid coffee drinker, then invest in a reusable coffee cup, like Keep Cup or a Yeti coffee mug. No, I do not get paid to endorse these brands–I actually use and love these products.
  3. Reusable straws! – personally, I no longer use straws, but if you are a straw lover, then there’s plenty of reusable straws you can add to your life. You can literally find a metal straw anywhere, but if you’re strange about *germs,* then this collapsable reusable straw is a solid choice.
  4. Bring a reusable shopping bag – yes, this applies to your travels, too! Bringing your own shopping bag can save an immense amount of waste. Or, if you don’t need a plastic bag, be sure to say no, thank you!
  5. Avoid to-go food – this one can be hard because we all love taking our favorite restaurant food home to eat on the couch while we binge watch our favorite show (shout out to anyone else who just started GoT…yes, I mean season one…). BUT, if you don’t need to get your food to go, then just don’t. Just be more conscious about how often you get to go food and if you really need it.
  6. OR, bring your own container – If your favorite lunch spot uses plastic instead of dishes (like my fave poke place), then think about going there less, changing lunch spots, or bringing your own container. Of course, with the latter, sometimes they won’t allow it because of food safety laws, but it’s worth a shot! When you’re traveling, street vendors will definitely let you use your own container, so be sure to bring one. This sounds ridiculous, but I promise you, most of your waste will come from eating. Or, just say no to the styrofoam tray and use a napkin. It’s a small price to pay for the environment!

In addition to these tips, the best practice to develop is mindfulness. Be mindful of what waste you are creating and if it is necessary. Of course, you won’t be able to avoid all waste, but being conscious of it is the first step in reducing your carbon foot print.


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